In our 2023/24 season of Bach, the Universe and Everything, alongside Bach’s cantatas we’ll be hearing six motets by Cristobal de Morales.

Cristobal de Morales was born around 1500 in Sevilla, Spain. He was a contemporary of Thomas Tallis, whose motets we explored last season, and he was the most significant Spanish composer before Tomás Luis de Victoria (born in 1548). After several jobs in Spain, by 1535 he had arrived in Rome as part of the Papal choir, where Spanish composers were in vogue. He remained there for a decade or so before returning to Spain where he worked at Toledo Cathedral and in Málaga. He appears to have developed a reputation as a difficult personality and for financial issues, which impacted on his employability. He died in the Autumn of 1553. 

What was never in doubt about Morales was that he was an exceptional musical talent. He was capable of writing music that whilst making incredible technical demands of singers (all his surviving output is choral) is exquisitely crafted and beautiful. He published two books of masses in Rome in 1544, received acclaim for his Magnificat settings and during his lifetime his fame reached as far as Peru and Mexico. In 1994 he achieved mainstream awareness when ‘Parce mihi domine’ from his music for the Office of the Dead (Requiem) was used as the opening track of Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble’s gold-certified album Officium.

The six motets that we will hear in this season’s concerts are Vigilate et orate (15 October), Regina Caeli (19 November), Pastores dicite (17 December), Sancta et immaculate virgintas (21 January), Inter vestibulum et altare (18 February) and Emendemus in melius (17 March).