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Guerrero, Francisco (1528-1599)

Francisco Guerrero

born: 4 October 1528
died: 8 November 1599
country: Spain

Born in 1528, trained by his brother Pedro and later, briefly, by Cristóbal de Morales, Guerrero spent all his career serving the Cathedral of Seville. He had been a boy chorister, becoming so brilliant a youth, proficient on a variety of instruments, a singer and composer, that at eighteen he was appointed maestro at Jaén Cathedral. The Seville Chapter persuaded him back three years later and there he stayed from 1549 until his death. Twice he was almost tempted away by the cathedral post at Málaga, but the Sevillian canons persuaded him to stay with the official position of assistant to the ageing Pedro Fernández and with an assurance of the right of succession to the full chapelmastership. In practice, Guerrero was effectively master of the music anyway but Fernández did not die until 1574, probably in his nineties, by which time Guerrero had been officially assistant for some twenty-three years. Much later, in 1591, it was Guerrero who needed an assistant, being increasingly incapable of efficiently looking after the choirboys. Various assistants included Alonso Lobo, who went on to be maestro at Toledo and finally back in Seville in 1604.

Guerrero visited Rome, then Venice and the Holy Land (in 1588); he wrote a best-seller about his Journey to Jerusalem (first printed in 1590). He travelled in Spain occasionally—to Toledo to present his music, to Córdoba as an auditioning judge—but otherwise his life was completely centred on Seville, his home city. His music was printed in Seville, Paris, Louvain, Venice and Rome. Reprinted as far away as Nuremberg and copied in manuscripts in Spain and the New World for two centuries after his death, his compositions were revered and emulated. Many of his motets served as models for Masses by Alonso Lobo, Duarte Lôbo, Pedro Ruimonte, Juan Esquivel, Géry de Ghersem and others well into the seventeenth century. At the Madrid Royal Chapel, Juan del Vado wrote, in about 1650, a Mass upon Guerrero’s ‘hit’ motet Ave virgo sanctissima; an even later curiosity is an interminable set of ‘mini’ canons upon the first phrase of that motet composed by one Aniceto Baylon of Valencia.

Guerrero was a devout priest-musician but, unlike Morales and Victoria, he was also able to compose delightful secular music and delicate vernacular (Castilian) religious songs. His great legacy of liturgical music is now coming to full recognition for its variety, its endless flow of beautiful melody and its sheer singability.

from notes by Bruno Turner © 1999

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