Masterpieces of Portuguese Polyphony, Vol. 2

Masterpieces of Portuguese Polyphony, Vol. 2

Westminster Cathedral Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor)


The music of the Portuguese Renaissance has until very recently languished in almost complete obscurity. Certain composers who were fortunate enough to see their works published during their lifetimes—such as Manuel Cardoso, Duarte Lôbo, and Filipe de Magalhães—have begun to receive the recognition they deserve, but the same does not yet apply to the vast body of music which is preserved only in manuscript. Much the largest collection of such manuscripts, dating from the sixteenth century onwards, originated at the Augustinian monastery of Santa Cruz in Coimbra (in northern Portugal). This monastery, the mother-house of the Augustinian congregation in Portugal, was an educational and cultural centre of the first rank, with a flourishing musical life. The most important composer to have worked there, Pedro de Cristo, was born in Coimbra in about 1550, and took his vows at Santa Cruz in 1571. He eventually succeeded to the post of mestre de capela (that is, director of the polyphonic choir) in the 1590s. Dom Pedro also spent at least two periods in Lisbon, as mestre de capela at the Monastery of São Vicente. An obituary marking his death in 1618 mentions his skill as an instrumentalist as well as a composer, and notes that his musical talents caused him to be sought after at many houses of the Augustinian congregation.

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