Antonio de Cabezón

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The Palencia Cathedral, where Cabezon probably received his music education from one Garcia de Baeza. Exterior Catedral Palencia1.JPG
The Palencia Cathedral, where Cabezón probably received his music education from one García de Baeza.

Antonio de Cabezón (30 March 1510 26 March 1566) was a Spanish Renaissance composer and organist. Blind from childhood, he quickly rose to prominence as a performer and was eventually employed by the royal family. He was among the most important composers of his time and the first major Iberian keyboard composer.

Spain Kingdom in Southwest Europe

Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a country mostly located on the Iberian Peninsula in Europe. Its territory also includes two archipelagoes: the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla make Spain the only European country to have a physical border with an African country (Morocco). Several small islands in the Alboran Sea are also part of Spanish territory. The country's mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean.

Renaissance cultural movement that spanned the period roughly from the 14th to the 17th century

The Renaissance is a period in European history, covering the span between the 14th and 17th centuries and marking the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity. The traditional view focuses more on the early modern aspects of the Renaissance and argues that it was a break from the past, but many historians today focus more on its medieval aspects and argue that it was an extension of the middle ages.

Composer person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition

A composer is a musician who is an author of music in any form, including vocal music, instrumental music, electronic music, and music which combines multiple forms. A composer may create music in any music genre, including, for example, classical music, musical theatre, blues, folk music, jazz, and popular music. Composers often express their works in a written musical score using musical notation.



Isabella of Portugal, queen consort of Charles V, Cabezon's first patron. Portrait by Titian. La emperatriz Isabel de Portugal, por Tiziano.jpg
Isabella of Portugal, queen consort of Charles V, Cabezón's first patron. Portrait by Titian.

Cabezón was born in Castrillo Mota de Judíos, a municipality near Burgos, in the north of Spain. Nothing is known about his formative years. He became blind in early childhood, and he may have been educated at the Palencia Cathedral by the organist there, García de Baeza. At the time, the country was slowly entering its Golden Age . On 14 March 1516, Charles V was proclaimed King of Castile and of Aragon jointly with his mother, the first time the crowns of Castile and Aragon were united under the same king. After the death of his paternal grandfather, Maximilian, in 1519, Charles also inherited the Habsburg lands in Austria, and later went on to become Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and one of the most powerful monarchs in the world.

Castrillo Mota de Judíos Municipality and town in Castile and León, Spain

Castrillo Mota de Judíos is a municipality located in the province of Burgos, Castile and León, Spain. The 2004 census (INE) indicated the municipality had a population of 71 inhabitants.

Burgos Municipality in Castile and León, Spain

Burgos is a city in northern Spain and the historic capital of Castile. It is situated on the confluence of the Arlanzón river tributaries, at the edge of the Iberian central plateau. It has about 180,000 inhabitants in the actual city and another 20,000 in the metropolitan area. It is the capital of the province of Burgos, in the autonomous community of Castile and León. Burgos was once the capital of the Crown of Castile, and the Burgos Laws or Leyes de Burgos which first governed the behaviour of Spaniards towards the natives of the Americas were promulgated here in 1512.

Palencia Cathedral cultural property in Palencia, Spain

Palencia Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church located in Palencia, Spain. It is dedicated to Saint Antoninus of Pamiers.

In 1525, Charles married Isabella of Portugal, further strengthening his position in Spain. It was Isabella who employed Cabezón into her service in 1526. His duties included playing the clavichord and the organ, and he also assumed the position of organist at the chapel Isabella organized soon after her wedding. The composer remained with the royal family for the rest of his life. Through the court, he met such important composers as vihuelist Luis de Narváez, known today for his advanced polyphonic fantasias, and Tomás de Santa María, theorist and composer whose important treatise on instrumental music, Arte de tañer fantasía, was examined and approved by Cabezón.

Isabella of Portugal Queen consort of Spain

Isabella of Portugal was Holy Roman Empress and Queen of Spain, Germany, Italy, Naples and Sicily and Duchess of Burgundy by her marriage to Emperor Charles V, and regent of Spain during the absences of her husband during 1529-1532, 1535-1536 and 1538-1539.

Clavichord musical instrument

The clavichord is a European stringed rectangular keyboard instrument that was used largely in the Late Middle Ages, through the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical eras. Historically, it was mostly used as a practice instrument and as an aid to composition, not being loud enough for larger performances. The clavichord produces sound by striking brass or iron strings with small metal blades called tangents. Vibrations are transmitted through the bridge(s) to the soundboard.

Vihuela guitar-shaped string instrument from 15th and 16th century Spain, Portugal and Italy, usually with five or six doubled strings

The vihuela is a guitar-shaped string instrument from 15th- and 16th-century Spain, Portugal and Italy, usually with five or six doubled strings.

In 1538, Cabezón was made músico de la cámara (chamber musician) to Charles (who as a child was educated in music by the noted organist Henry Bredemers). After Isabella's death in 1539, Cabezón was appointed music teacher to her children: Prince Felipe and his sisters Maria and Joan (Maria would later become the most important patron of composer Tomás Luis de Victoria). In 1543 Felipe became Regent of Spain, and he made Cabezón his court organist. Cabezón's duties included playing a portative organ for Felipe on his journeys. On 19 July 1546 Cabezón's brother Juan, also an organist and composer, was appointed musician in the royal chapel of Prince Felipe. Since the late 1540s Antonio and Juan both accompanied Felipe on his various trips, and visited Italy, the Netherlands, Germany (in 154849), and England (in 155456), where Antonio's variations may have influenced William Byrd and Thomas Tallis, who later took up the form. [1]

Henry Bredemers Dutch musician

HenryBredemers (Bredeniers) was a South Netherlandish organist and music teacher. No compositions by him survive, and his historical importance lies chiefly in his activities as a teacher.

Philip II of Spain King of Spain who became King of England by marriage to Queen Mary I

Philip II was King of Spain (1556–98), King of Portugal, King of Naples and Sicily, and jure uxoris King of England and Ireland. He was also Duke of Milan. From 1555 he was lord of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands.

Maria of Austria, Holy Roman Empress Czech queen

Archduchess Maria of Austria was Holy Roman Empress and queen consort of Bohemia and Hungary as the spouse of Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia and Hungary. She served as regent of Spain in the absence of her father Emperor Charles V from 1548 until 1551, and in the absence of her brother Philip II, from 1558 to 1561.

Practically nothing is known about Cabezón's personal life. He married one Luisa Nuñez de Mocos from Ávila, and the couple had five children. One of Antonio's sons, Hernando de Cabezón (15411602) became a composer and it was through his efforts that the bulk of Antonio's oeuvre was preserved. Another son, Agustín de Cabezón (who died before 1564), became a chorister of the royal chapel. [1] Cabezón died in Madrid on 26 March 1566.

Hernando de Cabezón Spanish composer and organist

Hernando de Cabezón, was a Spanish composer and organist, son of Antonio de Cabezón. Only a few of his works are extant today, and he is chiefly remembered for publishing the bulk of his father's work.

Madrid Capital of Spain

Madrid is the capital of Spain and the largest municipality in both the Community of Madrid and Spain as a whole. The city has almost 3.3 million inhabitants and a metropolitan area population of approximately 6.5 million. It is the third-largest city in the European Union (EU), smaller than only London and Berlin, and its monocentric metropolitan area is the third-largest in the EU, smaller only than those of London and Paris. The municipality covers 604.3 km2 (233.3 sq mi).


Title page of Obras de musica Cabezon-Obras-title-page.jpg
Title page of Obras de música

A few of Cabezón's works appeared in print during his lifetime in Luis Venegas de Henestrosa's compilation Libro de cifra nueva (Alcalá de Henares, 1557). However, the bulk of his compositions was published posthumously by his son Hernando in a volume titled Obras de música para tecla, arpa y vihuela (Madrid, 1578). Together these collections contain some 275 pieces, most for organ or other keyboard instruments. Cabezón also composed instrumental music for plucked string instruments and ensembles, and vocal music, but only a single vocal piece survives: Invocación a la letanía, in the Cancionero de la Casa de Medinaceli. A mention of a mass by Cabezón is contained in a 1611 inventory of music from Cuenca Cathedral, but the actual music is lost, as are, presumably, many other works by the composer. [1] A good keyboard improviser, many works by Antonio de Cabezón transcribed by his son Hernando were "mere crumbs from my father's table". [2]

Luis Venegas de Henestrosa was a Spanish composer of the 16th century active during the Spanish Golden Age. Few details are known about his life and he is most remembered for publishing Libro de cifra nueva para tecla, Arpa y Vihuela, a collection of over two hundred pieces for harp, keyboard and vihuela. The only two copies known to exist of this collection are kept at the Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid. The book contains a setting for organ of Conditor alme by Gracia Baptista, the earliest known keyboard work by an Iberian woman composer.

Mass (music) Form of sacred musical composition

The mass, a form of sacred musical composition, is a choral composition that sets the invariable portions of the Eucharistic liturgy to music. Most masses are settings of the liturgy in Latin, the liturgical sacred language of the Catholic Church's Roman liturgy, but there are a significant number written in the languages of non-Catholic countries where vernacular worship has long been the norm. For example, there are many masses written in English for the Church of England. Musical masses take their name from the Catholic liturgy called "the mass" as well.

Cuenca Cathedral cultural property in Cuenca, Spain

Cuenca Cathedral is a Gothic cathedral in the city of Cuenca, located in the Province of Cuenca in the Castile-La Mancha region of south-eastern central Spain. The building is one of the earliest Spanish examples of Gothic architecture, built at a time when the Romanesque style predominated in the Iberian Peninsula. In particular, the cathedral is characteristic of the Norman and Anglo-Norman architecture of the 12th century, of which Soissons Cathedral, Laon Cathedral and Notre-Dame de Paris are representative examples.

Liturgical organ music

While French and Italian organists of the time frequently composed organ masses, in Spain this practice was limited to versos on the Kyrie. Consequently, most of Cabezón's liturgical music was intended for the Daily Offices prescribed prayers of the daily round. [3] The mass is represented by the nine sets of Kyrie verses for organ. These fall into the following groups:

Cabezón's music for the Daily Offices comprises 32 hymns and three collections of versets for the psalms and for the Magnificats:


The tiento was a polyphonic form of instrumental music that originated in the Iberian peninsula, and has been linked to both tastar de corde (an improvisatory prelude) and the ricercar (an improvisatory prelude or, at a later stage of development, a strict imitative composition). Twenty-nine tientos by Cabezón survive. Fourteen appeared in Libro de cifra nueva: these works are all written out in long note values, alternating between imitative counterpoint and non-imitative sections. Usually there are three or four themes, and the first to be presented is also the most developed. The non-imitative parts frequently employ techniques unusual for the genre at the time: extended duets, motifs transforming into ostinato patterns. [4] Twelve more tientos appear in Obras de música: six from an earlier period in Cabezón's career, and six late works. While the earlier pieces are similar in many respects to the Libro de cifra pieces, Cabezón's late tientos use smaller note values, have a tendency towards longer and more characteristic subjects, and many of their features anticipate the music of the Baroque period. [5]


Nine sets of variations (in Spanish tradition called discantes, diferencias, or glosas) are included in Obras de musica:

  1. Diferencias sobre las Vacas (3 variations)
  2. Pavana italiana (6 variations)
  3. Diferencias sobre la Gallarda milanese (2 variations)
  4. Diferencias sobre el canto del Caballero (5 variations)
  5. Diferencias sobre la Pavana italiana (5 variations)
  6. Diferencias sobre el canto de La Dama le demanda (6 variations on Arbeau's La Belle qui tiens ma vie)
  7. Diferencias sobre el villancico De quién teme enojo Isabel (7 variations)
  8. Diferencias sobre las Vacas (6 variations)
  9. Otras diferencias de Vacas (4 variations)

Cabezón's variations are one of the earliest high points of the genre, and presumably influenced English composers such as Thomas Tallis and William Byrd. [1] All of the variation sets begin with the first variation, assuming the theme is already known to the listener, and connects individual variations using free transitions, thus frequently making analysis of the structure complicated. [6] Cabezón uses numerous techniques, such as a migrating and/or heavily ornamented cantus firmus. The models are taken from popular Spanish songs, dance forms, and established melodic-harmonic frameworks. [1]


The intabulations in Obras de música are ordered according to polyphonic complexity, starting with the simpler four-part pieces and culminating with six-part ones. They are based on works by composers such as Josquin des Prez and Orlande de Lassus and are more or less similar to most such compositions of the period. [1]



  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Jambou, Grove.
  2. Enciclopedia Universal Ilustrada Hispanoamericana. Madrid, Espasa Calpe. ISBN   84-239-4500-6
  3. Apel 1972, 129.
  4. Apel 1972, 188189.
  5. Apel 1972, 190191.
  6. Apel 1972, 265.

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