Christmas Classics PERSON OF THE DAY: Guillaume Dufay

August 5th, 2013

On this day in 1397 Guillaume Dufay was born. An important Franco-Flemish composer, he was instrumental in the transition from Medieval to Renaissance music. His reputation grew during his years in Italy when he earned the sobriquet as “the greatest ornament of our age.” He was also a Catholic priest who served the choir of the Papal Chapel in Rome from 1428 to 1443. It is understandable then why much of his musical output was devoted to church liturgy, including polyphonic works for Masses. motets, and hymns, some of which were dedicated to Advent and Christmas.

Dufay’s reputation asone of the most influential composers of the 15th century was well earned, evidence of which can be found in the works of succeeding composers who emulated some elements of his musical style. His embellishment of austere medieval plainchant by employing mellifluous harmonies made singing church music more pleasant to the ear, thus elevating church music of his day and further establishing the Mass as the main platform for elaborate polyphony.

The composer’s music appeal also extended into the secular realm, for there he also made his mark felt, and his melodic style would ultimately became characteristic of the early Renaissance. There is little doubt about Dufay’s unique contributions to the evolution of Western music, and today he still holds a special place in the pantheon of great composers.

Guillaume Dufay

Guillaume Dufay