Francisco Guerrero


Born: October 4, 1528 Died: November 8, 1599

Guerrero was one of the two great Spanish composers of his generation, second only to Tomás Luis de Victoria. His first music teachers included his brother Pedro and Cristóbal de Morales, but the prodigious young musician trained himself on a number of instruments -- the vihuela, harp, cornett, and organ -- and seems to have become an exceptional singer. His first important job was as a boy singer in the Seville Cathedral, where he stayed until 1546, when he was appointed maestro di cappella of the Jaén Cathedral, aged only 17. Among his duties was teaching and caring for six choirboys. His utter neglect of those boys almost cost him his enviable position, but that black mark on his record didn't slow his career. By the early 1550s, he was gaining his reputation as a composer and this apparently made him valuable enough that he was treated very leniently, even fought over by potential employers. He visited Seville in 1549, where he was slyly offered a prebend as a singer, and so he didn't return to his post in Jaén. In the early 1550s, the Málaga Cathedral twice tried to reel him in with offers to make him maestro di cappella, to which the Seville Cathedral successfully retaliated by obtaining for him, in 1554, a papal brief that made him the successor to their own maestro, Pedro Fernández. Obviously a man with a travel bug, aside from publishing numerous collections of music, Guerrero traveled almost continuously throughout his life from this point on. On March 9, 1574, he finally succeeded Fernández, but this didn't impede his travels. In 1579, he was given a year's leave of absence to see Rome and set out until 1581, when two collections of his music that he'd been preparing were at last ready. He returned to Seville in late 1582/early 1583. Guerrero's restless traveling reached its zenith in 1588, when he got as far south as Jaffa, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Damascus. On January 9, 1589, presumably inspired by his visit to the Holy Land, he arrived back in Venice, where he spent several weeks preparing his second book of motets and his Canciones y villanescas espirituales for publication. At this time, he must have also begun writing his popular book about his trip to the Holy Land, which was published the following year. His next move, however, set off a terrible chain reaction of events that seem sadly ironic in light of his early professional wantonness. He set sail for Marseilles and during the passage, the ship he was on was boarded twice by pirates, who exacted ransom from Guerrero for his life. The robberies, coupled with the costs of his publishing ventures, left him close to destitute. Poverty forced him to take responsibility for the choirboys again, something he hadn't done in more than 40 years. At his age, he couldn't cope and he was thrown into debtors' prison on August 21. Eleven days later, the Seville Cathedral bought him his freedom for 280 ducats, to be paid to his creditors. In January 1599, the Cathedral granted him leave to revisit the Holy Land. Guerrero was never to see his beloved Jerusalem again; he died of the plague in Seville later that year.

There are 81 Francisco Guerrero recordings available.

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