Born: 1547; Lisbon, Portugal
Died: September 14, 1604; Évora
Through much of his career, Manuel Mendes had a position of profound influence as an important teacher in the rich musical culture of renaissance Portugal. His students included Manuel Cardoso, Duarte Lobo, and Filipe de Magalhăes, who went on to become the most celebrated composers of their day. Aside from his obvious talents as a teacher, his works were considered good enough to stand beside those of Cristóbal de Morales. A contemporaryRead more commentator named Manuel de Faria e Sousa wrote that Mendes was among the four greatest composers Portugal had ever known.
Mendes is first found as maestro di cappella at the Portalegre Cathedral in Lisbon, and then as maestro di cappella at the private chapel held by Cardinal Infante Henrique. As many prominent musicians were, Mendes' official duties extended beyond the chapel or cathedral and Cardinal Henrique took him along to be present at his installation as archbishop of the city of Évora in 1575. Mendes was ordained as a priest in the same year. He seems to have had a close professional relationship with Henrique, for only three years later Mendes began serving as master of the choir boys in Évora cathedral and by 1565 had become bacherel (bachelor) there.
Unfortunately, in spite of Mendes' prominence and apparent productivity, his works did not receive widespread circulation. As a result, only six have survived, including a wonderful Alleluia that seems to have been his most popular piece. An attempt was made after Mendes' death by the dean of the royal chapel to have books of his masses and Magnificats printed, but it apparently failed because the printer's price was too high. Yet as late as the 1730s, an Asperges me by him was still being sung annually on Palm Sunday in the chapel of the Dukes of Bragança. Also, King Joăo, later a champion of Morales, is known to have had several works by Mendes in his library. Mendes' music is part of the exquisite, underappreciated, and under-recorded polyphony of the Portuguese renaissance. Read less