Galán was born in Madrid in 1625 and the first record of him in Grove’s somewhat sparse entry is that aged 26 he was rejected as maestro de capilla in Sigüenza because he was married. He seems to have moved around a fair bit including a stint between 1653 and 1656 first as a singer and organist and then as maestro de capilla at Cagliari, Sardinia. From there he took up brief postings in as maestro de capilla of the church choir at Morella, and then in Teruel Cathedral before moving to Madrid in 1659. He’s mentioned as maestro of a group of singers at the Buen Retiro in 1664 but composing and participating in secular music dramas evidently didn’t suit him because he left Buen Retiro in August 1664 to take up a three year posting as director of the cathedral choir at Segovia. Some time after July 1667 he was made director of music at Descalzas Reales like Tomás Luis de Victoria he evidently attracted royal patronage because in 1675 the queen regent nominated him for the post of director of music of the royal chapel in the convent – this suggestion met with the united opposition of the abbess, the Patriarch of the Indies, and court musicians and it wasn’t until J. Pérez Roldán died in 1680 that Galán finally got this most prestigious of posts which he held until his death in 1684.
He was a very versatile composer composing music for secular plays at the Buen Retiro and a large number of songs both secular and devotional and a large number of villancicos – most of these are now lost but a number remain. He himself seems to have felt that sacred music was more ‘worthy’ than songs and villancicos and wrote both Masses and motets. He was influential during his lifetime and his music was both popular and widespread not just in Spain but also in South and Central America but after about a generation his music faded from view and is now rarely performed in Spain. I’d describe his music as pleasant and worth listening to if you come across it without being particularly memorable. His Ascension responsory Ascendo ad Patrem meum (I ascend unto My Father) performed by La Grande Chapelle and Schola Antiqua is below. Enjoy :-)
Text & Translation: Ascendo ad Patrem meum
Ascendo ad Patrem meum, et Patrem vestrum, Alleluia, alleluia.
I ascend unto My Father and your Father Alleluia, Alleluia.
Video, text, and performer information source: Cristóbal Galán – Ascendo ad Patrem meum – YouTube. Uploaded on Feb 4, 2011 by sh4m69.