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Francisco de Peñalosa

born: c1470
died: 1 April 1528
country: Spain

We know surprisingly little about the life of Francisco de Peñalosa. The bare facts are that he entered the Aragonese chapel in 1498, served there until the death of King Ferdinand in 1516 and subsequently joined the papal chapel in Rome before returning to Seville, where he held a canonry. There he passed his final years. It is immediately apparent from his cantus firmus Mass settings, which closely follow Franco-Netherlandish models in their subtle deployment of borrowed melodies, both sacred and secular, that he was a composer of considerable technical skill. Indeed, this is a technique that he extends, with a flourish of ingenuity, to one of his songs in the Madrid 'Palace Songbook'. In Por las sierras de Madrid, for example, he combines four popular melodies, all well-known refrains, adding a fifth borrowing in the bass, a Latin gloss taken from the Acts of the Apostles, which punningly alludes to the polytextuality of the upper voices: ‘They tell out in many languages the mighty deeds of God’.

In his motets, Peñalosa is less concerned with artifice than with an expressive projection of the texts. These are generally devotional in nature, with Marian and penitential themes predominant. Peñalosa’s approach to text-setting in his motets—surely influenced by his studies with the Sicilian humanist Lucas Marineus who taught Latin to the members of the Aragonese chapel—is largely syllabic, with due attention to the correct accentuation of the words and melismas largely restricted to the penultimate syllable of a phrase. Often entirely free of borrowed material, these motets use the phrase structure of the text as the basis for the musical framework. Peñalosa exploited this expressive freedom to the full, notably in the four-voice Precor te, Domine, a meditation on the sufferings of Christ on the Cross. Here the declamatory, homophonic sections intensify the affective character of certain passages in the text, the effect being rendered still more dramatic by the use of rests to offset these words.

from notes by Tess Knighton ©

Albums

Peñalosa: Masses
CDH55326Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
Peñalosa: The Complete Motets
CDH55357Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts Grand Tour
CDH55344Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
Sacred & Secular Music
CDH55148Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
The Voice in the Garden
CDH55298Helios (Hyperion's budget label)

Complete works available for download

Adoro te, Domine Jesu ChristePro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner (conductor)
Ave regina caelorumPro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner (conductor)
Ave verum corpusPro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner (conductor)
Ave, vera caro ChristiPro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner (conductor)
Ave, vere sanguis DominiPro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner (conductor)
Deus, qui manus tuasPro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner (conductor)
Domine Jesu Christe, qui neminemPro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner (conductor)
Domine, secundum actum meumPro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner (conductor)
Emendemus in meliusPro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner (conductor)
In passione positusPro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner (conductor)
Inter vestibulum et altarePro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner (conductor)
Missa Ave Maria peregrinaWestminster Cathedral Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor)
Missa Nunca fue pena mayorWestminster Cathedral Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor)
Ne reminiscaris, DominePro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner (conductor)
Ne reminiscaris, DomineGothic Voices, Christopher Page (conductor)
Nigra sum, sed formosaPro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner (conductor)
O Domina sanctissimaPro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner (conductor)
O Domina sanctissimaHis Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts
Pater nosterPro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner (conductor)
Por las sierras de MadridGothic Voices, Christopher Page (conductor)
Precor te, Domine Jesu ChristePro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner (conductor)
Precor te, Domine Jesu ChristeGothic Voices, Christopher Page (conductor)
Sacris solemniisWestminster Cathedral Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor)
Sancta MariaPro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner (conductor)
Sancta MariaGothic Voices, Christopher Page (conductor)
Sancta materThe Hilliard Ensemble
Sancta mater istud agasPro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner (conductor)
Transeunte Domino JesuPro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner (conductor)
Tribularer, si nesciremPro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner (conductor)
Unica est columba meaPro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner (conductor)
Versa est in luctumPro Cantione Antiqua, Bruno Turner (conductor)
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