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Lourenço Ribeiro
c.1570 - c.1606
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L. Ribeiro
Lourenço Ribeiro (ca.1570 - ca.1606), a Portuguese composer. Unfortunately not much is known about his life neither about his musical education.
Nevertheless at some point Ribeiro is spotted at the end of the 16th century in the Braga Cathedral. He is first mentioned as a chaplain to Archbishop Agostinho de Jesus in Braga. In 1594 Ribeiro was appointed maestro di capella (mestre de capela) at the Braga Cathedral and in 1595 Ribeiro was appointed Master of canto de órgão (master of polyphonic and counterpoint) at the seminary of Sao Pedro, in Braga. In 1606 or shortly before Ribeiro will be succeeded by Antonio Carreira Mourao. We will categorise Ribeiro seen his style as member of the so-called "Évora School," which was founded at Évora Cathedral by Manuel Mendes. We mention some students/pupils: Estêvão Lopes Morago (c.1575-c.1635), Manuel Cardoso (1566-1659), Filipe de Magalhães (c.1571-1652 and Estêvão de Brito (1570-1641). Unfortunately the Missa pro defunctis by Ribeiro is the only surviving work by him. That’s regrettable. The “Evora school” was not a style of polyphonic music but more the place where pupils were educated in polyphony. All over Europe earlier but in the Portuguese cathedrals as from the early decades of the 16th century started to implement the use of vocal polyphonic music during the services. One reason why that “Evora school” and “Lisboa-school” could grow. Unfortunately, many unpublished works disappeared in the earthquake of Lisbon on 1 November 1755.
Author:Wim Goossens
Missa pro defunctis
Period:High Renaissance
Composed in:1594
Musical form:mass a 4 vocum
Text/libretto:Latin mass
Label(s):LDA 1017-2
This mass contains:
- Introitus - Requiem Aeternam 3’.55”
- Kyrie 2’.25”
- Graduale - Requiem Aeternam 3’.47”
- Offertorium - Domine Jesu Christe 4’.04”
- Sanctus & Benedictus 1’.44”
- Agnus Dei 1’.55”
- Communio - Lux Aeterna 2’.14”
- Addenddum Graduale II Requiem Aeternam 4’.04”

This Missa pro defunctis/Mass for the Dead by Lourenço Ribeiro is preserved in Biblioteca pública in Braga. This Missa pro Defunctis is written for four voices (SATB). It’s nearly certain this Book comes out of the Braga Cathedral and this Mass was performed in the services at that time in the Braga Cathedral.
With the Council of Trent, the liturgy of the Requiem Mass was more or less standardized. But Ribeiro sets all of the admitted Requiem Mass sections except the “Dies Irae, Sequentia”.
This Missa pro Defunctis is set by Ribeiro for four voices and the cantus firmus is among others allotted in the Tenor-voice which was usual in the traditional style of that days. See for instance de Morales ( c.1500-1553) Missa pro Defunctis a 4 and Da Victoria (1548-1611) Missa pro Defunctis a 4 with nearly – there are differences - the same movements. But in this case the cantus firmus is present too in more parts.
All the parts in this Missa pro defunctis starts with the normal plainchant in the upper voice/superior followed by imitative counterpoint. The Kyrië is more homophonic and each verse is sung twice and not three times, which should be normal. All the parts as we feel are rich coloured set by Ribeiro but in n austere sphere with some modest endings. But on the other hand we mention the excellent and last part of the Communio: “Et lux perpetua luceat eis” an imposing part of the Requiem. Of course the real sense of that text gives all tools to composers, see indeed all the marvellous settings by others.
It’s amazing and special Ribeiro uses in the Graduale-part from the Verse “in memoria aeterna erit iustus : ab auditare mala non timebit” a double high voices/trebles in omitting the two lower voices.
Underlining the text could be the reason but in such a high texture contrary to the other settings. Moreover there is found in this Choir-book of the dead in Braga a second setting of a Graduale called by us Graduale-II in the same high texture. We mention that setting here and not in a separate item of this website.
This masterpiece belongs to a Portuguese musical tradition of composing Requiem Masses which starts by Pedro de Escobar (c.1465-c.1540). But see too other Portuguese renaissance composers mentioned in this website, Manuel Mendes (c.1547-1605), De Brito (1570-1641), Cardoso (1566-1659, Duarte Lobo (c.1565-1646) and Magalhães (c.1571-1652) who set Requiem Masses too. As stated before this only surviving work by Ribeiro is in total preserved in the archives of the Braga Cathedral, and in the Biblioteca pública in Braga.
Author:Wim Goossens