John Dunstaple, classical music composer

John Dunstaple


John Dunstaple (or Dunstable) was one of England's greatest composers during the late medieval and early Renissance periods, and one of the most influential the country has ever produced. His reputation was apparently widespread, based on the fact that much of his music known today is through manuscripts from Germany and Italy, and his music is known to have influenced Guillaume Dufay and Gilles Binchois. Writing roughly a quarter-century after Dunstaple's death, the theorist Tinctoris noted the powerful influence Dunstaple had over the Burgundian School. Yet, despite his fame and influence, little is known of the details of his life, and what is known is best described as educated guesswork.

It is assumed that Dunstaple was born in Dunstable, Bedfordshire sometime around 1390, a date deduced from the appearance of his first known compositions—the motets Veni sancte spiritus and Preco preheminencie—dating from 1410-20. Though he was apparently a well-educated man, nothing is known of his musical training, and no connections exists with either Oxford or Cambridge universities. It is possible, however, that he may have studied with Leonel Power, whose style is very similar to Dunstaple's.

No certain record of Dunstaple's whereabouts is certain until 1427, when it is known that he was in France in the service of John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford, and brother of Henry V. Accordingly, Dunstaple may have been in France for quite some time, as the duke was Regent of France from 1423 to 1429, then Governor of Normandy from 1429 until his death in 1435. When the duke died, he left Dunstaple considerable land grants in Normandy.  In addition, according to tax records of 1436, Dunstaple also owned land in Cambridgeshire, Essex, and London, indicating that he was wealthy. It is further known that he was in the service of the dowager Queen, Joan of Navarre, and later Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. Dunstaple died on December 24, 1453.

Only about fifty known works are attributed to Dunstaple. Nearly all of this music is sacred, though there is no evidence that Dunstaple was ever a cleric, though it is possible he was connected with St. Albans Abbey. Besides being a musician, Dunstaple was also known to be an astronomer and mathematician, and astronomical charts, believed to be in Dunstaple's own hand, exist today.

Composer Title Date Action
John Dunstaple Veni sancte spiritus 07/15/2013 Play Add to playlist
John Dunstaple Salve Regina misericordiae 07/15/2013 Play Add to playlist
John Dunstaple Magnificat 07/15/2013 Play Add to playlist
John Dunstaple Quam Pulchra Es 12/18/2016 Play Add to playlist
John Dunstaple Salve Scema Sanctitatis 12/18/2016 Play Add to playlist
John Dunstaple Salve Regina misericordiae 12/18/2016 Play Add to playlist