Antonio de Cabezón

Antonio de Cabezón

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Antonio de Cabezón was a Spanish
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

 and organist
An organist is a musician who plays any type of organ. An organist may play solo organ works, play with an ensemble or orchestra, or accompany one or more singers or instrumental soloists...

. Blind from childhood, he quickly rose to prominence as performer and was eventually employed by the royal family. He was among the most important composers of his time and the first major Iberian
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

 keyboard composer.


Cabezón was born in Castrillo Matajudíos
Castrillo Matajudíos
Castrillo Matajudíos is a municipality located in the province of Burgos, Castile and León, Spain. According to the 2004 census , the municipality has a population of 71 inhabitants.- Castrillo Matajudíos in the movies :...

, a municipality near Burgos
Burgos is a city of northern Spain, historic capital of Castile. It is situated at the edge of the central plateau, with about 178,966 inhabitants in the city proper and another 20,000 in its suburbs. It is the capital of the province of Burgos, in the autonomous community of Castile and León...

, in the north of Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

. Nothing is known about his formative years. He became blind in early childhood, and he may have been educated at the Palencia Cathedral
Palencia Cathedral
Palencia Cathedral is situated in Palencia, Spain. It is dedicated to Saint Antoninus of Pamiers ....

 by the organist there, García de Baeza. At the time, the country was slowly entering its Golden Age
Spanish Golden Age
The Spanish Golden Age is a period of flourishing in arts and literature in Spain, coinciding with the political rise and decline of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty. El Siglo de Oro does not imply precise dates and is usually considered to have lasted longer than an actual century...

. On 14 March 1516 Charles V
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.As...

 was proclaimed King of Castile
Crown of Castile
The Crown of Castile was a medieval and modern state in the Iberian Peninsula that formed in 1230 as a result of the third and definitive union of the crowns and parliaments of the kingdoms of Castile and León upon the accession of the then King Ferdinand III of Castile to the vacant Leonese throne...

 and of Aragon
Aragon is a modern autonomous community in Spain, coextensive with the medieval Kingdom of Aragon. Located in northeastern Spain, the Aragonese autonomous community comprises three provinces : Huesca, Zaragoza, and Teruel. Its capital is Zaragoza...

 jointly with his mother, the first time the crowns of Castile and Aragon were united under the same king. After the death of his paternal grandfather, Maximilian
Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor
Maximilian I , the son of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor and Eleanor of Portugal, was King of the Romans from 1486 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1493 until his death, though he was never in fact crowned by the Pope, the journey to Rome always being too risky...

, in 1519, Charles also inherited the Habsburg
The House of Habsburg , also found as Hapsburg, and also known as House of Austria is one of the most important royal houses of Europe and is best known for being an origin of all of the formally elected Holy Roman Emperors between 1438 and 1740, as well as rulers of the Austrian Empire and...

 lands in Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

, and later went on to become Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 and one of the most powerful monarchs in the world.

In 1525 Charles married Isabella of Portugal
Isabella of Portugal
Isabella of Portugal was a Portuguese Princess and Holy Roman Empress, Duchess of Burgundy, and a Queen Regent/Consort of Spain. She was the daughter of Manuel I of Portugal and Maria of Aragon. By her marriage to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, Isabella was also Holy Roman Empress and Queen...

, further strengthening his position in Spain. It was Isabella who employed Cabezón into her service in 1526. His duties included playing the clavichord
The clavichord is a European stringed keyboard instrument known from the late Medieval, through the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical eras. Historically, it was widely used as a practice instrument and as an aid to composition, not being loud enough for larger performances. The clavichord produces...

 and the organ, and he also assumed the position of organist at the chapel Isabella organized soon after her wedding. The composer remained with the royal family for the rest of his life. Through the court, he met such important composers as vihuelist
Vihuela is a name given to two different guitar-like string instruments: one from 15th and 16th century Spain, usually with 12 paired strings, and the other, the Mexican vihuela, from 19th century Mexico with five strings and typically played in Mariachi bands.-History:The vihuela, as it was known...

 Luis de Narváez
Luis de Narváez
Luis de Narváez was a Spanish composer and vihuelist. Highly regarded during his lifetime, Narváez is known today for Los seys libros del delphín, a collection of polyphonic music for the vihuela which includes the earliest known variation sets...

, known today for his advanced polyphonic fantasias, and Tomás de Santa María
Tomás de Santa María
Fr. Tomás de Santa María O.P. was a Spanish music theorist, organist and composer of the Renaissance. He was born in Madrid but the date is highly uncertain; he died in Ribadavia...

, theorist and composer whose important treatise on instrumental music, Arte de tañer fantasía, was examined and approved by Cabezón.

In 1538 Cabezón was made músico de la cámara (chamber musician) to Charles (who was educated in music as a child, by noted organist Henry Bredemers
Henry Bredemers
Henry Bredemers was a South Netherlandish organist and music teacher...

). After Isabella's death in 1539 Cabezón was appointed music teacher to her children: Prince Felipe
Philip II of Spain
Philip II was King of Spain, Portugal, Naples, Sicily, and, while married to Mary I, King of England and Ireland. He was lord of the Seventeen Provinces from 1556 until 1581, holding various titles for the individual territories such as duke or count....

 and his sisters Maria and Joan (Maria would later become the most important patron of composer Tomás Luis de Victoria
Tomás Luis de Victoria
Tomás Luis de Victoria, sometimes Italianised as da Vittoria , was the most famous composer of the 16th century in Spain, and one of the most important composers of the Counter-Reformation, along with Giovanni da Palestrina and Orlando di Lasso. Victoria was not only a composer, but also an...

). In 1543 Felipe became Regent of Spain, and he made Cabezón his court organist. Cabezón's duties included playing a portative organ
Portative organ
A portative organ is a small pipe organ that consists of one rank of flue pipes, sometimes arranged in two rows, to be played while strapped to the performer at a right angle...

 for Felipe on his journeys. On 19 July 1546 Cabezón's brother Juan, also an organist and composer, was appointed musician in the royal chapel of Prince Felipe. Since the late 1540s Antonio and Juan both accompanied Felipe on his various trips, and visited Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 (in 1548–49), and England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 (in 1554–56), where Antonio's variations may have influenced Byrd
Byrd is a surname of English origin, and may refer to:*Bill Byrd , baseball player*Bobby Byrd, funk musician*Butch Byrd , AFL Hall of Fame...

 and Tallis
-People:* Gorden Tallis, an Australian rugby league player* John Tallis, cartographer* Raymond Tallis, an English geriatrician and intellectual* Thomas Tallis , an English composer-Other:...

, who latter took up the form.

Practically nothing is known about Cabezón's personal life. He married one Luisa Nuñez de Mocos from Ávila
Ávila (province)
Ávila is a province of central-western Spain, in the southern part of the autonomous community of Castile and León. It is bordered on the south by the provinces of Toledo and Cáceres, on the west by Salamanca, on the north by Valladolid, and on the east by Segovia and Madrid. Ávila has a...

, and the couple had five children. One of Antonio's sons, Hernando de Cabezón
Hernando de Cabezón
Hernando de Cabezón, was a Spanish composer and organist, son of Antonio de Cabezón. Only a few of his works are extant today, and he is chiefly remembered for publishing the bulk of his father's work....

 (1541–1602) became a composer and it was through his efforts that the bulk of Antonio's oeuvre was preserved. Another son, Agustín de Cabezón (died before 1564), became a chorister of the royal chapel. Cabezón died in Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

 on 26 March 1566.


A few of Cabezón's works appeared in print during his lifetime in Venegas de Henestrosa's compilation Libro de cifra nueva (Alcalá de Henares, 1557). However, the majority of his compositions were published posthumously by his son Hernando in a volume titled Obras de música para tecla, arpa y vihuela (Madrid, 1578). Together these collections contain some 275 pieces, most for organ or other keyboard instruments. Cabezón also composed instrumental music for plucked string instruments and ensembles, and vocal music, but only a single vocal piece survives: Invocación a la letanía, in the Cancionero de la Casa de Medinaceli. A mention of a mass
Mass (music)
The Mass, a form of sacred musical composition, is a choral composition that sets the invariable portions of the Eucharistic liturgy to music...

 by Cabezón is contained in a 1611 inventory of music from Cuenca Cathedral
Cuenca Cathedral
Cuenca Cathedral is a Gothic cathedral in the city of Cuenca in Cuenca Province in the Castile-La Mancha region of south-eastern central Spain. Exceptional expression of Gothic Anglo-Norman, begun in 1196....

, but the actual music is lost, as are, presumably, many other works by the composer.

Liturgical organ music

While French and Italian organists of the time frequently composed organ masses, in Spain this practice was limited to versos
Alternatim refers to a technique of liturgical musical performance. A specific part of the ordinary of the Mass would be divided into versets. Each verset would be performed antiphonally by two groups of singers, giving rise to polyphonic settings of half of the text. One of these groups may...

on the Kyrie
Kyrie, a transliteration of Greek κύριε , vocative case of κύριος , meaning "Lord", is the common name of an important prayer of Christian liturgy, which is also called the Kýrie, eléison ....

. Consequently, most of Cabezón's liturgical
Liturgy is either the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to its particular traditions or a more precise term that distinguishes between those religious groups who believe their ritual requires the "people" to do the "work" of responding to the priest, and those...

 music was intended for the Daily Offices
Canonical hours
Canonical hours are divisions of time which serve as increments between the prescribed prayers of the daily round. A Book of Hours contains such a set of prayers....

—prescribed prayers of the daily round. The mass
Mass (liturgy)
"Mass" is one of the names by which the sacrament of the Eucharist is called in the Roman Catholic Church: others are "Eucharist", the "Lord's Supper", the "Breaking of Bread", the "Eucharistic assembly ", the "memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection", the "Holy Sacrifice", the "Holy and...

 is represented by the nine sets of Kyrie verses for organ. These fall into the following groups:
  • Kyrie de Nuestra Señora, a three-voice setting, three parts (Kyrie, Christe, Kyrie) with the cunctipotens ("Mass IV") chant in the tenor.
  • Tema Rex virginum, a four-voice setting, four parts (on the same chant: Kyrie, Kyrie, Christe, Kyrie rather than the expected even verses K-Chr-Chr-K)
  • Kyries de primer
    Dorian mode
    Due to historical confusion, Dorian mode or Doric mode can refer to three very different musical modes or diatonic scales, the Greek, the medieval, and the modern.- Greek Dorian mode :...

    , segundo, [...] septimo tono
    , seven four-voice settings, all in four parts (Kyrie, Christe, Christe, Kyrie); the original source places quinto tono last, possibly by mistake.

Cabezón's music for the Daily Offices
Liturgy of the hours
The Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office is the official set of daily prayers prescribed by the Catholic Church to be recited at the canonical hours by the clergy, religious orders, and laity. The Liturgy of the Hours consists primarily of psalms supplemented by hymns and readings...

 comprises 32 hymns and three collections of versets for the psalms
The Book of Psalms , commonly referred to simply as Psalms, is a book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible...

 and for the Magnificat
The Magnificat — also known as the Song of Mary or the Canticle of Mary — is a canticle frequently sung liturgically in Christian church services. It is one of the eight most ancient Christian hymns and perhaps the earliest Marian hymn...

  • Salmodia para principiantes (sets of four versillos on each of the 8 psalm tones "for beginners")
  • Fabordon y glosas [del primer, segundo, [...] tono] (faburden
    Falsobordone is a style of recitation found in music from the 15th to the 18th centuries. Most often associated with the harmonization of Gregorian psalm tones, it is based on root position triads and is first known to have appeared in southern Europe in the 1480s.Falsobordoni are made up of two...

    s with 3 glosas or divisions
    Division (music)
    Division in music refers to a type of ornamentation or variation common in 16th and 17th century music in which each note of a melodic line is "divided" into several shorter, faster-moving notes, often by a rhythmic repetition of a simple musical device such as the trill, turn or cambiata on each...

     in upper, bass and inner voices for each tone)
  • Salmodia para el Magnificat (7 Magnificat verses for each tone)


The tiento
Tiento is a musical genre originating in Spain in the mid-15th century. It is formally analogous to the fantasia , found in England, Germany, and the Low Countries, and also the ricercare, first found in Italy. The word derives from the Spanish verb tentar , and was originally applied to music...

 was a polyphonic form of instrumental music that originated in the Iberian peninsula, and has been linked to both tastar de corde (an improvisatory prelude) and the ricercar
A ricercar is a type of late Renaissance and mostly early Baroque instrumental composition. The term means to search out, and many ricercars serve a preludial function to "search out" the key or mode of a following piece...

 (an improvisatory prelude or, at a later stage of development, a strict imitative composition). Twenty-nine tientos by Cabezón survive. Fourteen appeared in Libro de cifra nueva: these works are all written out in long note value
Note value
In music notation, a note value indicates the relative duration of a note, using the color or shape of the note head, the presence or absence of a stem, and the presence or absence of flags/beams/hooks/tails....

s, alternating between imitative counterpoint and non-imitative sections. Usually there are three or four themes, and the first to be presented is also the most developed. The non-imitative parts frequently employ techniques unusual for the genre at the time: extended duets, motifs transforming into ostinato patterns. Twelve more tientos appear in Obras de música: six from an earlier period in Cabezón's career, and six late works. While the earlier pieces are similar in many respects to the Libro de cifra pieces, Cabezón's late tientos use smaller note values, have a tendency towards longer and more characteristic subjects, and many of their features anticipate the music of the Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...



Nine sets of variations (in Spanish tradition called discantes, diferencias, or glosas) are included in Obras de musica:
  1. Diferencias sobre las Vacas (3 variations)
  2. Pavana italiana (6 variations)
  3. Diferencias sobre la Gallarda milanese (2 variations)
  4. Diferencias sobre el canto del Caballero (5 variations)
  5. Diferencias sobre la Pavana italiana (5 variations)
  6. Diferencias sobre el canto de La Dama le demanda (6 variations on Arbeau's La Belle qui tiens ma vie)
  7. Diferencias sobre el villancico De quién teme enojo Isabel (7 variations)
  8. Diferencias sobre las Vacas (6 variations)
  9. Otras diferencias de Vacas (4 variations)

Cabezón's variations are one of the earliest high points of the genre, and presumably influenced English composers such as Thomas Tallis
Thomas Tallis
Thomas Tallis was an English composer. Tallis flourished as a church musician in 16th century Tudor England. He occupies a primary place in anthologies of English church music, and is considered among the best of England's early composers. He is honoured for his original voice in English...

 and William Byrd
William Byrd
William Byrd was an English composer of the Renaissance. He wrote in many of the forms current in England at the time, including various types of sacred and secular polyphony, keyboard and consort music.-Provenance:Knowledge of Byrd's biography expanded in the late 20th century, thanks largely...

. All of the variation sets begin with the first variation, assuming the theme is already known to the listener, and connects individual variations using free transitions, thus frequently making analysis of the structure complicated. Cabezón uses numerous techniques, such as a migrating and/or heavily ornamented cantus firmus
Cantus firmus
In music, a cantus firmus is a pre-existing melody forming the basis of a polyphonic composition.The plural of this Latin term is , though the corrupt form canti firmi is also attested...

. The models are taken from popular Spanish songs, dance forms, and established melodic-harmonic frameworks.


The intabulations in Obras de música are ordered according to polyphonic complexity, starting with the simpler four-part pieces and culminating with six-part ones. They are based on works by composers such as Josquin des Prez
Josquin Des Prez
Josquin des Prez [Josquin Lebloitte dit Desprez] , often referred to simply as Josquin, was a Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance...

 and Orlande de Lassus
Orlande de Lassus
Orlande de Lassus was a Franco-Flemish composer of the late Renaissance...

 and are more or less similar to most such compositions of the period.


Sheet music