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Dutch School (music)

Somewhat imprecisely, the style of polyphonic vocal music composition in Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries is sometimes called the Dutch School. The composers of this time and place, and the music they produced, are also known as the Netherlands School. Other frequently used terms for the composers are Franco-Flemish or Netherlandish. See Renaissance music for a more detailed description of the musical style, and links to individual composers from this time.

The composers of this period, however, were by no means all Dutch in the modern geographical sense: Many of them originated in (modern) northern France, Belgium and western parts of Germany. This part of Europe was collectively known as the Netherlands. During periods of political stability, it 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 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, to Spain, to towns in Germany and France and other parts of Europe, carrying their styles with them. The diffusion of their technique produced the first true international style since the unification of Gregorian chant in the 9th century.

Following are five groups, or generations, that are commonly distinguished in the Netherlands school, though the boundaries are hazy and often disputed:

  • The First generation (1420-1450), dominated by Dufay and Binchois; this group of composers is most often known as the Burgundian School
  • The Second generation (1450-1485), with Ockeghem as its main exponent
  • The Third generation (1480-1520): Obrecht, Isaac and Josquin
  • The Fourth generation (1520-1560): Willaert and Clemens non Papa
  • The Fifth generation (1560-1600): Lassus. 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 international style.

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45