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date: 20 January 2021

Sarto, Johannes delocked

  • Peter Wright


(flc1430–40). Composer, singer and priest. The musician listed as a singer of Albrecht II, King of the Romans, in the motet Romanorum rex written in commemoration of the king’s death in 1439, must be the same man who composed this and several other sacred works found in early 15th-century manuscripts. If his identity has yet to be established conclusively, the proposal that he was Johannes Doussart, a cleric of the diocese of Liège who was still alive in 1457, is very plausible, and distinctly more so than the earlier suggestion that he was the Cambrai-based musician Jean Du Sart.

Sarto’s four surviving motets are written in an elegant and at times highly expressive melodic style, with well-controlled dissonance and occasional use of imitation. Verbum patris (notable for its use of common material at section ends) and Romanorum rex both employ complex mensural schemes; the latter, a technical tour de force, is remarkable for its simultaneous use of two distinct isorhythmic patterns. One introit survives with an uncontested attribution and in the case of two others Sarto’s name has been substituted for that of his famous contemporary, Johannes Brassart, perhaps indicating some form of collaboration or rivalry. Evidently the two men were closely associated: both were members of the imperial chapel during the 1430s and were probably linked by affiliation to the same diocese (Liège); their works were sometimes copied next to or near one another; two of Sarto’s motets, ...

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