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There are two Spanish composers with the name Francisco Guerrero, one from the twentieth century (1951 - 1997), and another from the Renaissance (1528-1599). The first bio is for the twentieth century composer, and the second one is for the Renaissance one.Read More...
Francisco Guerrero (1951-1997)
The music of Francisco Guerrero claims our attention, above all, for its inner strength and for a personal energy that reflects the independent stance maintained by the composer throughout his life. Firmly convinced that art embodies the capacity for strong, organic expression, Guerrero undertook a type of research in which compositional rigour walked hand in hand with the demands of a passionate spirit. His was a passion for knowledge, experimentation and exploration of sound to its ultimate consequences. From these stimuli arose the need for profound contact with the various disciplines of knowledge (including mathematics, architecture, physics and computer science, among others), which led him to seek compositional unity on increasingly subtle planes and to consider the sound event in a "global" framework, with a new control over the building blocks of sound.
Equally comfortable with orchestral and chamber, instrumental and vocal music, Guerrero left a small but widely varied catalogue. Our only cause for regret might be the absence of an opera: Morte della Papessa Giovanna - a project Guerrero nurtured throughout his life but never found the opportunity to bring to fruition. His style was clearly defined from the outset. Actus, Concierto de camara, Acte préalable and Ars combinatoria all reveal a variety of timbral and instrumental treatments which, combined with an uncommon exuberance of expression, establish an immediate rapport with the listener. The formal plan of each work is strictly determined through combinatorial procedures, through which every aspect of the work, down to the most minute details, is calculated to achieve the greatest possible unity. In the sphere of solo works, Opus 1, Manual for piano and Pâni for harpsichord, display outstanding vitality through the powerful virtuoso tension that animates them.
The chamber cycle Zayin merits a separate discussion. This is a collection of seven pieces (four for string trio, two for quartet and one for solo violin), that occupied Guerrero for fourteen years, from 1983 to 1997. Built entirely on structures based on the number seven, the microcosm that makes up Zayin distills the purest values of Guerrero's art. Here, the extraordinary impact so characteristic of his style is wed to a quest for secret nuances.
Guerrero's vocal works are linked by a conception of vocality seen as the release of energy even before becoming an instrument of communication. This concept gives rise to Erotica, with its elaborate ornamentation, and Vâda, with its fierce melodic line, while the sonorous magnificence of Anemos B calls to mind the monumentality of the polyphonists of the Siglo de Oro.
Although Guerrero was constantly seeking openings to new horizons and solutions to new problems, his path was one of absolute consistency. Starting with the application of combinatory procedures, the mid-eighties saw him working out a compositional technique based on fractals, i.e.mathematical principles borrowed from the recent chaos theory. The inextricable sonorities of Rhea for 12 saxophones, one of Guerrero's first works to make use of fractal procedures, herald the interest that electronics would hold for the composer some years later. First Cepheidas and then Rigel, and finally Hyades (where electronics blend with live instruments) bear witness to Guerrero's continuing attention to new technologies, beginning with the computer, for which he had created several composition programmes.
Ever more compellingly attracted to the world of microintervals, Guerrero saw the family of stringed instruments as an outstanding vehicle for endowing sound with the physical tension and constant plasticity inherent in his music. This element emerges with the greatest clarity in his orchestral music, where the composer's creative imagery stands out in all its grandiose power. From the thorny, tortured tangle of Ariadna to the fluid polyphony of Oleada, Guerrero was peerlessly skilled in processing dense layers of sound. Sahara, which may well be his masterwork, almost leaves us with the feeling that the sound has weight and occupies space, and that we could touch it by stretching out a hand and be caught up in its whirlwind transformations. The same thing is true of the youthful Antar Atman and of Coma Berenices (his last orchestral work), which combine and summarize the conquests of Guerrero's language in a timbral picture of dazzling variety.
In the energy flowing from Guerrero's music we find something that recalls the ancestral dimensions of the cante jondo: the vocal paroxysms of the melodies sung by the cantaores, the dissonant "grating" of rasgueados played on the guitar. But the "Andalusian" quality of the music should be interpreted as spiritual affinity rather than external analogy; its roots must be traced back to a dynamic conception of sound, to an essential, incisive expressiveness stripped of all pictorial or sentimental qualities. Guerrero's ability to introduce the sonorities typical of his homeland, Andalusia, into a prodigiously innovative linguistic concept has immunized him against the risk of gratuitous, sterile experimentation.
Guerrero thought of sound as existing in a close relationship with matter. He felt it as a tangible substance that can be felt, twisted, recomposed, kneaded, and sculpted. The extension of fractal principles to music thus became the means for probing the bond that unites sound to the essential substance of the world. In this sense, a river was music to Guerrero; a mountain was music. "I want to build music the way a tree is built". The composer was enthralled by this idea: making music breathe with the very roughness of living matter, the complexity of an organic heartbeat.
Recourse to mathematical procedures was not merely a cerebral exercise. Numerical references and the deliberate and almost provocative absence of a programmatic superstructure do not resolve into the practice of an ascetic art, divorced from the world. Rather, the opposite: at the very moment when music lends itself to the service of any message, it automatically gives up a total contact with life.
Like the proud spirit that he was, Guerrero was unwilling to dilute his thinking, as unpalatable as it may have been, in self-complacent eclecticism or diplomatic compromises with the past. In his approach to the audience he was not afraid to express himself with the intransigence and absolute conviction that were his nature. His music may fascinate or repel us, but it can never be parked in a corner or relegated to the background. It always takes centre stage, imposing its power and its presence.
by Stefano Russomanno
Francisco Guerrero (October 4 (?), 1528– November 8, 1599)
Francisco Guerrero was a Spanish composer of the Renaissance. He was born and died in Seville. Guerrero's early musical education was with his older brother Pedro. He must have been an astonishing prodigy, for at the age of 17 he was already appointed maestro de capilla (singing master, i.e. music director) at Jaen Cathedral. A few years later he accepted a position in Seville. Apparently during this time he was much in demand as a singer and composer, establishing an exceptional reputation before his thirtieth birthday; in addition he published several collections of his music abroad, an unusual event for a young composer.
After several decades of working and traveling throughout Spain and Portugal, sometimes in the employ of emperor Maximilian II, he went to Italy for a year (1581-1582) where he published two books of his music. After returning to Spain for several years, he decided to travel to the Holy Land, which he finally was able to do in 1589. His adventure included visits to Damascus, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem; on the return trip his ship was twice attacked by pirates, who threatened his life, stole his money, and held him for ransom. His ransom must have been paid, for he was able to return to Spain; unfortunately he had no money, and endured a series of misfortunes including some time spent in debtor's prison; at last his old employer at Seville Cathedral extricated him, and he resumed working for them. His book on his adventurous visit to the Holy Land was published in 1590 and was a popular success (it is reasonable to suppose that Cervantes knew it). At the end of the decade he planned one more trip to the Holy Land but unfortunately he died in the plague of 1599 in Seville, before he was able to depart.
Of all the Spanish Renaissance composers, he was the one who lived and worked the most in Spain. Others—for example Morales and Victoria—spent large portions of their careers in Italy (though, unlike many Franco-Flemish composers of the time, Spanish composers usually returned home later in life).
Guerrero's music was both sacred and secular, unlike that of Victoria and Morales, the two other Spanish 16th century composers of the first rank. He wrote numerous secular songs and instrumental pieces, in addition to masses, motets, and settings of the Passion. He was able to capture an astonishing variety of moods in his music, from ecstasy to despair, longing, joy, and devotional stillness; his music remained popular for hundreds of years, especially in cathedrals in Latin America. Stylistically he preferred homophonic textures, rather like his Spanish contemporaries, and he wrote memorable, singable lines. One interesting feature of his style is how he anticipated functional harmonic usage: there is a case of a Magnificat discovered in Lima