Biography of Antoine Brumel (ca. 1460-ca. 1515)

Polyphony of French origin, who lived approximately between the years 1460 and 1515. His place of birth is not known with certainty but several details of his biography are to assume that it must be some very close to the city of Chartres population.

The life of Antoine Brumel news that have come down to us beginning with his appointment as cantor at the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres, institution from which went to the Cathedral of Saint Pierre de Ginebra. Years later remained attached for some time to the Cathedral of Laon, where probably would be ordained a priest at a time after the year 1497. From 1498 was music teacher to children who sang the acute voices in the musical Chapel of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, this time in Paris. From 1501, Antoine Brumel became its activity as composer at the head of two secular chapels, abandoning service in the sacral chapels which over the years had taken him on more than one occasion to keep clashes with the ecclesiastical authorities. Between 1501 and 1502, he/she worked in the service of the Duke of Chambery in order to the infinitely more interesting from the creative point of view and also from the economical, musical Chapel of the Duke of Modena and Ferrara, Alfonso I d'Este, one of the environments in which was more forcefully the enlightened spirit of the Renaissance humanism Italian, present in the music, poetry and other arts. But this musician bonding to the Italian family of Este, which in principle should have been lifetime, concluded in the year 1510, when the chapel of the House of Ferrara disbanded.

The musical work of Antoine Brumel.

In the work of Antoine Brumel practically all characteristics which determined the evolution of the school polyphonic tradition of Franco-Flemish, from the level more typical of works created by the first generation of franco-flamencos works by polyphonists, in which strictly applied the rules of the imitative counterpoint, to the later evolution towards verticality, towards the provision of different voices that made up the plot of polyphony discretion more syllabic than melismatic are synthesized and with at all times a clear trend towards a conception of works that, on occasions, came to be close to the notion of harmony, although throughout his musical activity Brumel continue practicing the rules of counterpoint.

In addition to his sacred works, also several secular songs on texts in French, are attributed to Antoine Brumel several of them lost and known only by references, in addition to a dozen instrumental works. In any case, bearing in mind that most of the life of the musician was developed at the service of several musical chapels sponsored religious centers, as was usual at the time, it seems logical that most of its production outside of sacred subject.

Like other many works by polyphonists European of the 15th and 16th centuries, Antoine Brumel cultivated mass genre parody (see mass), a type of composition which was taken as a pretext a musical theme from a contemporary chanson or from any other work, both sacred and profane, that would have been able to achieve popularity at some point, which had been created by another author to whom the composer of the new work intended to pay a tribute to him either that you would like this for any other reason. From this melody "borrowed", the composer created the rest of the voices that made up the polyphonic fabric. This is precisely the procedure that Brumel practiced in his Missa "Berzerette savoyenne", made from a chanson from Josquin Desprez. Also belong to the genus of the mass. parody other compositions of Brumel as his Missa "Bon temps" on an anonymous melody or his Missa "de dringhs", on a melody from the composer himself. In the case of his Missa "L'homme armé", Antoine Brumel used this famous chanson who also took as a pretext many other famous composers to compose on their masses. On other occasions, Brumel practiced the classical method to use a tenor from the Gregorian repertoire to compose from any of his works, as in the case of his Missa de beata virgine or in his Missa Victimae paschali.

On other occasions, Brumel followed the common practice at the time that was to propose to himself challenges that serve him to evolve in the composition of polyphony through resolution of the formal problems posed must necessarily adhere to a given schema. One of these challenges would be the composition of a mass from the hexachord (Ut) Do Re Mi Fa Sol, or the processing of a sequence, which accompanies the text Sicut erat in her Magnificat on the eighth tone, in which the composer did evolve at the same time melodies based on the eight Gregorian modes (in fact(this fragment, also known as Exemplum octo modorum, is the only part of the work that can be attributed with certainty).

Antoine Brumel was one of the most recognized by his contemporaries and by scholars of the Franco-Flemish polyphonic tradition belonging to the later generations. The quality of his works made him in comparable in the eyes of his contemporaries with musicians of the calibre of Josquin Desprez or Alexander Agrígola and, still half a century after his death, when the composer and Italian theorist Vincenzo Galileireferred in one of his theoretical works to different composers of French origin who had gone through the Roman musical chapelsHe quoted among others the name of Brumel, while today there are no documents that serve to attest that the composer was never in Rome. Even so, it already only the fact that Vicenzo Galilei, the Franco-Flemish polyphonist name one of the most important characters in the musical life of the 16th-century Italy, yes mention provides an idea about the popularity that should have reached his work South of the Alps. But there are also other evidence of the interest that the Italians kept towards the work of Brumel, among them the fact that, in several of the first editions of printed music that came out of the Venetian Ottaviano Petrucciworkshops, appeared including masses and motets of the composer.

Thus, while today the name of Antoine Brumel figure in the programmes of the concerts to a lesser extent than other contemporary composers polyphonic music or the next century, it should not forget the footprint that the compositional technique of the teacher left other musicians in his time they had the opportunity to listen to your music or study editions of his works.


BOSSUYT, i.: Flemish polyphony, the new Leuven, 1994.

SPARKS, e.: Cantus Firmus in Mass and Motet, 1420-1520, Berkeley, 1963.

ESCUDERO GARCIA, M. P.: Rules of flat singing and counterpoint, Madrid, 1984.

ALAYETO, P. F.: Treaty of counterpoint, Pamplona, 1995.

SCHMID, a.: Ottaviano dei Petrucci da Fossombrone, der erste Erfinder des Musiknotendruckes mit beweglichen Metalltypen, und seine Nachfolger in sechzenten Jahrhunderte, Amsterdam, 1968.

Lucía Díaz Marroquín.