A History of Western Music

By Donald Jay Grout; Claude V. Palisca | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 7

NEW CURRENTS IN THE
SIXTEENTH CENTURY

THE FRANCO-FLEMISH
GENERATION (1520-50)

Between 1520 and 1550 the dominant Franco-Flemish style underwent a transformation, partly because northerners working in Italy and southern Germany assimilated the musical idioms of their adopted homes. Instrumental music increased in both importance and production, and it too was affected by musicians' migrations as well as by the changing character of vocal music.

Church music changed more gradually than secular music. Indeed, some church composers returned to the continuous contrapuntal style of Ockeghem, as though reacting against the highly personal and adventurous experiments of Obrecht and Josquin. Even those conservative composers, however, almost completely abandoned the canons and similar devices of the older school. The imitation Mass gradually replaced the older technique of basing a Mass on a single cantus firmus. Chant melodies, more freely treated, still served as subjects for Masses and motets, both of which were now being written for five or six voices rather than four.


Nicolas Gombert

The northern motet style of the period 1520-50 is exemplified in works by Nicolas Gombert, thought to have been a pupil of Josquin. As an official of the chapel of Emperor Charles V, Gombert accompanied the court on numerous voyages and worked in Vienna, Madrid, and Brussels. We can see his approach to the motet in Super flumina Babilonis1. (one of more than 160 motets that

____________________
1.
Ed. in HAM No. 114.

-177-

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