Art Music of the Renaisance II

There would be no musical inheritance from the great composers of Europe without patronage. In wealthy homes, as we noted last time, and even more with support from the Church, musicians worked to provide new sounds for the diet of regular worship in the chapels of noble families and in the great new gothic Cathedrals of the continent and the New World.

Cristobal de Morales (1500?-1553) was one such man. Born in Seville, trained there as a boy singer, he became chapel master of the Avila Cathedrals and of Plasencia. Already a priest, he entered into the Papal Chapel in Rome in 1535, leaving there ten years later to become chapel master of the Cathedral at Toledo, moving to Marchena and then in 1551 to Malaga where he died. He was known throughout Europe, his music published and performed in the major countries of the West.

He composed ‘in a coloristic and austere style for the express purpose of honouring God’ ( See where you can hear some of his music – ‘austere’ indeed if not a trifle mournful and played there on a rather nasal organ! – look for ‘Spanish Early Music’ on their website).

De Morales was one of the teachers of Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599), the greatest representative of the Andalusian School. His music has been described as one of ‘serenity and gentle lyricism’ and his Spanish roots are more evident than the earlier music of this period. You can hear some of it on the website mentioned above and at once there is a lift and melodic shape to it compared to his more severe mentor.

His professional life centred around the Cathedrals of Jaen, Seville and Malaga, and his work – designed , he said, to enlighten souls and not to induce flattery – was published beyond Spain and included more than 100 motets and 20 masses.

His music is described as spiritual and mystical. Some of his secular songs can be found in the Songbook of Medinaceli and his discography can be seen on the Goldberg Music Portal website.

…we will no doubt return to this golden age of music, but I am impatient to move on to a period nearer to our own experience…