John Dunstable

Biography

Born: 1390; England   Died: December 24, 1453; London, England  
Dunstable's name suggests he may have been born in the town of Dunstable in Bedfordshire, England. Sources from his time, including a possible signature of his own, spell his name "Dunstaple." The birthdate of 1390 is surmised from the appearance of his earliest known datable works, the motets Veni sancte spiritus and Preco preheminencie, heard during the celebrations that followed in the wake of English King Henry V's victories in the Battle of Read more Agincourt. These pieces were repeated at Canterbury Cathedral for the King and the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund in 1416; this is the only connection that can be drawn between Dunstable and canterbury. This could suggest canterbury composer Leonel Power, author of the Old Hall Manuscript, knew Dunstable, and Power may have been Dunstable's teacher. The work of Dunstable and Power is so similar that in several instances contemporary manuscript copies bear attributions to both composers for the same pieces.

Dunstable disappears from the historical record until 1427, when it is established that he was then in France in the service of Henry V's younger brother John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford. Dunstable is also shown to be in the retinue of the notorious dowager Queen, Joan of Navarre, from 1428. The historical record relating to Dunstable's service to the Plantagenets is unclear, but this may mean that Dunstable traveled quite frequently between England and France, in service of both courts. During his travels abroad Dunstable may have become acquainted with his greatest admirers, the Franco-Flemish composers Guilliaume Dufay and Gilles Binchois. Fifteenth century treatises acknowledge the impact made by English music on French musicians during this period. This reflects the concurrent political situation as well, as much of the territory of France, including Paris itself, lay in English hands from 1420 to 1450, the final phase of the Hundred Years War. Dunstable benefited directly from this situation when the Duke of Bedford died in 1435, as Bedford awarded to Dunstable generous land grants in Normandy. Queen Joan remembered him a handsome annuity at her death in 1437. Dunstable was also an astronomer of considerable acclaim in his day, and astronomical charts believed to be in his own hand yet survive. However, all of his music is only known in copies made by other scribes. Most of Dunstable's music is preserved in sources located in Italy and Germany, rather than England, where just a scant remainder of contemporary examples remains.

Only a tiny fraction of Dunstable's work is of the secular variety, and of these the most widely circulated piece, O Rosa bella, is now known to be the work of Dunstable's younger contemporary John Bedyngham. Although Dunstable's musical output is primarily sacred, there is no evidence to suggest that he held any post as a cleric. When Dunstable died in 1453, he was both wealthy and famous, and his reputation as a composer survived well into the first part of the sixteenth century. Another presumed associate of Dunstable's, John Wheathampstead, abbot of Saint Albans, composed two epitaphs to Dunstable's memory, one of which reads "with (Dunstable) as judge, Urania learned how to unfold the secrets of Heaven. This man was your glory, O Music; who had dispersed your sweet art through the world. The 'star' transmigrates to the stars; may the citizens of Heaven receive him as one of their own." Read less
Browse 1-25 of 38 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Fleur De Valeur: A Medieval Bouquet
    Label: Bridge   Catalog: 9419 Release Date: 12/10/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Ciconia,  Buxheimer Orge Anonymous,  John Dunstable,  Jean Robert Trebor  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Trefoil
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  • 2.
    The Merton Collection - Merton College At 750
    Label: Delphian   Catalog: 34134 Release Date: 12/10/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Sheppard,  Arvo Pärt,  William Byrd,  Orlando Gibbons  ... 
    Performer:  Francis Shepherd,  Anna Steppler,  Emily Tann,  Polly [Soprano (Vocal)] Gamble
    Conductor:  Peter Phillips,  Benjamin Nicholas
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  • 3.
    Das Alte Werk - 50-CD Collection
    Label: Teldec   Catalog: 46438 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  George Frideric Handel,  Orlando Gibbons  ... 
    Performer:  Herbert Tachezi,  Gustav Leonhardt,  Frans Brüggen,  Jeannette Van Wingerden  ... 
    Conductor:  Nikolaus Harnoncourt,  Gustav Leonhardt,  Werner Ehrhardt,  Giovanni Antonini  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Concentus Musicus,  Leonhardt Consort,  Studio for Early Music  ... 
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  • 4.
    Ave Maria: Gregorian Chant
    Label: Seraphic Fire Media   Catalog: 12 Release Date: 08/27/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Francisco Guerrero,  Josquin Des Préz,  Leonel Power  ... 
    Performer:  Steven Soph,  Owen [Tenor (Vocal)] McIntosh,  Esteli Gomez,  Molly Quinn  ... 
    Conductor:  Patrick Dupré Quigley
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seraphic Fire
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  • 5.
    A Year With Jesus
    Label: Virgin Classics   Catalog: 2667 Release Date: 01/08/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Antonio Vivaldi,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Francis Poulenc,  Gustav Holst  ... 
    Performer:  Michael Chance,  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,  Jacques Neilz,  Robert Veyron-Lacroix  ... 
    Conductor:  Andrew Parrott,  Philippe Herreweghe,  Harry Christophers,  David Hill  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Taverner Choir,  The Sixteen,  Seminario Musicale  ... 
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  • 6.
    Leonel Power, John Dunstable: Masses And Motets
    Label: Virgin Classics   Catalog: 2493 Release Date: 04/10/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Leonel Power,  John Dunstable
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  • 7.
    Into This World This Day Did Come - Carols Contemporary & Medieval
    Label: Delphian   Catalog: 34075 Release Date: 11/08/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Diana Burrell,  Judith Bingham,  Stuart MacRae,  Richard Causton  ... 
    Conductor:  Geoffrey Webber
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gonville and Caius College Choir Cambridge
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  • 8.
    A Golden Treasury Of Medieval Music / Sine Nomine Ensemble
    Label: Amon Ra   Catalog: 63 Release Date: 01/11/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Alfons X (El Sabio),  Anonymous,  Hildegard of Bingen,  Gilles Binchois  ... 
    Performer:  Bryan Martin,  Jay Lambie,  Randall Rosenfeld,  Andrea Budgey  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sine Nomine Ensemble
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  • 9.
    The Spirits Of England And France Vol 5 - Missa Veterem
    Label: Helios   Catalog: 55285 Release Date: 01/11/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anonymous,  John Dunstable
    Performer:  Steven Harrold,  Julian Podger,  Catherine King,  Stephen Charlesworth  ... 
    Conductor:  Christopher Page
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gothic Voices
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  • 10.
    La Contenance Angloise
    Label: Christophorus   Catalog: 77332 Release Date: 09/28/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Gilles Binchois,  Guillaume Dufay,  Galfridus De Anglia,  Conrad Paumann  ... 
    Performer:  Gregor Ehrsam
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chant 1450
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  • 11.
    Tudor City / New York Polyphony
    Label: Avie   Catalog: 2186 Release Date: 04/13/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd,  William Cornysh,  Andrew Smith,  Worcester Frag Anonymous  ... 
    Performer:  New York Polyphony
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Polyphony
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  • 12.
    Essential Renaissance
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 88592 Release Date: 02/23/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claudio Monteverdi,  Clément Janequin,  Adrian Willaert,  Ludovico Agostini  ... 
    Performer:  Della Jones,  Arleen Augér,  Hopkinson Smith,  Paul O'Dette  ... 
    Conductor:  Richard Hickox,  Andrew Parrott,  Anthony Rooley,  Emmanuelle Haďm  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Taverner Consort & Players,  Consort of Musicke,  Le Concert D'Astrée  ... 
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  • 13.
    The Service Of Venus And Mars / Page, Gothic Voices
    Label: Helios   Catalog: 55290 Release Date: 02/09/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Richard de Loqueville,  Soursby,  John Pyamour  ... 
    Performer:  Andrew Lawrence-King
    Conductor:  Christopher Page
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gothic Voices
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  • 14.
    Trio Viaggio - Proporcions To The Minim
    Label: Coviello Classics   Catalog: 20204 Release Date: 02/02/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Guillaume Dufay,  John Dunstable
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Trio Viaggio
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  • 15.
    The Spirits Of England & France Vol 3 / Christopher Page, Gothic Voices
    Label: Helios   Catalog: 55283 Release Date: 09/08/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Byttering,  Anonymous,  Pierre Fontaine,  Leonel Power  ... 
    Conductor:  Christopher Page
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gothic Voices
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  • 16.
    Eternal Voice
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8572183 Release Date: 10/28/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Marc-Antoine Charpentier,  John Dunstable
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  • 17.
    Alfred Deller Complete Vanguard Recordings - Christmas Carols & Motets / 4-Disc Set
    Label: Musical Concepts   Catalog: 192 Release Date: 10/14/2008   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Leonel Power,  Ludwig Senfl,  Thomas Stoltzer,  Heinrich Isaac  ... 
    Performer:  Mark Deller,  Honor Sheppard,  Robert Tear,  Alfred Deller  ... 
    Conductor:  René Clemencic,  Alfred Deller
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Musica Antiqua,  Deller Consort
    CD: $27.49
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  • 18.
    Packe: Gaudete In Domino;  Dunstable: Salve Regina / Heider, Schola Gothia
    Label: Gothic Records   Catalog: 49259 Release Date: 04/08/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Thomas Packe,  John Dunstable
    Performer:  Schola Gothia
    Conductor:  Ulrike Heider
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schola Gothia
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  • 19.
    Canticum Canticorum / Les Voix Baroques
    Label: Atma Classique   Catalog: 2503 Release Date: 03/25/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henry Purcell,  John Dunstable,  Marc-Antoine Charpentier,  Marin Marais  ... 
    Conductor:  Stephen Stubbs
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Voix Baroques
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  • 20.
    Rejoice - A Vision Of Christ Through Music
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8570980 Release Date: 03/18/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Stainer,  Franz Liszt,  Franz Joseph Haydn,  Thomas Tallis  ... 
    Performer:  James Gilchrist,  Simon Bailey,  Furio Zanasi,  Ulrich Rausch  ... 
    Conductor:  Timothy Brown,  Diego Fasolis,  Jeremy Summerly,  Kenneth Schermerhorn  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of London Sinfonia,  Clare College Choir,  Swiss Radio Chorus  ... 
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  • 21.
    Song Of Songs / Mike Brewer, Laudibus
    Label: Delphian   Catalog: 34042 Release Date: 12/18/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Sir William Walton,  Guillaume Bouzignac,  Howard Skempton,  Gabriel Jackson  ... 
    Conductor:  Mike Brewer
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Laudibus
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  • 22.
    English Organ Music / E. Power Biggs
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 62751 Release Date: 06/13/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anonymous,  William Croft,  Jeremiah Clarke,  John Stanley  ... 
    Performer:  E. Power Biggs
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New England Brass Ensemble Orchestra,  New England Brass Ensemble
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  • 23.
    Gothic Voices - Gramophone Award Winners Collection
    Label: Hyperion   Catalog: 44251 Release Date: 10/10/2006   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Hildegard of Bingen,  John Dunstable,  Leonel Power,  Philippe De Vitry  ... 
    Performer:  Doreen Muskett,  Robert White,  Andrew Lawrence-King,  Christopher Page
    Conductor:  Christopher Page
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gothic Voices
    On sale! $38.98
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  • 24.
    Weir: All The Ends Of The Earth;  Finnissy, Etc / Webber
    Label: Signum U.k.   Catalog: 70 Release Date: 06/27/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Judith Weir,  Anonymous,  James D.E. Weeks,  Bayan Northcott  ... 
    Conductor:  Geoffrey Webber
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gonville and Caius College Choir Cambridge
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  • 25.
    Century Vol 7 - Ars Subtilior
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 2908169 Release Date: 12/13/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Gilles Binchois,  Antoine Busnois,  Johannes Ockeghem,  Guillaume Dufay  ... 
    Performer:  Charles Daniels,  Robert Harre-Jones,  Donald Greig,  Stephan Van Dyck  ... 
    Conductor:  Marcel Pérčs,  Paul van Nevel,  Crawford Young
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orlando Consort,  Ensemble Organum,  Huelgas Ensemble  ... 
    CD: $14.99
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