The Sundays of Advent will feature a masterpiece of Guillaume Du Fay, Missa Ecce Ancilla Domini.
Guillaume Du Fay (1397-1474) was a Franco-Flemish composer of the late Medieval and early Renaissance periods. Du Fay’s musical talents were noticed at a young age by the cathedral authorities of his home in Cambrai. He went on to hold a number of prominent posts—including at Cambrai, Tournai, the court of Savoy, and the papal chapels in Rome and Florence—and was well regarded by his contemporaries. Du Fay is considered the central figure of the Burgundian School, a generation of composers which ushered in the new practices of the burgeoning musical Renaissance in Europe.
Missa Ecce Ancilla Domini, composed during Du Fay’s late period and copied into the Cambrai choirbook around 1464, emulates the English tradition of mass cycles based on a cantus firmus (a pre-existent melody). The tunes used, in this case, are “Ecce Ancilla Domini” (Antiphon: Annunciation) and “Beata es Maria” (Antiphon: Visitation). The mass’s flowing rhythmic style, frequent cadences, and consonant, third-filled harmony exemplify the sweetness and clarity of Dufay’s late-life, early-Renaissance style.