MORALES, Cristobal de

(c. 1500-1553)
A singer and choirmaster, Cristobal de Morales became the greatest Spanish composer of the early sixteenth century. Morales received his early musical training in Seville, a city with a rich musical tradition by the time of his birth there. Like most composers of his age, he was employed primarily as a singer. In 1526 he assumed the post of choirmaster at Avila Cathedral, and by 1535 he had joined the papal choir in Rome, where he remained for the next ten years. As a baritone in that ensemble, Morales was given a monthly salary of eight ducats, a servant, and, when he traveled in the papal retinue, a horse. Gifts received for performances before visiting dignitaries and at special events sup­plemented the singers' incomes. For one such event—festivities celebrating a peace treaty between Francois I* and Emperor Charles V* negotiated by the pope in 1538—Morales composed the motet Jubilate Deo omnis terra, whose text praises all three men. His earliest published music dates from the following year, and during the early 1540s a large number of his compositions appeared in print. At the same time, his health began to decline, and as the dedications to two books of masses published in 1544 make clear, he was actively seeking a more lucrative post. In 1545 he returned to Spain, where he served as choir­master at Toledo Cathedral (1545-47), to the duke of Arcos in Marchena (1548­51), and at Malaga Cathedral (1551-53). During these last years he suffered from poor health and discipline problems with the singers and the choirboys in his charge.
Morales was almost exclusively a composer of Latin sacred music; his output includes sixteen magnificats, over two hundred masses, and over one hundred motets. No other Spanish composer of the century attained a comparable level of international popularity: his music spread beyond Spain and Italy to France, Germany, the Low Countries, and even Mexico and Peru.
R. Stevenson, Spanish Cathedral Music in the Golden Age, 1961.
David Crook

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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