E KNOW for a fact that Tomás Luis de Victoria was a Catholic priest. We also know that Francisco Guerrero was a Catholic priest. Because of a document dated 31 August 1545, we know Morales was a cleric and we presume he was a priest—but specific details concerning his priestly life are exceedingly meager. The paramount book about those three composers was written by Robert Murrell Stevenson (1916-2012), and even after six decades nobody has come close to replacing it.
Today I will discuss a magnificent Mass setting: “Missa Mille Regretz,” by Cristóbal de Morales. An earlier version of the Mass (“Cappella Sistina MS 17”) exists in a Sistine Chapel choirbook. Stevenson calls this version “obsolete,” and suggests it probably was written very early in his career:
To the list of Morales’s published Masses exploiting cross-rhythms must be added one unpublished Mass: the five-voice Tristezas me matan extant today only in the same Cappella Sistina MS 17 at the Vatican which contains the obsolete version of Mille regretz. If what has been deduced concerning earlier and later manners holds true, the very presence of twos-against-threes in this Mass provides strong a priori argument for placing it among his earliest essays. […] The dates of 1536 and 1538 seem likelier for Mille regretz, at least in the obsolete version now preserved in Cappella Sistina MS 17. The Cappella Sistina MS 17 version must have circulated, however, since it was printed in Germany as late as 1568. Indeed, this would be the only version of any Morales Mass which was printed in Germany in the sixteenth century.
Yet, Stevenson admits that Cappella Sistina MS 17 “shows greater learning” than the published version. By the way, Stevenson calls the techniques in Cappella Sistina MS 17 “Gothic,” for instance:
The printed version of Mille regretz published in 1544 was reworked from the considerably more “Gothic” version copied in Cappella Sistina MS 17 and later published with an erroneous attribution to Crecquillon in 1568.
We have no information about why Morales made the revisions he did, so we must guess. One possibility is that Morales composed Cappella Sistina MS 17 when the Papal choir sang for Emperor Charles V in 1536. (Morales was a member of the Papal choir, and Missa Mille Regretz is based on the favorite song of Charles V.) Then, Morales revised several movements when the Papal choir again sang for Charles V in 1543. In 1544 it was published in Rome.
Some believe Stevenson was the greatest musicologist of all time. I personally agree with that assessment, but I believe he made an error in his 1961 book (mentioned above).
Since Mille regretz and the four-voice L’Homme armé can both be said to have been composed for the emperor on the strength of this new evidence, the problem of dating is somewhat simplified. During his service in the papal choir, Morales came into the emperor’s presence on three occasions: in April, 1536; May, 1538; and June, 1543. The earlier dates, 1536 and 1538, seem likelier for Mille regretz, at least in the obsolete version now preserved in Cappella Sistina MS 17. The facts that Morales replaced the original canonic Sanctus by an “accompanied-treble” setting, the original Pleni (for only Cantus Altus and Bass) by a five-voice setting, an Osanna in Cut Time by one in Triple time, a Benedictus departing from the chanson by one adhering to it, and Agnus I and Agnus III by other settings of the same, show that he was not wholly satisfied with the original version. His 1544 version is a much more homogeneous and consistent work of art. It does not show so much learning, but the new Sanctus and Agnus movements at least carry forward with the same kind of treatment that in both the Capella Sistina MS 17 version and the 1544 printed version had been given the chanson in the Kyrie, Gloria, and Credo movements: that is to say, they make of the chanson tune an accompanied treble throughout the entire Mass.
To make sense of this, I must first show you what he’s talking about:
Morales replaced the original canonic Sanctus by an “accompanied-treble” setting.
—True, but “canonic” here seems to refer to “rule” not a Canon as we normally call it.
Morales replaced the original Pleni (for only Cantus Altus and Bass) by a five-voice setting.
—True, but it would be more accurate to say he continued the Sanctus into the Pleni in 1544.
Morales replaced a Hosanna in Cut Time by one in Triple time.
He certainly did.
Morales replaced a Benedictus departing from the chanson by one adhering to it.
No! I believe Stevenson is wrong here. The original Benedictus did not depart from the chanson. Moreover, the “new” Benedictus is identical to the Cappella Sistina MS 17 Pleni, and departs from the chanson—unless I am very much mistaken.
Here is something you don’t see every day! The Boston College Library has posted a picture of the actual face of Cristóbal de Morales:
Some Information about Morales:
ORALES was born around 1500 and died in 1553. He was in Rome from 1535 to 1545. No Spanish composer of the sixteenth century was more lauded during his lifetime and for two hundred years after his death than Morales. He first began to publish in 1539. On the one hand, he was the only Spanish composer of his century whom the Lutherans admired sufficiently to include in their own denominational collections. On the other hand, his music enjoyed the favor of so wise and witty a writer as Rabelais, who in the year of Morales’s death published a fanciful description of a garden where in imagination he heard “Morales and other delightful musicians sweetly singing.” As far afield as Peru and Mexico his music was copied, admired, and performed in the second half of the sixteenth century. His two books of Masses published at Rome in 1544 were already the proudest musical possession at the ancient Inca capital, 11,440-foot-high Cuzco, when the first inventory of Cuzco Cathedral treasure was taken on 21 February 1553. In 1559, at a brilliant commemorative ceremony honoring the deceased Charles V, several of Morales’s compositions were chosen for performance at Mexico City because they were thought best suited to the dignity of the occasion. In further proof of his eminence, both Francisco Guerrero and Victoria borrowed from Morales but from no other Spanish composer.
Morales joined the papal choir on September 1st, 1535, the same day on which Pope Paul III commissioned Michelangelo to paint the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. Later, Morales said that Paul III personally chose him for the choir. Two methods are known to have been used by sixteenth-century popes in recruiting foreign singers for their personal choir. Either they sent out scouts, as did Clement VII when he sent Jean Conseil (=Consilium) to Bourges and to Cambrai with instructions to capture the best singers for his personal choir; or they sent notice of vacancies to their nuncios in France and Spain, offering to pay travel expenses to Rome for likely singers proposed to the nuncios by leading chapelmasters in the countries concerned. In any event, Sistine Chapel records show that throughout most of the century the papal choir was made up of three well-defined groups of singers-the French (with a sprinkling of Flemings), the Spanish, and the Italian. Cognizance of this tripartite division along national lines was taken on all principal feast days when the singers separated to attend their respective national churches in Rome-the French going to the Church of St. Louis, and the Spanish to the Church of St. James.
Morales’s ten years in Rome are documented with gratifying fullness. Two diaries, one for his first five-year term and another for his second five-year term, tell where the choir sang each day, who was absent and for what cause, what special or unusual ceremonies the choir participated in, what gifts were received for distribution among the choir members, and what types of official action were taken by the choir on voting matters. Because of the detailed character of the entries, all of which were written by the punctator (the diarist, who was a choir member elected annually to the post) and all of which were recorded on a day-by-day basis, these entries are of paramount value. They enable the student of Morales’s life to reconstruct his everyday movements throughout an entire decade. Morales’s name appears 441 times in the two volumes of diary covering his time in Rome. Of these entries, 339 relate to tardiness for, or absence from, matins. Sixty-five notices record his absences on account of illness. When it comes to Morales, all his sicknesses must have been real: for otherwise his choir colleagues would surely have exposed him—as they did Sanchez, Ordonez, and Nunez when these three feigned illness.
On the day of his admission, Morales received the surplice at the hands of Bartholomeo de Crota, the pope’s delegate charged with governing the choir. In the presence of the whole group (which at the time consisted of twenty-four singers) he swore to uphold the traditions of the choir, not to divulge its secrets, and to respect the senior members of the choir. Immediately after having been received, he paid ten ducats into the choir chest for distribution among the senior members—this amount being a set fee for his privilege of sharing the tips handed out on special occasions such as the anniversary of the pope’s coronation, the creation of new cardinals, and other ceremonies not provided for in the liturgical calendar. In addition, he paid two ducats for his surplice. Since his title of cantor cappellanus meant that he was a “chaplain” as well as a singer, he was obliged to wear the cassock off as well as on duty: this obligation applying to all in the choir and not simply to members in major orders. His monthly salary was fixed at eight ducats.
During the early spring of 1536 Pope Paul III, a devotee of spectacle, brought his court to a high pitch of readiness for the entry into Rome of the Emperor Charles V. Two printed pamphlets in the Biblioteca Angelica describe the preparations and the entry: for example, it is recorded that eleven churches fallen into disuse were torn down to make a broad highway for his approach. On Wednesday, April 5, Charles entered the city and on the same day went to St. Peter’s, where the papal choir greeted him with a specially composed antiphon. He remained in the city until Easter; on the Tuesday following (April 18) he left in the evening after having distributed 100 scudi to the papal singers as a mark of special favor for the music they had sung during Holy Week and at Easter. The diaries show that events of this type occurred frequently. Thus Morales could sing with a small band of the best musicians of his day and have his own music performed in the presence of kings, emperors, cardinals, and great nobility: such prestigious performance opportunities undoubtedly having much to do with the immediate spreading of his fame throughout the whole of Europe. If it cannot be proved that Morales’s music was sung in the Emperor’s presence in April, 1536, it is at least certain that in the same year he had already written one of his most masterful motets, the six-voice Veni Domine et noli tardare; for in that very year it was copied into Cappella Giulia MS 12. At the next meeting of pope and emperor two years later in Nice, Morales was the composer of the official welcome music.
Paul III, already sixty-seven when Morales joined the choir, proved to be a traveling pope. Morales accompanied him on three extended journeys: the first to a peace conference at Nice in June, 1538; the second to Loreto (on the Adriatic) in September, 1539; and the third to Busseto for a parley with Charles V in June, 1543. After Morales’s six-voice Veni Domine et noli tardare, the next composition for which any evidence of date survives is his six-voice motet in two movements, Jubilate Deo omnis terra, written for the June 1538 peace celebrations at Nice. It was at this Riviera haven that the pope finally succeeded in persuading Charles V and Francis I to conduct a peace parley. Convinced that music might somehow soothe the principals to a peace treaty, the pope brought along twenty of his own singers: all richly garbed in new velvet cassocks and silk surplices (the cost of these sumptuous garments having been paid for out of his private discretionary funds).
Both emperor and pope were attended by honor guards of 500 footmen and 200 horsemen. After their successful exertions in adding splendor to the occasion, the pope rewarded his singers with a three-month vacation (beginning July 6). Despite this vacation, Morales was an ailing man when he returned to Rome early in October. He was absent sick during most of November and during the whole of the January and February following. In 1544, the year when he published his two thick folio volumes of Masses, he was ill for ninety days. That he was genuinely sick, and not simply reading proof copies for his Masses is proved by such annotations in the diary as: “Habuit licentiam vsque ad festum purificationis pro sanitate recuperanda.” Thus, the year that we might naturally suppose to be one in which Morales had reached his pinnacle at Rome turned out to be the worst so far as protracted illness was concerned. His subsequent decision not to return to Rome after his second leave (which began on 1 May 1545) may relate, at least in part, to his serious health problem. He remained in Rome until 1545, in the employ of the Vatican; then, after a period of unsuccessfully seeking other employment in Italy (with the emperor, as well as with Cosimo I de Medici) he returned to Spain, where he held a succession of posts, many of which were marred by financial or political difficulties.