Du Fay, Guillaume

(?5 August 1397, Beersel, near Brussels – 27 November, 1474, Cambrai, France)
   Du Fay’s compositions include seven complete masses, including one plenary, the Missa Sancti {}Jacobi (before 1440), and 35 mass ordinary movements, 15 settings of various mass propers, three Magnificats, two settings of Benedicamus Domino, 16 polyphonic antiphons, 25 polyphonic hymns, 24 motets, and over 30 plainchant melodies. Earliest documents place him at Cambrai Cathedral in the summer of 1409 as a chorister. He probably attended the Council of Constance (1414–1418). In summer 1420, he entered the service of Carlo Malatesta da Rimini. In 1424 and 1425 he may have been a petit vicaire at Laon Cathedral. He was in Bologna by February 1426, having joined the household of Cardinal Louis Aleman. He next joined the papal chapel in Rome by October 1428 and remained there until July 1433. From at least 1 February 1434 he served the Duke of Savoy as maistre de chapelle. By July 1435 Du Fay had returned to the papal chapel, then in Florence. On 9 September 1436, Pope Eugenius IV granted him a canonicate at Cambrai, and Du Fay was of-ficially received as canon there on 12 November 1436. By 6 July 1439 he had entered the service of the Duke of Burgundy but by December had taken up residence at Cambrai, where he remained until March 1450. He returned to Savoy from 1452 to 1458 as magister {}capellae. He moved back to Cambrai as canon in October 1458 and remained there until his death.
   Du Fay composed almost all his polyphony by adding third and fourth voices to a fundamental duet of tenor and cantus (soprano) voices, a premise which flowers into a wide variety of textures and genres. The motets fall into two large groups: cantilenas, freely composed treatments of chant melodies quite unique in the 15th century; and the more traditional isorhythmic motets, including the renowned Nuper Rosarum Flores (1436). The mass ordinaries are not united cyclically by a common tenor until 1450, when Du Fay composed {}Missa Se La Face Ay Pale on the tenor of one of his own songs, one of the earliest examples of a secular melody used in a cantus firmus mass. The Missa Ave Regina Caelorum (c. 1464) parodies to the extent of quoting his own motet, and appears to be Du Fay’s valedictory summary of compositional techniques for masses.
   See also Trent Codices.

Historical dictionary of sacred music. . 2006.

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