Francisco Guerrero


Music to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of Francisco Guerrero.

This recording celebrates the music of Francisco Guerrero and presents music form his collection of music written for the office of Vespers. The second half of the disc consists of Guerrero’s Requiem mass in its original form.

The style of plainchant heard and performed in Spain was rather different from that heard in other European territories. On this recording Chapelle du Roi has followed the instructions for semi-mensural performance given by Guerrero’s colleague at Seville, Villafranca.


Vespers for All Saints
Missa Pro Defunctis, 1566


What people are saying

"the performances are faultless and the recorded balance ideal. I find it impossible to criticise the singers. The speeds are well judged and any lover of renaissance music would find this disc a worthwhile investment even if the music is restrained and coolly beautiful"

Ludvig Van Web

Chapelle du Roi
Directed by Alistair Dixon

Release date:28th Apr 2000
Order code:SIGCD017
Barcode: 635212001721

The unanimous opinion of those who had occasion to hear the music of Francisco Guerrero is that it caused a deep impression. Proof of this is the impact it had all over the Hispanic world for almost two centuries, and not only for the fact that it continued to be performed, but also for having been an object of veneration on the part of innumerable composers who imitated it, without ever attaining the heights of his excellence.

When nowadays we have occasion to listen to Guerrero’s music, his association with Seville cathedral, one of the greatest churches of Western Europe, with the cathedral of Lima or some other from the New World, is inevitable. Huge spaces, with large numbers of faithful, not always quiet, upon whom only the music or the menacing words of some preacher could successfully enjoin silence. The cathedral choirs, however they sounded, were well provided for, and it is well known that sackbuts, flutes, harps and shawms doubled the vocal group helping to fill the acoustical space.

The employment of two voices per part, unaccompanied, in Guerrero’s music, as is the practice of the Chapelle du Roi on this disc, is as unbelievable from the acoustical point of view as employing three of four individuals for the string section of the orchestra for a Beethoven symphony. The music loses all its strength, thought the sounds are still wonderful, even though here speeds are too fast for music which requires all the time in the world. An impeccable disc as far as its presentation and purely vocal performance are concerned, but less successful aesthetically.

Maricarmen Gomez

Ludvig Van Web – May 2002
MusicWeb – June 2002

This generously filled CD was recorded to form a part of the celebrations on the occasion of the quatercentenary of the death of Guerrero. This involved Chapelle du Roi taking time out from recording the complete Tallis, a project which, as I write, is still developing. The editions used for this CD have recently been published by ‘The Cantiones Press’ whose editor is Alistair Dixon. Mapa Mundi, which is run and maintained by Bruno Turner, have also published this work. Mr Turner has been admirably commissioned to write the excellent booklet notes.

Francisco Guerrero was a great composer and a much loved man, whose music continued to be copied and sung up to 200 years after his death. His contemporary was, of course, Victoria, also a great composer but whose music has chimed in more with modern times on account, I suspect, of its more overt emotionally charged harmonies and general passion. Also Victoria has been available in cheap and easily accessible editions for practically a century, whereas the more restrained Guerrero had little in print until the 1970s. Even then the quiet spirituality and extraordinary technique of Guerrero’s music was not at first noticed. Even now most cathedral choirs have yet to tackle it. This CD is a very good example of the composer’s music. Sometimes introverted, never overly passionate, wonderfully contrapuntal with clear textures, and the polyphony divided up by plainchant. This is the plan of the first five of the motets for Vespers. Incidentally the fourth one, ‘Laude pueri Dominum’ is by Rodrigo Cebellos, a pupil of Guerrero.

Following these we have a hymn, ‘Christe redemptor omnium’ (Track 6) also sung alternatum (the odd numbered verses are plainchant and the polyphonic even numbered verses have the chant in the top part); then, similarly a Magnificat (Track 7)to end the Vespers music.

As a link into the Requiem we next hear a marvellous and immensely moving motet ‘O Domine Jesu Christe’ (Track 8) a prayer to the Crucified Jesus. The mood of this leads naturally into the ‘Missa Pro defunctis’, a twelve movement work of about 35 minutes duration. Again plainchant plays an important role, if not directly, then heard in the top part of a four or five part texture.

The plan of the Mass is a slight variant on others as was common practice at the time; no one centre had quite had the same liturgy. So here we have the usual Kyrie, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus but we have a Tract text to close the mass ‘Dicit Dominus’ (‘I am the resurrection and the life’). There is also an earlier tract ‘Sicut cervas’ (‘Like as a hart desireth the water brook’) (Psalm 42) The cool beauty of the music, the unpretentious proportions and the calm unfolding of the ancient melodies to the venerable texts reveal Guerrero’s approach to the art as devout and contemplative. To quote Bruno Turner “There is a stillness and ceremonial formality about it; characteristics that may have become lost in the world of zealous passions in the times of religious conflict.”

It seems to me that the performances are faultless and the recorded balance ideal. I find it impossible to criticise the singers. The speeds are well judged and any lover of renaissance music would find this disc a worthwhile investment even if the music is restrained and coolly beautiful.

Gary Higginson

  1. Dixit Dominus – – [4:32]
  2. Confitebor tibe, Domine – – [5:07]
  3. Beatus vir – – [3:34]
  4. Laudate pueri Dominum – – [3:08]
  5. Laudate Dominum – – [2:12]
  6. Christe redemptor omnium – – [6:49]
  7. Magnificat – – [8:35]
  8. O Domine Jesu Christe – – [4:11]
  9. Requiem – Introit – – [4:46]
  10. – Kyrie – – [2:03]
  11. – Gradual – – [4:17]
  12. – Tract II – – [4:17]
  13. – Offertory – – [5:52]
  14. – Sanctus – – [2:30]
  15. – Benedictus – – [1:19]
  16. – Agnus Dei – – [3:38]
  17. – Communion I – – [2:30]
  18. – Communion II – – [2.33]
  19. – Dismissal – – [0.21]
  20. – Tract I – – [1.26]