John Dunstable


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
Dunstable: Sweet Harmony / Pitts, Tonus Peregrinus
Release Date: 10/18/2005   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8557341   Number of Discs: 1
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  • 1.
    English Motets / Park, Gesualdo Six
    Label: Hyperion   Catalog: 68256 Release Date: 03/30/2018   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Thomas Tallis,  William Byrd,  Thomas Tomkins,  John Sheppard  ... 
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  • 2.
    Lumina / Quist, Westminster Kantorei
    Label: Westminster Choir College   Catalog: 1709 Release Date: 09/15/2017   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Joseph Rheinberger,  Henry Purcell,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Johann Sebastian Bach  ... 
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    O florens rosa / La Rossignol
    Label: Iii Millennio   Catalog: 195 Release Date: 05/05/2017   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Erasmus Widmann,  Johannes Ciconia,  Guillaume Costeley,  Thomas Weelkes  ... 
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    Music for the 100 Years' War / Kirkman, Binchois Consort
    Label: Hyperion   Catalog: 68170 Release Date: 03/31/2017   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Johannes Alanus,  John Forest,  John Dunstable  ... 
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  • 5.
    Au fil de l'Art en Musique
    Label: Atma Classique   Catalog: 3019 Release Date: 02/10/2017   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Dunstable,  Giovanni Gabrieli,  Michael Praetorius,  Bellerofonte Castaldi  ... 
    Performer:  Maxine Eilander,  Stephen Stubbs,  Daniel Taylor,  Jivko Georgiev  ... 
    Conductor:  Christopher Jackson,  Francis Colpron,  Thomas Rösner,  Yoav Talmi  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Voix Baroques,  Concerto Palatino,  Studio de Musique Ancienne de Montréal  ... 
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  • 6.
    Medieval & Renaissance
    Label: L'oiseau Lyre   Catalog: 002550302 Release Date: 01/06/2017   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Jaquemin de Senleches,  Guido Lange] [de,  Johannes Olivier  ... 
    Performer:  Rogers Covey-Crump,  Paul Elliot,  Margaret Philpot,  Catherine Bott  ... 
    Conductor:  Philip Pickett,  Anthony Rooley,  Trevor [viola da gamba] Jones,  Christopher Hogwood  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Medieval Ensemble,  New London Consort,  Consort of Musicke  ... 
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  • 7.
    Mary Star of the Sea / Gothic Voices
    Label: Linn Records   Catalog: 541 Release Date: 08/24/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Joanne Metcalf,  Anonymous,  John Dunstable,  Richard Smert  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gothic Voices
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  • 8.
    The History of Classical Music in 24 Hours
    Label: Dg Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002403602 Release Date: 11/13/2015   Number of Discs: 24
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Pérotin,  Guillaume de Machaut,  John Dunstable  ... 
    Performer:  Konrad Ragossnig,  Charles [Tenor Vocals] Daniels,  Susan Gritton,  Trevor Pinnock  ... 
    Conductor:  Pater Godehard Joppich,  David Munrow,  Josef Ulsamer,  Bruno Turner  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Early Music Consort of London,  Ulsamer-Collegium,  Pro Cantione Antiqua  ... 
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  • 9.
    Le Chant De Leschiquier: Binchois & Dufay Songs In The Buxheim Codex
    Label: Passacaille   Catalog: 1012 Release Date: 05/26/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Ciconia,  Gilles Binchois,  Buxheimer Orge Anonymous,  Guillaume Dufay  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tasto Solo
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  • 10.
    The Garden With Countless Windows
    Label: Lindoro   Catalog: 3012 Release Date: 09/09/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Ciconia,  Guillaume Dufay,  Anonymous,  Jacopo da Bologna  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  ĆroDynamic
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  • 11.
    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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  • 12.
    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:  Anna Steppler,  Francis Shepherd,  Emily Tann,  Polly [Soprano Vocal] Gamble
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  • 13.
    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  ... 
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    Conductor:  Nikolaus Harnoncourt,  Gustav Leonhardt,  Werner Ehrhardt,  Giovanni Antonini  ... 
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  • 14.
    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:  Owen [Tenor Vocal] McIntosh,  Steven Soph,  Esteli Gomez,  Molly Quinn  ... 
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  • 15.
    A Year With Jesus
    Label: Erato   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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  • 16.
    Leonel Power, John Dunstable: Masses And Motets
    Label: Erato   Catalog: 2493 Release Date: 04/10/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Leonel Power,  John Dunstable
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  • 17.
    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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  • 18.
    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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  • 19.
    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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  • 20.
    Tudor City / New York Polyphony
    Label: Avie   Catalog: 2186 Release Date: 04/13/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Byrd,  William Cornysh,  Worcester Frag Anonymous,  Thomas Tallis  ... 
    Performer:  New York Polyphony
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Polyphony
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  • 21.
    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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  • 22.
    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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  • 23.
    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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  • 24.
    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
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  • 25.
    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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