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Pedro de Escobar
c.1465 - aft.1535
Portugal / Spain
No picture
P. de Escobar
Pedro de Escobar (c. 1465 – after 1535), a.k.a. Pedro do Porto, was a Portuguese composer of the Renaissance, mostly active in Spain. He was one of the earliest and most skilled composers of polyphony in the Iberian Peninsula, whose music has survived. He was born at Oporto, Portugal, but nothing is known of his life until he entered the service of Isabella I of Castile in 1489. His surname is of Castilian origin, and maybe he was born to Castilian immigrants, or descendants, established in Porto. But Castilians regarded him as Portuguese. He was a singer in the Catholic Queen's chapel for ten years, and clearly was working as a composer as well; in addition he was the only member of her chapel described in court records as Portuguese. In 1499 he returned to his native Portugal, but in 1507 received an offer of employment, which he accepted, as the maestro de capilla (chapel master in castilian language) at the cathedral in Seville. While there he had charge of the choirboys, having to take care of their room and board in addition to having to teach them to sing; he complained of low pay, and eventually resigned. In 1521 he was working in Portugal, as mestre de capela (kapellmeister in Portuguese) for prince Dom Afonso, Cardinal-Infante of Portugal, son of Manuel I of Portugal. His career seems to have ended badly, however, for the final record of his life there is a mention in a document of 1535 that he was an alcoholic and living in squalor. He died in Évora.
Two complete masses of Escobar have survived, including a Requiem (Missa pro defunctis), the earliest by a composer from the Iberian peninsula. His known work also includes a setting of the Magnificat, 7 motets (including one Stabat Mater), 4 antiphons, 8 hymns, and 18 villancicos, but it is highly probable that his authorship is hidden among the many anonymous works of the Portuguese renaissance manuscripts. His music was popular, as attested by the appearance of copies in far-off places; for example native scribes copied two of his manuscripts in Guatemala. His motet Clamabat autem mulier Cananea was particularly praised by his contemporaries, and served as the source for instrumental pieces by later composers.
Requiem pro Defuctis
Period:Early Renaissance
Composed in:1504
Musical form:mass
Text/libretto:Latin mass
Duration:50'10''
Label(s):Virgin Veritas 5 45328 2
CRD 3450
Escobar's 4-part Requiem is the earliest known by an Iberian composer, leading directly to the important series of settings by Vásquez, Morales, Victoria and others. However, these settings frequently use differing texts. The present service is completed with plainchant from Iberian sources of the period.
Author:Todd M. McComb
In the first two decades of the 16th century, polyphonic requiem settings became increasingly common. Early settings include those by Richafort, Antoine de Févin (also ascribed to Divitis), Engarandus Juvenis and Escobar.
Author:Steven Chang-Lin Yu
This Pro defunctis is set for four voices (ATTB) and consists out of the following nine movements:
- Introitus: Requiem aeternam 3’30”
- Kyrie 2’.20”
- Graduale: Requiem aeternam 3’00”
- Tractus: Sicut Cervus 5’00”
- Offertorium: Domine Jesu Christe 4’57”
- Sanctus & Benedictus 2’55”
- Agnus Dei 2’32”
- Communio or Antiphona: Absolve Domine 2’35”
De Escobar was born in Portugal but lived and worked generally in Spain. This “pro defunctis”, the original name in the manuscript, is in fact the missa pro defunctis by Pedro de Escobar and is written for four voices (ATTB). This pro defunctis is the earliest Requiem extant of polyphonic settings from the Iberian peninsula. Although some not confirmed sources stated Bartolomé Ramos de Pareja (1440-1522) did compose a Mass of the Dead and/or the Office for the Dead. But as we know and seen here in this Requiem survey there is a great variety and tradition shown of a Requiem tradition in the Iberian area, with the use of special text among others “Versa est in luctum” and “Circumdederunt me” and even other plainchant melodies. Generally we only mention some Spanish colleagues at his stage like Juan Vasquez (c.1510-c.1560), Cristobal de Morales (c.1500 - 1553), Juan de Anchieta (c.1462 - 1523), Joan Brudieu (1520-1591), Tomás Luis da Victoria (1548-1611), Juan de Peñalosa (c.1515 - 1579), Francisco Guerrero (1528 - 1599), Hernando (Fernando) Franco (1532 – 1585), Ambrosio (Coronado de) Cotes (c.1550-1603) Juan Esquivel de Barahona (c.1560 - c.1615), and Alonso Lobo (c.1555 – 1617). But we mention too some Portuguese colleagues like Estêvâo de Brito (c.1570-1641), Duarte Lôbo (c.1563-1646), Filipe de Magalhães (c.1571 – 1652), Manuel Mendes (c.1547 – 1605), Lourenço Ribeiro (c.1570 - c.1606) and Frei Manuel Cardoso (1566-1630) which all composed Requiem music. This setting by De Escobar as a whole is in general homophonic with some minor imitative passages spread through this Missa pro defunctis. The style is more unadventurous compared to that of his Netherlandish colleagues. But this setting shows in it’s own a sense of mourning and dignity and is yet very effective seen the score. In general on the Iberian peninsula the Spanish texture there is with a close attention to the text. As a result of it the polyphonic structure and the vocal lines are closely to a form of ‘declamation’ in the homophonic approach. So did De Escobar. The frequent practised alternating phrases between polyphony and plainchant and the use of unknown plainchant melodies are significant in this area. They really differ to the Roman tradition. De Escobar uses low texture the highest note e2 is found in the Kyrie. All other movements don’t exceed the c2!
The “Introitus” set for (ATTB) starts with plainchant “Requiem aeternam” and in the following with homophonic parts De Escobar quotes the non ornamented plainchant in the upper part. The lower voices provide a sonorous accompaniment. The “te decet hymnus deus in Sion” is again plainchant, followed with the last homophonic part. Sometimes the parts in this Introitus are more independent and ornamented see bars 26-35 and 46-51. De Escobar uses some flats. The total Introitus consists out of 88 bars. Due to normal Gregorian practice the first 53 bars will be repeated from the end.
The “Kyrie” set for (ATTB) consists out of 93 bars and is written in a some more lively homophonic style, even with some imitative lines in the Christe. But here Escobar quotes unidentified melodies and at the end of the second Kyrie De Escobar uses major cadence points. In this movement we see the highest note e2 in this composition.
The “Graduale” Requiem aeternam set for (ATTB) starts with the well known plainchant, followed with homophonic parts in which De Escobar quotes the plainchant in the upper voice. The “Et lux perpetua” (bars 33-36) is straight on set in a homophonic way to underline that important wordings. The following piece “Luceat eis” is set in a more imitative way. The following versus “In memoria” is totally set in plainchant and the total setting by De Escobar counts 71 bars.
The Tractus, “Sicut Cervus” . Here we see De Escobar uses the unexpected text “Sicut cervus”.
As we saw Juan Vasquez (c.1510-c.1560), Francisco Guerrero (1528 - 1599) did use that text too. But and that’s interesting even Guerrero uses on the other hand two other versions of the Tractus respective: “Absolve Dominus” and a “Dicit Dominus”. The text of “Dicit Dominus” in the setting by Guerrero of 1566 was in use in Seville in tempore Resurrectionis. The use of this Tractus-text vary per region in Spain: but Cristobal de Morales (c.1500 – 1553) and Tomás Luis da Victoria (1548-1611) didn’t even set a Tractus. Juan Esquivel de Barahona (c.1560 - c.1615) uses the usual Roman text, “Absolve Dominus” as Guerrero did we saw above.
The ”Sicut cervus” by De Escobar is set for Tenor and Bassus (TB) up to “ad te Deus” and the plainchant is ornamented in the Tenor. From “Sitivit” De Escobar starts with three voices (TTB) up to the end and he uses more imitative lively style. So this part of the Missa pro Defunctis is set for the lower and equal voices. This total movement consists out of 186 bars.
The Offertoirum, “ Domine Jesu Christe”. This movement is again set for four voices (ATTB) and starts with the plainchant “Domine Jeus Christe” followed in a homophonic way with some imitative style from “Defunctorum”. De text “De manu inferni “ is set pure homophonic to underline that text: a case of word-painting. There are more imitative phrases in this movement alternated with homophonic phrases. The “ Hostias” as a whole is in plainchant followed by “Quam olim” set for four voices (ATTB) in a short imitative style. The closure “Et semini eius” is set in a long homophonic way with longer notes. This movement consists out of 171 bars.
“Sanctus & Benedictus”. They are both set for four voices (ATTB) and written in homophonic style. The “pleni sunt coeli” is set in a short imitative style. The cantus firmus is unidentified. The “Benedictus” is set in an imitative style, ending homophonic with “Hosanna”. The total movement consists out of 99 bars.
“Agnus Dei”. The Agnus Dei is set for four voices (ATTB) and written in homophonic style with an unidentified cantus firmus. De Escobar uses some nice major modulations. The second Agnus Dei is an unknown plainchant melody and the third Agnus Dei is set homophonic with some nice modulations compared to which we saw in the first Agnus Dei. The closure “sempiternam” is set in full homophonic and imposing chords underlines the wording. This total movements consists out of 65 bars.
“Communio”. In the last movement of this Mass the Communio De Escobar uses the text “Absolve Domine” the same did Juan Vasquez (c.1510-c.1560) in his Requiem-setting, Agenda Defunctorum 1556. Normally we see as a Communio-song the plainchant “Lux aeterna “ as in use and set by among others Francisco Guerrero (1528 - 1599), Juan Esquivel de Barahona (c.1560 - c.1615), Cristobal de Morales (c.1500 – 1553) Missa a5, Tomás Luis da Victoria (1548-1611) Missa a4 and Officium Defunctorum a5. See for this plainchant too the old Liber Usualis (edition 1936) page 1815. This “Absolve Domine” should be in use in that time of the early 16th century in the region of Sevilla. The same text is in 1556 in use in the new World also in Mexico-city. You can see and others did use this ‘Absolva me’ as an Antiphona sung before the burial.
The text of this “Absolve Domine” does not match the Tractus-text as we mentioned above and which text is published in this website under Latin text. Those words “Absolve Domine” which are set by De Escobar are in fact spoken by the priest in an Oremus, a last prayer in the Absolutio in exsequiis, see the old Liber Usualis (edition 1936, page 1766), even more it is too the last prayer in the Absolutio pro defunctis Liber Usualis (edition 1936, page 1822 and 1824). So it is doubtful this is a real Communio-song. But we examined the edition by Institution “Fernando El Catolico” Zaragoza 2009 in which is published VIII. Communio Absolve Domine fols. 226v-227r. In the enumeration of movements above we call it Communio or Antiphona. This last movement is set for four voices (ATTB) in a austere homophonic style. The text “Absolve animas” is set in full homophonic style to underline the wording ending in a dissonant closure on “eorum” immediately followed with an a-minor. In “resurrectionis gloria“ we see once more word-painting with full homophonic chords. This total movement counts 65 bars. For good order we place this full text of this special Communio ‘Absolve Domine’ the last prayer here below.
In the total Pro defunctis De Escobar uses fine and well placed dissonants and of course flats and sharps. The modus in this Missa pro defunctis vary per movement from F-major to g-Mixolydian, d-Dorian and e-Phrygian.
This Pro Defunctis is found in the large Manuscripto Musical 2-3 de la Catedral de Tarazona fols 217-227.
Author:Wim Goossens
Text Communio pro defunctis Absolve Domine:
Absolve, Domine, animas omnium fidelium defunctorum ab omni vinculo delictorum
ut in resurectionis gloria inter sanctos tuos resuscita ti respirent.

Translation:
Forgive, O Lord, the souls of the faithful from all the bonds of sin.
So that they might be resurrected in glory amongst Your Saints.
Contributor:Wim Goossens