What do we know about Guillaume Dufay? We do not have a portrait of the composer, but here is some information you may like to know.
Guillaume Du Fay
5 August, c. 1397 Beersel, Belgium – 27 November 1474 Cambrai, France
Du Fay was a franco flemish composer and one of the leading composers in Europe in the mid 15th century. He was noted both his church music and his secular chanson since many of his compositions were simple settings of chants.
Du fay was born in Berseel, Belgium to an unknown priest a woman named Marie Du Fayt. He moved to Cambrai at an early age and was noticed by the cathedral authorities there, who gave him a thorough training in music; it was there where he learnt the world of music and he was soon listed as a choirboy in the cathedral from 1409-12. The authorities were highly amazed by his music gifts because they gave him his own copy of Villedieu’s Doctrinale (A versified Latin grammar book) in 1411, which was never presented to a child earlier.
Du Fay’s early career started out as a turbulent one. He was appointed as the sub deacon in the Cathedral at Cambrai, which he soon left in 1420 and travelled to Pesaro in Italy, where he worked for the Malatesta family. Most of his works date back to this period of his life, however there is no evidence that proves his residence in Pessaro at that time. He then moved back to Cambrai in for a short period then decided to journey to Bologna, and immediately entered the service of ‘Cardinal Louis Aleman’. It was here that we was promoted to deacon and then finally a priest in the year 1428. He eventually left his post and was appointed as ‘maitre de chapelle’ at Savoy before he left Rome. Florence was where his came up with his legendary motet ‘Nuper Rosarum Flores. Later on in his life Dufay went on to graduate with a degree in Law from the University of Turin. It was then during the early 1440’s after his mother passed away when he wrote his extensive collection of Magnificats, antiphons and simple hymns. Soon after his retirement in 1458, during the year 1460 he wrote one of his most prominent Requiem works that has been lost over centuries. There is no documentary evidence of this great composition.
Dufay grew to become a rich and powerful personality in the world of music. He was known for his broad minded approach, and was a key cosmopolitan figure during his time. Dufay died after a prolonged illness on November 27 1474. Just before his death, he requested for his famous motet ‘Ave Regina Celorum’ to be sung to him on his death bed, but much before the preparations for his request were underway, Dufay breathed his last. He was buried at the Chapel at the Cathedral of Cambrai, and it is said that over the years, his tombstone was lost, to be discovered again many centuries later in the year 1859 and was erected at the Arts museum in Lille.