Advent Calendar Day 7: Alma redemptoris Mater (Dufay)

Did I mention that everyone and their best friend had done a version of Alma Redemptoris Mater? I could almost fill a calendar with just this text.

I found this version, by Guillaume Dufay, when I was looking for the one by Hildegarde of Bingen, and I think it’s just gorgeous.  It has that sound that we tend to associate with medieval music, which seems to be about open fifths, and lots of minor second intervals in the melody.  This is really a late medieval /early renaissance sound – Hildegarde is more contemporary with the Crusades and other really bad medieval ideas.

I’d never heard of Dufay before this, so I went and did a little internet research and discovered that Dufay was a Netherlandish composer of the fifteenth century.  This instantly makes me happy, because I am a bit of a Ricardian, and I know that Richard III spent a bit of time in the Netherlands when he was Richard of Gloucester, and this might have been the music he heard when he went to church there.  So maybe I’m sharing a musical experience with my favourite Plantagenet monarch here.

But even if I’m not, this is wonderful music, and I will have to seek out more of Dufay’s work.  I love the stillness in the solo sections and the clean, spare sound that somehow prevails even in the sections with the countermelody.  Very gorgeous stuff.

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0 comments for “Advent Calendar Day 7: Alma redemptoris Mater (Dufay)

  1. Elly
    December 10, 2013 at 5:53 am

    It is a beautiful piece of music, and he is one of the early great composers of the Franco-Flemish School. But the term ‘Netherlandisch’ hurts my eyes, and I even opened a discussion on Wikipedia about this term. Guillaume Dufay was Flemish, although he spent a lot of time in Italy himself.

    • December 10, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      Hi Elly,

      Thanks for your comment. I’ve edited the post accordingly – I thought the term was a little awkward, but assumed that it was a contemporary usage that I hadn’t heard of. I’m guessing from your email address that you have significantly more local knowledge on this count than I do!

      Kind regards,


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