Masterpieces of Mexican Polyphony

Salve regina [11'39]

Hernando Franco (1532-1585)

Franco was born in Galizuela (now part of Esparragosa de Lares, Badajoz Province) in Extremadura, a source region for many people who came to the New World in the 16th century. He was trained in music as a choir boy, and later apprentice and journeyman, at Segovia cathedral by Geronimo de Espinar, who may also have been a teacher of Tomas Luis de Victoria. While a youth he met and befriended Lazaro del Alamo, who was to precede him as maestro de capilla in Mexico City.

Most likely Franco went to Nueva Espana in the 1550s, though there is no record of his activities until 1571 when he appears in the records as maestro de capilla of the cathedral of Santiago de Guatemala, which had been elevated to cathedral rank in 1534. That magnificent building had been newly constructed in the new site in the valley of Panchoy, present-day Antigua Guatemala, after the city had to be moved from the previous site in Almolonga, beginning in 1542.

Franco left that position in 1574 after a series of budget cuts that affected his salary, and undertook the journey to Mexico. Here he was fortunate to find the position of maestro de capilla of the new cathedral vacant. He was appointed the new chapel master in 1575, where his old friend Lazaro del Alamo had been maestro de capilla from 1556 to 1570.

Franco was clearly a well-respected and beloved figure, since he was granted a prebend in 1581 and contemporary documents contain numerous references to his exemplary character and musicianship. He resigned in 1582 during a period of financial difficulties in Mexico City, and died in 1585. He is buried in the cathedral's main chapel.

Deus in adiutorium [2'32]

Mirabilia testimonia [10'06]

Lamentation for Maundy Thursday Incipit lamentation Jeremiae Prophetae [13'54]

Salve regina [8'19]

Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla (c1590-1664)

The best-known representative of the Spanish school of composers in Mexico. Born in Malaga, he was employed as a church musician firstly in Jerez de la Frontera and then in Cadiz before moving to New Spain no later than the autumn of 1622. On 11 October he was named cantor and assistant Maestro at Puebla Cathedral with an annual salary of 500 pesos, at a time when this Cathedral boasted a musical establishment on a par with the best in Europe. In 1629 Padilla became Maestro de Capilla, a post he retained until his death. His six-voice setting of the Lamentations is one of his finest achievements, employing an impassioned musical language which is spiced up with the augmented intervals beloved of every Iberian composer of note in the early seventeenth century, Portuguese as much as Spanish. The reduced-voice section at 'Ghimel', followed by the verse 'Migravit Judas', is a classic case of this. I have never elsewhere come across the astonishing harmonic move he makes at 'inter gentes'. The fact that this set is scored for SSATTB points to the influence of Victoria and other Spaniards, who tended to favour this line-up in six parts. Victoria's seminal setting of the Requiem is scored like this. Quite why it was thought appropriate to use such a potentially bright sound for Requiems and Laments is one of the many mysteries of the Spanish school .

Alleluia. Dic nobis, Maria [4'43]

Magnificat quarti toni [9'50]

Francisco Lopez Capillas (c1650-1674)

Francisco Lopez Capillas, the first Creole composer - descendant of European immigrants, but born in Latin America. His work shows the influence of the Venetian polychoral style, which was imitated in Spain from the end of the 16th century.

O sacrum convivium [3'18]

Antonio de Salazar (c1650-1715)

Mexican composer, arrived in New Spain in 1688 as chapel master of Puebla Cathedral, then later held his final position later at Mexico City Cathedral. It is unknown if he had any direct connection to Oaxaca Cathedral though some of his compositions are found in manuscript there.

In his sacred Latin works Salazar was noted for strict contrapuntal style harking back to Palestrina. The musicologist Bruno Turner considers that Salazar "represents the last of the truly conservative Hispanic composers before the all-conquering Italian style took Spain and its Empire by storm".

Salazar also composed lighter pieces including Christmas villancicos, including several in the "negrillo" genre imitating the dialects and dances of African slaves.

Year / Artwork Title Importance Medium
12th Cent. Masterpieces of Mexican Polyphony 4.00 stars CD
Westminster Cathedral Choir cond. James O'Donnell