Fernando de las Infantas


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Fernando de las Infantas

Ensemble Plus Ultra
Conductor: Michael Noone

El arte del motete


Obras de Fernando de las Infantas



O lux et decus Hispaniae a 4  3’05”



Pater noster a 4  3’40”



Ave María a 4  3’30”



Credo in Deum a 4  6’05”



Salve Regina a 4  6’00”



Quasi cedrus a 5  3’45”



Parce mihi a 5  3’40”



Pater noster a 5  3’30”



O admirabile commercium a  5 3’20”



O adoranda Trinitas a 5  3’50”



Praeter rerum seriem a 6  5’40”



Laetentur omne saeculum a 6  4’50”



Victimae paschali laudes a 6  3’30”



Congregati sunt inimici nostri a 7  3’40”



Loquebantur variis linguis a 8  4’50”



Total 63’40”





Fernando de las Infantas (1534—c. 1610)—Composer and theologian



Atypical among Renaissance composers, Fernando de las Infantas was a wealthy independent nobleman whose published theological treatises were banned by the Inquisition. At the behest of Philip II, he became embroiled with the monarch’s objections to Pope Gregory XIII’s controversial authorization of a revision of the Gregorian chant—the so-called Medicean edition. Yet despite being eulogised by scholars, even to this day only a handful of Infantas’s compositions are available in modern editions. The single most important contribution to our knowledge of Infantas and his music remains Mitjana’s Don Fernando de Las Infantas: Teólogo y músico (Madrid, 1918). Mitjana’s splendid bio-bibliographical study represents some of the best musicology to emerge from Spain in the first quarter of the 20th century and the extent to which all subsequent writings on Infantas rely on it is strong testament to its value.


Even Mitjana, however, candidly acknowledges his monograph’s single greatest shortcoming: the absence of a complete edition of both Infantas’s works, and the close scrutiny of them that an edition would make possible. Although almost all subsequent writers have deplored this gap, we are still waiting for a complete edition of Infantas’s works, almost a century after Mitjana’s study. In 1869 Eslava published an edition of one motet, and in 1956 the great musicologist Samuel Rubio edited ten more works. On the basis of just one of these motets, Victimae paschali laudes, Robert Stevenson essayed the few insightful observations on the composer’s style to have yet been published: ‘By reason of the rich harmonic palette, the vigor of the independent lines, the admirable juxtaposition of contrasting rhythms, the balance of low and high sonorities, and the constant attention to textual meanings, this motet ranks with the major Spanish achievements of the epoch.’


Despite the quality and quantity of the works Infantas published, however, he never achieved, either in his own day or ours, a reputation to challenge that of such of his contemporaries as Victoria or Guerrero. For the first 45 years of his life, music was his first love and passion, even as pursuing the interests of the Spanish crown became his day-to-day business as a courtier. Having travelled to Italy in 1572, while engaged on a diplomatic mission on behalf of Philip II, Infantas prolonged his stay for musical pursuits that culminated with the publication, in Venice in the space of a single year, from the summer for 1578 to the spring of 1579, of four volumes of sacred music—3 books of motets, and one of learned contrapuncti—the equal in quality, scope, and vision, to the productions of most of his better known contemporaries, the great Palestrina not excepted. Then, unaccountably, at the very moment when most other composers would have sought to capitalise on the reputation flowing from such achievements, he instead abandoned music in favour of study for the priesthood, into which he was ordained, belatedly, in his fiftieth year. Thereafter Infantas spent over a decade, and the rest of his dwindling patrimony, in the service of the poor and needy in an obscure country parish beyond the outskirts of Rome, while devoting his intellectual life to theological inquiry. His last published works were not musical, but three treatises on the most thorny theological issues of his day, printed in Paris in 1601. Again fame eluded him, and instead he was involved for five years in a bitter wrangle with Vatican officialdom to defend himself against charges of heresy. Poor, tired, and defeated, he was dead within the decade, and effectively buried with him, too, was his reputation both as a theologian and composer.


Michael Noone