Pedro Bermúdez


DS - 0152
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Pedro Bermúdez

Ars Longa de la Habana
Conductor: Teresa Paz

Pedro Bermúdez , Catedral de Guatemala.


Misa de Bomba

Christus natus est

Incipit Lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae

Jesu nostra redemptio

Maria soror Lazari

Defensor alme Hispana

O gloriosa Domina

Salve Regina


Códice 7 de Santa Eulalia, Huehuetenango, Guatemala (siglo XVI)

Así andando

Ah, que es tan doncella Madre

Dios es ya nacido

Llegaos al convido

De la sagrada María

Forzado de amor

Alegría pecadores

Ábrase el Reino del cielo


Conjunto de Música Antigua Ars Longa

Dirección: Teresa Paz


Producción: José María Martín Valverde

Grabación y Postproducción: Guillermo Martín




The life and works of Pedro Bermúdez (1574-1604), one of the most important polyphonists of the first century of Spanish domination in the New World, can be described in one word: pilgrimage. Whilst still an adolescent preparing to take minor ecclesiastical orders, Jaén Cathedral enlisted/hired/employed him, in September 1574 as one of their four paid choir boy/servers. Before the end of the year, the young singer requested two weeks leave and travelled to Granada, his birthplace, to receive orders from the crown. He did not return. 8 years later, in the ordination ceremony celebrated in Granada cathedral on 18th December 1582, Archbishop Juan Méndez Salvatierra granted him the post of sub-deacon. On 1st March 1584 he started work as a paid clergyman in a parish of Santa Fé, but he soon sought a post more in keeping with his musical vocation. On 7th August of the same year he applied for the position of choirmaster of the Royal College of Antequera, for which he was a unanimous choice. He was dismissed at the beginning of 1587 due to his neglect for the musical education of the choirboys and acolytes, together with the fact that he was “taken to prison for entering into a brawl with Francisco Moreno” the collegiate tenor and road sweeper. Bermúdez only became aware of this when, on leaving prison, he saw the edict for applications to the post of choirmaster on the church door. In desperation, he brought a suit to the Royal Chancellery of Granada against the church council of Antequera, for forced dismissal in absentia without explanation or possibility of appeal. Even though the case was decided in his favour, ordering his immediate reinstatement by royal decree of Phillip II, the church council of Antequera requested proof that the case had been forced through and ignored the royal mandate.

He must have returned to Granada, for he next appears as one of the four non-permanent chaplains or clergymen-singers of the Chapel Royal of Granada, in documents from 1591 and 1592. On 5th November 1593 he is received in Seville cathedral as assistant to Francisco Guerrero, master of the seises (choir boy dancers). He possibly maintained this job until the end of 1596, when he sets sail for the viceroyalty of Peru. On 10th September he is named Choirmaster of Cusco cathedral, replacing Gutierre Fernández Hidalgo, sacked to make way for Bermúdez. Some time between March 1600 and August 1602 he becomes choirmaster of Guatemala catedral, whence his fame reaches the authorities of the catedral of Puebla de los Ángeles, precisely at the moment when the bishop and church council are desperate to find a competent choirmaster. They reject the candidate with whom they have been negotiating for months and offer Bermúdez an ostentatious salary and additional financial advantages. Bermúdez leaves Guatemala 3rd May 1603 and is received in Puebla 27th June. Despite the exceptionally advantageous terms of employment of Pedro Bermúdez both at Puebla cathedral and Cusco cathedral, he does not stay long. Less than a year after his arrival in Puebla, Bermúdez resigns his post of choirmaster. On 8th April 1604 he receives his salary and by the second week in May he has left the city. Thereafter we lose track of one of the most representative composers of church polyphonics of the end of the XVIth century and beginning of the XVIth century in the New World.

The musical legacy of Pedro Bermúdez which still survives is made up entirely of works with Latin texts. All but one are to be found in the books of polyphony in Guatemala cathedral. The other original, together with various copies, are conserved in Puebla cathedral. His musical language owes much to the classical XVIth century polyphony, but also incorporates certain elements of rhythmn, harmony and melody which herald the new trends of the XVIIth century. The Christmas invitatorius, Christus natus est, is a good example. It is written for 8 voices, more in keeping with the modern style, but these are not grouped together to form choral dialogues as would become the vogue in the polychoral works of the XVIIth century. On the other hand, in the first verse of the response to the invitatorius an intricate polyphony is developed in which 7 voices establish a lively echo of the cantus firmus. The concentration of so many contrapuntal elements in the response to the invitatorius could permit one to present them as a short instrumental motet, so that psalm 94 no longer needs alternate in plain chant with the 2 verses of the polphonic response.