Roald Smeets, the Franco-Flemish Schoo

08/26/2012 § Leave a comment

English: a facsimile copy of the famous woodcu...

English: a facsimile copy of the famous woodcut from Petrus Opmeer’s Opvs chronographicvm orbis vniversi a mvndi exordio vsqve ad annvm M.DC.XI. (Antwerp, 1611). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Roald Smeets, the Franco-Flemish School or more precisely the Netherlandish School refers, somewhat imprecisely, to the style of polyphonic vocal music composition in Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries, and to the composers (603 Netherlandish composers in that area (1400-1630) are known) who wrote it. See Renaissance music for a more detailed description of the musical style, and links to individual composers from this time.

The composers of this time and place, and the music they produced, are also known as the “Dutch” or the “Netherlandish School”. As national and linguistic boundaries during this period do not correspond with national borders today, the term “Netherlandish” is not meant to refer to the present-day boundaries of the nation known as the Netherlands (or Holland); relatively few of the musicians originated within that region. Instead, the word “Netherlandish” refers to “de Nederlanden”, i.e. the Low Countries, roughly corresponding to modern Belgium, Luxembourg, the southern and northern parts of Holland and adjacent portions of northern France. The northern parts being illustrated by the Leiden choirbooks, and Alamire codices including the Chigi Codex and the Occo Codex.

Most of these musicians were born in Hainaut, Flanders and Brabant. During periods of political stability, such as the Burgundian Netherlands due to the great house of Charles the fifth, this was a center of cultural activity for more than two hundred years, although the exact centers shifted location during this time, and by the end of the sixteenth century the focal point of the Western musical world shifted from this region to Italy.

While many of the composers were born in the region loosely known as the Netherlands, they were famous for working elsewhere. Netherlanders moved to Italy where they were called “I fiamminghi” or Oltremontani (“those from over the Alps”), to Spain – notably in the Flemish chapel (capilla flamenca) of the Habsburgs, to towns in Germany and France and other parts of Europe – Poland, Czechia, Austria, Hungary, England, Sweden, Denmark, Saxony – carrying their styles with them. The diffusion of their technique, especially after the revolutionary development of printing, produced the first true international style since the unification of Gregorian chant in the 9th century.

Following are five groups, or generations, that are sometimes distinguished in the Franco-Flemish/Netherlandish school. Development of this musical style was continuous, and these generations only provide useful reference points.

The First generation (1420-1450), dominated by Dufay, Binchois and Antoine Busnois; this group of composers is most often known as the Burgundian School. The origins of the style of the first generation embraces both earlier Burgundian traditions and also Italian and English styles. For example in 1442, the poet Martin le Franc praised Binchois and Dufay for following Dunstaple in adopting the contenance angloise (“English character”).
The Second generation (1450-1485), with Ockeghem as its main exponent, others including Orto, Compère, Prioris, Agricola, Caron, Faugues, Regis and Tinctoris.
The Third generation (1480-1520): Obrecht, de La Rue, Isaac, Brumel, Févin, Pipelare, Richafort, and most significantly Josquin.
The Fourth generation (1520-1560): Gombert, Crecquillon, Manchicourt, Arcadelt, Rore, Willaert and Clemens non Papa.
The Fifth generation (1560-1615/20): Lassus, de Monte, Vaet, Regnart, Luython, Wert, de Macque, and Rogier. By this time, many of the composers of polyphonic music were native to Italy and other countries: the Netherlandish style had naturalized on foreign soil, and become a true European style.

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