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Eustache du Caurroy

January 1549 - August 7, 1609
born in Gerberoy, composed during the Renaissance period
(François) Eustache du Caurroy was an important Renaissance-era French composer who was highly respected in the French court during his lifetime and who became widely admired after his death. For a time his sacred, secular, and instrumental works were studied and imitated for their deft manipulation of counterpoint and, in certain pieces, for their use of the musique mesurée à l'antique style.

Although one reliable source (composer Jean-Benjamin de la Borde) lists du Caurroy's birthplace as Gerberoy, he may well have been born in nearby Beauvais, where he was baptized on February 4, 1549. Virtually nothing is known of du Caurroy's early years and his first recorded activity is as a singer in the royal chapel under King Henry III, though he may have been in the service of King Charles IX in the early 1570s, as is suggested on a monument erected to du Caurroy's memory.

In any event, by the mid-1570s du Caurroy was already a seasoned composer, winning prizes in the annual Puy d'Evreux competition in 1575 and 1576 for vocal works. He was awarded another prize in the same competition in 1583 for a chanson. Around this time du Caurroy began serving as assistant master of the royal chapel and soon produced what is perhaps his best-known work, the Missa pro defunctis (c. 1590), written for performance at the funeral of King Henry IV. The work would remain de rigueur at the funerals of French monarchs for the next century or so.

In 1595 du Caurroy was elevated to composer of the royal chamber, then in 1599 to composer of the royal chapel. He was now at the height of his powers, though relatively little of his music was published. He had also become quite wealthy from benefices bestowed on him, not least of them his appointments as Canon at two churches and Prior at several others.

In 1609, du Caurroy began making arrangements with the Le Roy & Ballard firm to publish all his works, which, beside the Missa pro defunctis, consisted of Preces ecclesiasticae (53 Latin motets), Les Meslanges (60 varied vocal works), and Fantasies (42 instrumental works). Other works mentioned in writings of his day, such as three masses, did not survive. Du Caurroy died in 1609, leaving his nephew, André Pitard, to oversee publication of his compositions. ~ Robert Cummings, Rovi
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