Movement 1: Kyrie
Movement 2: Gloria
Movement 3: Credo
Movement 4: Sanctus
Movement 5: Benedictus
Movement 6: Agnus Dei
Bartolomé de Escobedo, a native of Zamora, spent two long periods as a singer in the Papal choir of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. He and Cristóbal de Morales would have known each other well; Escobedo joined the choir in 1536, the year after Morales. With one extended leave of absence, he remained in Rome until 1554. He is mentioned several times in the diaries of the Cappella Sistina, sometimes for bad-tempered behaviour. When he retired to Spain he maintained contact with the Sistine choir and advised on recruitment. The great theorist Salinas, university professor and cathedral maestro at Salamanca, was a friend and called Escobedo ‘an extremely learned musician’.
Escobedo held a benefice at Segovia and may have wished to supplement his retirement with additional beneficial rewards. This could have been a motive for paying honour to the new king with a splendid Mass, replete with symbols of homage and learned devices. The ‘Philippus’ Mass is written for six voices in a strong contrapuntal style rooted in the recent Franco-Flemish traditions of the Papal chapel. It owes much to the generation of Josquin Desprez and successors like Morales, a senior colleague of Escobedo.
The structure of the work shows that Escobedo was thoroughly familiar with Josquin’s famous Missa Hercules Dux Ferrariae. The syllables for Escobedo’s musical motto theme (soggetto cavato) are Mi Mi Ut Re Mi Fa Mi Re of the hexachord (modal scale) representing Philippus Rex Hispanie.
This is the cantus firmus that runs throughout the Mass in various tempos, its note values sometimes at odds with the prevailing time signature of the other voices, usually slower than their busy movement, occasionally matching them. Finally, in the Agnus Dei it is slowed down to become a series of internal pedal points round which the five free voices run up and down like tendrils and foliage of plants around a great pillar. Here the debt to Josquin is most apparent. The ‘Philippus’ theme is also subjected to presentations at different pitches, usually buried deep in the musical fabric. But there are notable moments when it emerges to dominate and to be heard above all else. This happens at ‘Et incarnatus est …’ when it is presented eight times in the top voice of a quartet.
Escobedo’s music for this act of homage is vigorous and, at times, impressively grand. It has its awkward moments and Palestrina, no doubt, would have winced at some infelicities. It has character and rhythmic drive; it certainly sheds new light upon the generation of Morales and Spanish music before Guerrero, who was surely the most ‘hispanic’ of all.
from notes by Bruno Turner © 1998