Fernando de las Infantas (1534c.1610)

 

Born in Córdoba to a noble family, Don Fernando de las Infantas lived a remarkable life. As the third son of a minor aristocrat, he enjoyed a privileged upbringing and claimed to have begun studying music as a child. In 1572 he was sent to the viceroyalty of Naples by Philip II (then a Spanish possession) on a minor diplomatic mission. He would then remain in Italy until 1597, being ordained to the priesthood in 1584 and serving in a small church outside Rome, living off a family stipend. As such, he is an unusual example of a Renaissance composer who never held a church or court post. His music is notable as, unconstrained by the activities and requirements of a sacred or secular institution, he was free to compose as he pleased. Three books of motets were published in Venice between 1578-79 and a further series of published counterpoint exercises based on a ten-note plainsong initium of Psalm 116 underline his considerable contrapuntal skills. In some ways, his music is very conservative – clearly owing a debt to Josquin des Prez – but in others eccentric and unconventional (for example, his setting of Loquebantur results in effectively three different modes in operation simultaneously!). Elsewhere in his output, he wrote motets mourning the death of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and in response to battles and sieges against the Ottoman Empire. He was also not without theological controversy, culminating in his investigation by the Spanish Inquisition following the publication of his Treaty on Predestination (Paris, 1601). By the end of his life he had amassed so many enemies in theological circles that he was reduced to beggary.

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