Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/636

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620
DUNSTABLE.
 

written at Seville in 1480 (J. F. Riano, 'Notes on Early Spanish Music,' p. 65), in two other passages in the Treatises of Tinctoris, in the 'Dialogus in Arte Musica' of John Hothby (Coussemaker, 'Scriptores,' iii. xxxi.), in 'Le Champion des Dames' of Martin Le Franc (d. 1460), and more than once by Franchinus Gaforius, who in Book ii. cap. 7 of his 'Practica Musicae' (Milan, 1496) gives the tenor of a setting of 'Veni Sancte Spiritus' by the English composer.[1] Yet he was—in his own country at least—so soon forgotten, that his name does not occur in Bale's 'Scriptores Britanniæ' (1550), and Morley ('Introduction,' ed. 1597, p. 178) quotes a passage from his motet 'Nesciens virgo mater virum,' in which he has divided the middle of the word 'Angelorum' by a pause two Long rests in length, as an exmaple of 'one of the greatest absurdities which I have seene committed in the dittying of musick.' The passage is doubtless absurd to modern ideas: but Dunstable's fault was not considered such at the time he wrote. Similar passages occur so late as Josquin's days.

The main difficulty of determining what ground there was for Dunstable's fame lies in the fact that so little of his work is now extant. Gaforius evidently was acquainted with a treatise by him, and the same work is quoted by Ravenscroft, from a marginal note in whose 'Briefe Discourse' (1614) we learn that Dunstable's treatise was on 'Mensurabilis Musice.' Until comparatively recent days it was thought that the fragments printed by Gaforius and Morley were all that remained of his works. But a little more than this has been preserved. A three-part song, 'O Rosa bella,' was discovered in a MS. at the Vatican by MM. Danjou and Morelot ('Revue de la Musique Religieuse,' 1847, p. 244, and another copy was subsequently found in a MS. collection of motets, etc., at Dijon. This composition has been scored by M. Morelot, and printed in his monograph 'De la Musique au XVe Siecle.' It may also be found in the appendix to the 2nd volume of Ambros' 'Geschichte der Musik.' Its effect in performance, considering the period when it was written, is really extraordinary, and quite equal to anything of Dufay's. Besides these compositions the British Museum possesses two specimens of Dunstable's work. The first is an enigma which has not yet been deciphered. It occurs in a MS. collection of Treatises on Music (Add. MS. 10,336), transcribed by John Tuck at the beginning of the 16th century. Owing to its being written at the end of fol. 18, and signed 'Qd. Dunstable,' an idea has arisen that it forms part of the preceding treatise, which has therefore been sometimes alleged to be the lost treatise; but this is not the case, for the treatise, as Coussemaker has shown, is that which is nearly always ascribed to John de Muris, and Dunstable's enigma is evidently written in to fill up the page. In a similar and almost identical MS. at Lambeth, transcribed by William Chelle of Hereford, the treatise of de Muris and enigma of Dunstable occur in the same juxtaposition. The other composition of Dunstable's in the British Museum is to be found in a magnificent volume which formerly belonged to Henry VIII. (Add. MS. 31,922). It is a three-part composition of some length, without words: the tenor consists of a short phrase which is repeated in accordance with the Latin couplet written over the part. In addition to these may be mentioned a MS. collection of 15th-century Astronomical Treatises in the Bodleian at Oxford, which contains at p. 74, 'Longitudo et latitude locorum praecipue in Anglia, secundum aliam antiquam scripturam de manu Dustapli.' At the bottom of the margin of the page the date occurs: 'Anno Gratiæ 1438 die mensis Aprilis.'

The Liceo Filarmonico de Bologna also possesses an early 15th-century MS., which contains four of Dunstable's compositions, viz. a 'Patrem,' a 'Regina cœli laetare,' and two motets—'Sub tua protectione,' and 'Quam pulchra es.' (Ambros, vol. iii. p. 441.)

This, then, is probably all that remains of the work of this remarkable man. It is hardly sufficient to enable us to judge how well founded his reputation was, but it is enough to show that for his time he was a man of remarkable power. He forms the one link between the early English school which produced the 'Rota,' and the school of the early 16th century which produced such men as Cornysshe, Pigot, and Fayrfax. But between the two there is a distinct break. The men of the later generation are far inferior to their Netherlandish contemporaries, while Dunstable was equal, if not superior, to Dufay and Binchois. This singular fact can only be accounted for by other than purely musical reasons. The death of Dunstable took place in 1453, at the very time when the Wars of the Roses broke out, and for years England was thrown into a state of hopeless confusion and disorganization, which must have stopped the progress of all the arts of civilization.[2] During this period, music, like everything else, must have suffered, and it is doubtless for this reason that we possess so little of Dunstable's work. On the re-establishment of order under Henry VII. the old English school—probably consisting of only a small knot of men—was dispersed or forgotten, and the inspiration of the Court composers of Henry VII. and of the early years of Henry VIII. was distinctly derived from Burgundy and the Netherlands, which had been making rapid progress under Dufay's successors—Okeghem, Hobrecht, and Josquin—while England, plunged in the miseries of civil war, had forgotten the art in which she had made so good a beginning. Thus it was that Dunstable was forgotten. Fuller, when he came across his

  1. See also Book III, cap. 4 of the same work.
  2. It has been the misfortune of English music to suffer more than once from political events. The violent interruptions caused by the Information and the Great Rebellion were as disastrous in their effects upon later schools of English music as were the Wars of the Roses upon the school of Dunstable. More peaceably, but no less unfortunately, the advent of the Hanoverian dynasty, with its German court and Italian opera, crushed the school of English opera which Purcell founded.