Johannes Ciconia (Luik ca.1370? - Padua 1412)
Guillaume Dufay (Kamerijk ca. 1400 - Kamerijk 1474)
Just as Dutch painters in the Golden Age were attracted by the Italian light and went to work in Rome, many composers from the Low Countries also made their way over the Alps in search of inspiration. This Italian dream resulted in the creation of brilliant music by two such pioneers, Johannes Ciconia and Guillaume Dufay. Their ability to seemingly effortlessly meld the achievements of Flemish, French, English and Italian music into a new style created a new musical language whose sound crossed over many geographic borders.
Ciconia was educated in Luik, which had a rich musical culture in the late Middle Ages; and he worked in Padua from around 1402 until his death. By that time, he had become a real Italian composer, despite his Northern roots and education: in his elegant ballade Gli atti col dançar, one can hear clearly how Ciconia had mastered the melodic souplesse of the Italian Trecento composers such as Landini. His dramatic Ligiadra donna - with a contratenor line composed by his colleague composer Matteo da Perugia - is written in the typical Northern Italian style of the giustiniana. But nowhere in his work does Ciconia merely follow stylistic trends; on the contrary, his unique and characteristic style inspired a generation of composers who followed him - among them Dufay.
No single 15th Century composer has left such an extensive and varied oeuvre as Guillaume Dufay, who was considered to be the greatest composer of his time, even in his own lifetime. He was educated in Kamerijk (Cambrai). While he was still young, he began travelling extensively for his work, to the Council of Constance for example, and he began working for various Italian patrons. These facts give Dufay's career and work a decidedly "international" allure, but the musical influences of his birthplace are still very recognizable in some of his works. The typically Northern drinking and New Year's songs such as Cheulz qui volent from MS Leiden 2720 or Die mey so lieflic by Thomas Fabri, clearly inspired Dufay to create rondeaux such as Adieu ces bons vins en Ce jour de l'an. While the original songs don't aspire to be much more than a drinking song or a round dance, Dufay manages with his songs to lift the genre to a much higher artistic level, without losing the playfulness and spontaneity of the original forms. His unorthodox application of existing material and traditional compositional techniques make him one of the most inventive composers of the 15th Century - Dufay wrote music that his contemporaries wouldn't have dared to dream of.
In order to illustrate their borderless talents, Fortuna follows Ciconia and Dufay on this recording on their journey through the Flemish and Italian musical landscape of the late medieval times: Early Music in Context.