Juan del Encina

Last updated

Juan del Encina
Juan del Enzina Leon (cropped).JPG
Bust of Juan del Enzina in León
BornJuly 12, 1468
possibly Fermoselle, Encina de San Silvestre or La Encina, Castile
Died1529 (aged 6061)
Toledo, Spain
OccupationPlaywright, poet, musician
Nationality Castilian, Spanish
Alma mater University of Salamanca
Literary movement Renaissance humanism
Spanish Renaissance
Notable worksCancionero, Égloga de Plácida y Vitoriano

Juan del Encina – (July 12, 1468 – 1529 or 1530) [1] was a composer, poet, and playwright, [2] :535 often called the founder, along with Gil Vicente, of Spanish drama. [1] His birth name was Juan de Fermoselle. [1] He spelled his name Enzina, but this is not a significant difference; it is two spellings of the same sound, in a time when "correct spelling" as we know it barely existed.



He was born in 1468 near Salamanca, [1] probably at Encina de San Silvestre, one of at least 7 known children of Juan de Fermoselle, a shoemaker, and his wife. [3] He was of Jewish converso descent. [1] [4] After leaving Salamanca University sometime in 1492 [1] he became a member of the household of Don Fadrique de Toledo, the second Duke of Alba, although some sources believe that he did not work for the Duke of Alba until 1495. [3] A plausible argument is that his first post was as a Corregidor in northern Spain. [3]

Fermoselle was a Chaplain at the Salamanca Cathedral in the early 1490s. [3] It was here that he changed his name from Juan de Fermoselle to Juan del Enzina, or Encina (meaning holm oak) during his stay as Chaplain. [3] He was later forced to resign as Chaplain because he was not ordained. [3]


Book cover of his chansonnier's first edition (1496): Cancionero de todas las obras de Juan del Enzina con otras cosas nueuamente anadidas Enzina.gif
Book cover of his chansonnier's first edition (1496): Cancionero de todas las obras de Juan del Enzina con otras cosas nueuamente añadidas

In 1492 the poet entertained his patron with a dramatic piece, the Triunfo de la fama, written to commemorate the fall of Granada. [3] In 1496 he published his Cancionero, [3] a collection of dramatic and lyrical poems. He then applied for the cantor post at Salamanca Cathedral, but the position was divided among three singers, including his rival Lucas Fernandez. [3]

While working for the Duke of Alba, Encina was the program director, along with Lucas Fernandez. [2] :537 Here Encina wrote pastoral eclogues, the foundation of Spanish secular drama. [1] Encina's plays are predominantly based on shepherds and unrequited love. [2] :540

Encina was ambitious, looking to be promoted based on preferment, [3] so around 1500 he relocated to Rome, where he apparently served in the musical establishments of several cardinals or noblemen. [1] Encina was appointed to the Archdiaconate of Malaga Cathedral by Julius II in 1508. [3]

In 1518 he resigned from position at Malaga for a simple benefice at Moron, and the following year he went to Jerusalem, [3] where he sang his first mass. [3] He also wrote about the events during his pilgrimage to Jerusalem in Tribagia o Via Sacra de Hierusalem. [1] In 1509 he had held a lay canonry at Málaga; [3] in 1519 he was appointed by Leon for the priorship of Leon Cathedral. [1] His last job was recorded as being in Leon, where he is thought to have died towards the end of 1529. [2] :438

His Cancionero is preceded by a prose treatise (Arte de trobar) on the condition of the poetic art in Spain. His fourteen dramatic pieces mark the transition from the purely ecclesiastical to the secular stage. [2] :539 The Aucto del Repelón and the Égloga de Fileno dramatize the adventures of shepherds; [2] :540 the latter, like Plácida y Vitoriano, is strongly influenced by the Celestina . The intrinsic interest of Encina's plays is slight, but they are important from the historical point of view, for the lay pieces form a new departure, and the devout eclogues prepare the way for the autos of the 17th century. Moreover, Encina's lyrical poems are remarkable for their intense sincerity and devout grace.

Even though his works were dedicated to royal families, he never served as a member of a royal chapel. [3] And even though Encina worked in many Cathedrals and was ordained as a priest, no religious musical works are known to still exist. [1] Most of his works were done by his mid-30s, [3] some 60 or more songs attributed to Encina, and another 9 settings of texts on top of that, to which the music could also be added, but not for certain. [3] Many of the surviving pieces are villancicos, of which he was a leading composer. [3] The Spanish villancico is the equivalent of the Italian Frottola. [3] There are three and four voice settings that offer a variety of styles depending on the kind of text, with very limited movements in the voices in preparation for the cadence points. [3] To make the text heard clearly, Encina used varied and flexible rhythms that are patterned on the accents of the verse, and used simple yet strong harmonic progressions. [3]

Leonese times

Encina held the priorship of Leon Cathedral from November 1523 until his final illness in December 1529. [1] Juan del Encina's will was presented on January 14, 1530, so the exact date of his death is not known, but it is thought to be in late 1529 or early 1530. [3] In his will he noted that he wanted to be buried beneath the choir of Salamanca Cathedral, [3] and in 1534 his remains were taken to the Cathedral. [2] :538

Leonese language influence

Juan del Encina wrote in Castillian with Leonese language influences [5] [ full citation needed ] in his pastoral eclogues. He was from Salamanca, a Leonese-speaking region, and eventually arrived at the capital of the long-vanished Kingdom of León, where he died.

He was also a songwriter for the church.[ citation needed ]

Selected works



  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Slonimsky, Nicolas, ed. Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians seventh edition. London, England: Collier Macmillan Publishers, 1984: 662
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Magill, Frank N., ed. Critical Survey of Drama: Foreign Language Series v2. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Salem Press, 1986.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 Pope, Isabel; Tess Knighton. Encina, Juan del. Sadie, Stanley, ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians 2nd edition. V8. New York City: Grove’s Dictionaries Inc., 2001: 194
  4. See, Norman Roth, "Conversos, Inquisition, and the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain", Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1995, pp. 157, 176–178.
  5. López Morales, "Elementos leoneses en la lengua del teatro pastoril de los siglos XV y XVI". 1967


Related Research Articles

Tomás Luis de Victoria Spanish composer (c1548-1611)

Tomás Luis de Victoria was the most famous composer in 16th-century Spain, and was one of the most important composers of the Counter-Reformation, along with Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and Orlando di Lasso. Victoria was not only a composer but also an accomplished organist and singer as well as a Catholic priest. However, he preferred the life of a composer to that of a performer.

Jordi Savall Spanish musician, conductor, and composer

Jordi Savall i Bernadet is a Catalan conductor and viol player. He has been one of the major figures in the field of Western early music since the 1970s, largely responsible for popularizing the viol family of instruments in contemporary performance and recording. As a historian of early music his repertoire features everything from medieval, Renaissance and Baroque through to the Classical and Romantic periods. He has incorporated non-western musical traditions in his work; including African vernacular music.

Hespèrion XXI musical ensemble

Hespèrion XXI is an international early music ensemble. The group was formed in Basel, Switzerland in 1974 as Hespèrion XX by Catalan musical director Jordi Savall, his wife Montserrat Figueras (soprano), Lorenzo Alpert, and Hopkinson Smith. The group changed its name to Hesperion XXI at the beginning of the 21st century. The name "Hespèrion" is derived from a word in Classical Greek which referred to the people of the Italian and Iberian peninsulas.

Llibre Vermell de Montserrat manuscript

The Llibre Vermell de Montserrat is a manuscript collection of devotional texts containing, amongst others, some late medieval songs. The 14th-century manuscript was compiled in and is still located at the monastery of Montserrat outside Barcelona in Catalonia (Spain).

Carlos Mena is a Spanish countertenor opera singer. He has previously worked with groups such as Al Ayre Español, Ensemble Guilles Binchois, and Ricercar Consort, and has an interest in 20th century repertoire.

Juan Bautista José Cabanilles was a Spanish organist and composer at Valencia Cathedral. He is considered by many to have been the greatest Spanish Baroque composer, and has been called the Spanish Bach.

Montserrat Figueras Soprano, musician

Montserrat Figueras i García was a Catalan soprano who specialized in early music.

Frei Filipe da Madre de Deus was a Portuguese Baroque composer.

Cancionero de Palacio Spanish manuscript of Renaissance music

The Cancionero de Palacio, or Cancionero Musical de Palacio (CMP), also known as Cancionero de Barbieri, is a Spanish manuscript of Renaissance music. The works in it were compiled during a time span of around 40 years, from the mid-1470s until the beginning of the 16th century, approximately coinciding with the reign of the Catholic Monarchs.

Capella de Ministrers is an early music group formed in 1987 in Valencia, Spain by Carles Magraner. Valencian music is prominent in its repertoire.

Juan Cornago was a Spanish composer of the early Renaissance.

Rolf Lislevand, is a Norwegian performer of Early music specialising on lute, vihuela, baroque guitar and theorbo.

Juan Arañés was a Spanish baroque composer. His tonos and villancicos follow the style of those preserved in the Cancionero of Kraków.

Juan de Triana was a Spanish composer of the Renaissance period, active in the second half of the 15th century during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs. Pope Sixtus IV issued a bull on 9 February 1478 that listed De Triana as Prebendary of the Cathedral of Sevilla for at least a year before. He later moved to the Cathedral of Toledo, where it was recorded that in 1483 he was a teacher of six children in the Cathedral, with a salary of 18,000 maravedíes, a significant quantity at the time. Possibly Triana held this position until 1490, when he was replaced by Pedro de Lagarto. He died in Seville on 28 January 1494, and was buried near the gate of the chapel of the Virgen de la Antigua. In his will, he left a bequest to endow a chaplaincy to sing twenty-five masses a month for his soul at the altar of San Juan Bautista, near his place of burial.

Juan de Urrede or Juan de Urreda was a Flemish singer and composer active in Spain in the service of the Duke of Alba and King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. He was born Johannes de Wreede in Bruges.

Bartomeu Càrceres, Bartolomé Cárceres in castillian, was a Spanish composer, notably of ensaladas.

Hanacpachap cussicuinin song

Hanacpachap cussicuinin is an anonymous hymn to the Virgin Mary in the Quechua language but in a largely European sacred music style. Composed before 1622, Franciscan friar Juan Pérez Bocanegra published it in 1631, making it the earliest work of vocal polyphony printed in the New World.

Pedro de Lagarto was a Spanish singer and composer of the Renaissance period.

The Cancionero de Segovia or Cancionero Musical de Segovia (CMS), also known as Cancionero of the Segovia Cathedral, is a manuscript containing Renaissance music from the end of the 15th century and beginning of the 16th century. It contains a wide repertoire of works by mainly Spanish, French and Franco-Flemish composers. It is kept at the Segovia Cathedral Archives.