Dunstaple was probably born in Dunstable, Bedfordshire. His birth date is a conjecture based on his earliest surviving works (from around 1410–1420) which imply a birth date of around 1390. Many of the details of his life are conjectural. Nothing is known of his musical training and background. He was clearly a highly educated man, though there is no record of an association with either Oxford or Cambridge universities. He is widely held to have been in the royal service of John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford, the fourth son of Henry IV and brother of Henry V. As such he may have stayed in France for some time, since the duke was Regent of France from 1423 to 1429, and then Governor of Normandy from 1429 to his death in 1435. He owned property in Normandy, and also in Cambridgeshire, Essex and London, according to tax records of 1436. After the death in 1437 of another patron, the Dowager Queen Joan, he evidently was in the service of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the fifth son of Henry IV.
Unlike many composers of the time, he was probably not a cleric, though there are links with St Albans Abbey (see below); he was probably married, based on the record of women sharing his name in his parish, and he also owned a manor in Hertfordshire.
In addition to his work as a composer, he had a contemporary reputation as an astronomer, astrologer, and mathematician (for example, a volume in the Bodleian Library, largely in the hand of William Worcester, acknowledges that certain information within it had been copied from Dunstaple's writings). Some of his astrological works have survived in manuscript, possibly in his own hand.[
Du Fay was one of the last composers to make use of late-medieval polyphonic structural techniques such as isorhythm, and one of the first to employ the more mellifluous harmonies, phrasing and melodies characteristic of the early Renaissance. His compositions within the larger genres (masses, motets and chansons) are mostly similar to each other; his renown is largely due to what was perceived as his perfect control of the forms in which he worked, as well as his gift for memorable and singable melody. During the 15th century he was universally regarded as the greatest composer of his time, an opinion that has largely survived to the present day.
The early music ensemble Dufay Collective is named after him.
A strong influence on Josquin des Prez and the subsequent generation of Netherlanders, Ockeghem was famous throughout Europe for his expressive music, although he was equally renowned for his technical prowess. Two of the most famous contrapuntal achievements of the 15th century include the astonishing Missa prolationum, which consists entirely of mensuration canons, and the Missa cuiusvis toni, designed to be performed in any of the different modes, but even these technique-oriented masterpieces demonstrate his insightful use of vocal ranges and uniquely expressive tonal language.[POV? – discuss] Being a renowned bass singer himself, his use of wide-ranging and rhythmically active bass lines sets him apart from many of the other composers in the Netherlandish Schools.
Victoria is the most significant composer of the Counter-Reformation in Spain, and one of the best-regarded composers of sacred music in the late Renaissance, a genre to which he devoted himself exclusively. Victoria's music reflected his intricate personality, and expressed the passion of Spanish mysticism and religion. Victoria was praised by Padre Martini for his melodic phrases and his joyful inventions. His works have undergone a revival in the 20th century, with numerous recent recordings. Many commentators hear in his music a mystical intensity and direct emotional appeal, qualities considered by some to be lacking in the arguably more rhythmically and harmonically placid music of Palestrina. There are quite a few differences in their compositional styles, such as treatment of melody and quarter-note dissonances.
Josquin likely learned his craft in his home region in the North, in France, and then in Italy when he went to Milan and Rome. His early sacred works emulate the contrapuntal complexity and ornamented, melismatic lines of Ockeghem and his contemporaries, but at the same time he was learning his contrapuntal technique he was acquiring an Italianate idiom for his secular music: after all, he was surrounded by Italian popular music in Milan. By the end of his long creative career, which spanned approximately 50 productive years, he had developed a simplified style in which each voice of a polyphonic composition exhibited free and smooth motion, and close attention was paid to clear setting of text as well as clear alignment of text with musical motifs. While other composers were influential on the development of Josquin's style, especially in the late 15th century, he himself became the most influential composer in Europe, especially after the development of music printing, which was concurrent with the years of his maturity and peak output. This event made his influence even more decisive than it might otherwise have been.
Many "modern" musical compositional practices were being born in the era around 1500. Josquin made extensive use of "motivic cells" in his compositions, short, easily recognizable melodic fragments which passed from voice to voice in a contrapuntal texture, giving it an inner unity. This is a basic organizational principle in music which has been practiced continuously from approximately 1500 until the present day.[
He was born in 1468 near Salamanca, probably at Encina de San Silvestre, one of at least 7 known children of Juan de Fermoselle, a shoemaker, and his wife. He was of Jewish converso descent. After leaving Salamanca University sometime in 1492 he became a member of the household of Don Fadrique de Toledo, the second Duke of Alba, although some sources believe that he did not work for the Duke of Alba until 1495. A plausible argument is that his first post was as a Corregidor in northern Spain.
Fermoselle was a Chaplain at the Salamanca Cathedral in the early 1490s. It was here that he changed his name from Juan de Fermoselle to Juan del Enzina, or Encina (meaning holm oak) during his stay as Chaplain. He was later forced to resign as Chaplain because he was not ordained.
Few composers of the Renaissance were more popular in their lifetimes than Janequin. His chansons were well-loved and widely sung. The Paris printer Pierre Attaingnant printed five volumes with his chansons. La bataille, which vividly depicts the sounds and activity of a battle, is a perennial favorite of a cappella singing groups even in the present day.
Janequin wrote very little liturgical music: only two masses and a single motet are attributed to him, though more may have been lost. His 250 secular chansons and his (over 80) psalm settings and chansons spirituelles — the French equivalent of the Italian madrigale spirituale — were his primary legacy.
The programmatic chansons for which Janequin is famous were long, sectional pieces, and usually cleverly imitated natural or man-made sounds. Le chant des oiseaux imitates bird-calls; La chasse the sounds of a hunt; and La bataille (Escoutez tous gentilz), probably the most famous, and almost certainly written to celebrate the French victory over the Swiss Confederates at the Battle of Marignano in 1515, imitates battle noises, including trumpet calls, cannon fire and the cries of the wounded Onomatopoeic effects such as these became a commonplace in later 16th century music, and carried over into the Baroque era; indeed "battle music" was to become a cliché, but it first came into prominence with Janequin.
Senfl was an eclectic composer, at home both in the worlds of sacred and secular music, and he modeled his style carefully on models provided by the Franco-Flemish composers of the previous generation, especially Josquin. In particular, he was a gifted melodist, and his lines are warmly lyrical; his music remained popular and influential in Germany through the 17th century.
His sacred music includes masses, motets, vespers settings, and a Magnificat. Technically his music has many archaic features, such as the use of cantus firmus technique, which was more in vogue in the 15th century; he even occasionally employs isorhythm. However he also has a typically Germanic liking for singable melodic passages in parallel imperfect intervals (3rds and 6ths).
Sermisy wrote both sacred music and secular music, and all of it is for voices. Of his sacred music, 12 complete masses have survived, including a Requiem mass, as well as approximately 100 motets, some magnificats and a set of Lamentations. Unlike many of his contemporaries writing sacred music in France, there is no evidence he had any Huguenot sympathies; he seemed to remain a faithful Catholic all his life.
His interest in the sacred genres increased steadily throughout his life, corresponding to a decline in interest in secular forms, using the publication dates as a guide (actual dates on compositions are extremely difficult to establish for composers of this period, unless a work happened to be composed for a specific occasion). Since the prevailing style of polyphony among contemporary composers during his late career was dense, seamless, with pervasive imitation, as typified in the music of Mouton and Gombert, it is significant that he tended to avoid this style, preferring clearer textures and short phrases: a style more akin to the chansons he wrote earlier in his career. In addition he varied the texture in his composition by alternating polyphonic passages with homorhythmic, chordal ones, much like the texture found in his secular music.
Sermisy wrote two of the few polyphonic settings of the Passion found in French music of the period; the musical setting is simple, compared to his masses and motets, and he strove to make the words clearly understandable. The gospels chosen were those of St. Matthew and St. John. Sermisy's settings were published in the 10th volume of Motets published by Pierre Attaignant.
Almost all of his music is sacred, and all of it is vocal, though instruments may have been used in an accompanying role in performance. He wrote many masses, some of spectacular difficulty, most likely written for the expert papal choir; he wrote over 100 motets; and he wrote 18 settings of the Magnificat, and at least five settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah (one of which survives from a single manuscript in Mexico). The Magnificats alone set him apart from other composers of the time, and they are the portion of his work most often performed today. Stylistically, his music has much in common with other middle Renaissance work of the Iberian peninsula, for example a preference for harmony heard as functional by the modern ear (root motions of fourths or fifths being somewhat more common than in, for example, Gombert or Palestrina), and a free use of harmonic cross-relations rather like one hears in English music of the time, for example in Thomas Tallis. Some unique characteristics of his style include the rhythmic freedom, such as his use of occasional three-against-four polyrhythms, and cross-rhythms where a voice sings in a rhythm following the text but ignoring the meter prevailing in other voices. Late in life he wrote in a sober, heavily homophonic style, but all through his life he was a careful craftsman who considered the expression and understandability of the text to be the highest artistic goal.
Andrea Amati was a luthier, from Cremona, Italy. Amati is credited with making the first instruments of the violin family that are in the form we use today. According to the National Music Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota:
It was in the workshop of Andrea Amati (ca. 1505-1577) in Cremona, Italy, in the middle of the 16th century that the form of the instruments of the violin family as we know them today first crystallized.
Several of his instruments survive to the present day, and some of them can still be played.] Many of the surviving instruments were among a consignment of 38 instruments delivered to Charles IX of France in 1564
In 1525, Charles married Isabella of Portugal, further strengthening his position in Spain. It was Isabella who employed Cabezón into her service in 1526. His duties included playing the clavichord and the organ, and he also assumed the position of organist at the chapel Isabella organized soon after her wedding. The composer remained with the royal family for the rest of his life. Through the court, he met such important composers as vihuelist Luis de Narváez, known today for his advanced polyphonic fantasias, and Tomás de Santa María, theorist and composer whose important treatise on instrumental music, Arte de tañer fantasía, was examined and approved by Cabezón.
In 1538, Cabezón was made músico de la cámara (chamber musician) to Charles (who as a child was educated in music by the noted organist Henry Bredemers). After Isabella's death in 1539, Cabezón was appointed music teacher to her children: Prince Felipe and his sisters Maria and Joan (Maria would later become the most important patron of composer Tomás Luis de Victoria). In 1543 Felipe became Regent of Spain, and he made Cabezón his court organist.
Palestrina left hundreds of compositions, including 105 masses, 68 offertories, at least 140 madrigals and more than 300 motets. In addition, there are at least 72 hymns, 35 magnificats, 11 litanies, and four or five sets of lamentations.The Gloria melody from a Palestrina magnificat is widely used today in the resurrection hymn tune, Victory (The Strife Is O'er).
His attitude toward madrigals was somewhat enigmatic: whereas in the preface to his collection of Canticum canticorum (Song of Songs) motets (1584) he renounced the setting of profane texts, only two years later he was back in print with Book II of his secular madrigals (some of these being among the finest compositions in the medium). He published just two collections of madrigals with profane texts, one in 1555 and another in 1586.The other two collections were spiritual madrigals, a genre beloved by the proponents of the Counter-Reformation.
Palestrina's masses show how his compositional style developed over time.His Missa sine nomine seems to have been particularly attractive to Johann Sebastian Bach, who studied and performed it while writing the Mass in B minor. Most of Palestrina's masses appeared in thirteen volumes printed between 1554 and 1601, the last seven published after his death.
The exact date or even year of Narváez's birth is unknown. He was born in Granada and the earliest surviving references to him indicate that as early as 1526 he was a member of the household of Francisco de los Cobos y Molina, a well-known and very successful patron of the arts who was the secretary of State and comendador for the kingdom of Castile under Charles V. Narváez lived in Valladolid with his patron until the latter's death in 1547. It was during this period that the composer published Los seys libros del delphín (Valladolid, 1538), a large collection of music.
By 1548 Narváez was employed as musician of the royal chapel, where he also taught music to choristers. His colleagues there included the famous keyboard composer Antonio de Cabezón. Narváez and Cabezón were both employed as musicians for Felipe, Regent of Spain (later Philip II of Spain), and accompanied him on his many journeys. The last reference to Narváez is from one such journey: during the winter of 1549 he resided in the Low Countries.
Narváez was very highly regarded during his lifetime, particularly for his vihuela playing; he was reported to be able to improvise four parts over another four at sight. His son Andrés also became an accomplished vihuelist.
Guerrero's early musical education was with his older brother Pedro. He must have been an astonishing prodigy, for at the age of 17 he was already appointed maestro de capilla (singing master, i.e. music director) at Jaén Cathedral. A few years later he accepted a position in Seville. Apparently during this time he was much in demand as a singer and composer, establishing an exceptional reputation before his thirtieth birthday; in addition he published several collections of his music abroad, an unusual event for a young composer.
After several decades of working and traveling throughout Spain and Portugal, sometimes in the employ of emperor Maximilian II, he went to Italy for a year (1581–1582) where he published two books of his music.
Until the age of forty, Monteverdi worked primarily on madrigals, composing a total of nine books. It took Monteverdi about four years to finish his first book of twenty-one madrigals for five voices. As a whole, the first eight books of madrigals show the enormous development from Renaissance polyphonic music to the monodic style typical of Baroque music.
Monteverdi was often ill during the last years of his life. During this time, he composed his two last masterpieces: Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (The Return of Ulysses, 1640), and the historic opera, L'incoronazione di Poppea (The Coronation of Poppea, 1642), based on an episode in the life of the Roman emperor Nero. The libretto for Il ritorno d'Ulisse was written by Giacomo Badoarro and for L'incoronazione di Poppea by Giovanni Busenello.