Personalities | Nicolas Gombert | Renaissance | Classical
(Ne-ko-las’ Gôm-bâr) c. 1495–1560
Joining the Burgundian court around 1525, Gombert travelled widely with the emperor, Charles V, and composed music for state occasions. At a time when many composers were moving towards a style based on clear enunciation of the text and balanced phrases, Gombert wrote complex polyphony with long-breathed melodic lines, unbroken by clear cadences.
The composer Hermann Finck (1527–58) said of Gombert’s style that ‘he avoids pauses’, and this somewhat blunt observation is a key to the seamless melodic tapestry of his music. His style extends the principle of imitation so that it pervades the music to an unprecedented degree. It is structured, in effect, like a series of musical paragraphs: each section of text has its own motif (called a point of imitation) which, presented in one voice, works its way through all the others in turn (often more than once) before being replaced by the next. Because a new point of imitation is usually introduced before the previous one has been fully exhausted, the texture has a seamless quality. His style changes little between genres. This method of pervasive imitation influenced composers of the following generations and was central to the style of the most famous Renaissance composers, including Tallis, Byrd and Victoria.
Motets, Chansons, Mass for Six Voices, Huelgas Ensemble (dir) Paul Van Nevel (Sony Classical)
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