Miguel de Fuenllana


Born: 1525 Died: 1605
Miguel de Fuenllana wrote music exclusively for the vihuela, a sixteenth century Spanish precursor to the guitar. His body of work probably constitutes the most important for this instrument from his time.

Relatively little is known about Fuenllana's life, especially his early years. He was born in the Spanish town of Navalcarnero, near Madrid, probably in the period of 1525-1535. Blind from birth, he apparently focused on music study from his childhood and became a virtuoso vihuelist almost certainly before adulthood.

His magnum opus, Orphenica lyra, was finished or nearly finished by 1553, the year he was granted a license to print this collection of 160 pieces. The order for issuing the license was granted by Prince Philip, soon to be King of Spain (Philip II). His action suggests Fuenllana had made connections with the Valladolid Court, perhaps having performed at royal events.

Published in 1554, Orphenica lyra contained mostly transcriptions of other composers' works. Still, Fuenllana included a substantial body of his own compositions in the collection -- 51 fantasias, eight tientos, and a handful of other works. By 1555, Fuenllana was living in Seville as a member of the retinue of the Marquesa de Tarifa, whom he would serve about four years.

In 1560 he was taken into the service of Isabel de Valois, crowned that year the new Queen of Spain, having married King Philip II the previous year by proxy. Fuenllana would remain in this post until 1569, the year after Isabel's death. The next five years of his life are hazy, though he may have lived part of that time in Lisbon, for in 1574 he entered into the service of Don Sebastian, King of Portugal.

Fuenllana served in the Lisbon Court until 1578, the year the King was killed in a foolhardy battle. The last years (or decades) of Fuenllana's life are unclear: evidence offered by musicologist Charles Jacobs suggests he served in the Court of Philip III until as late as 1606. Yet another musicologist, Higinio Angles, claims he was dead by 1591.

There are 19 Miguel de Fuenllana recordings available.

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