The young priest and composer Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla had a glittering career in front of him in Spain. Born in Málaga, around 1590 and trained in that city's cathedral as a musician by Francisco Vásquez he held posts as maestro de capilla at the cathedrals of Jerez de la Frontera where the cathedral authorities were so pleased by him that they granted him an extra 6000 reales per annum. He left that posting to take up the post of maestro de capilla at Cádiz Cathedral on 17 March 1616 where he remained for about six years.
Exactly when he left left his prestigious and well-paid post in Cádiz for Mexico can't be determined from the extant records but it was sometime before the autumn of 1622 for on October 11 of that year he was appointed as cantor and assistant maestro at Puebla Cathedral with an annual salary of 500 pesos. Puebla was the second city of this incredibly wealthy province of the Spanish empire and as you might expect de Padilla was well paid for his services with an annual salary of 500 pesos, together with another 100 pesos a year for recruiting and training new choir members and an extra 40 pesos per annum for composing the villancico-like sacred songs known as chanzonetas.
Puebla Cathedral which was already being called 'The eight wonder of the world' because of it's stunningly beautiful and sumptuous interior had one of the finest musical establishments in all of the Spanish Americas, a musical establishment that already was certainly on a par with the best in Europe. Only the best would do, and Padilla's posting was no sinecure. That rose to the challenge can be seen throughout his music but particularly in his Salve Regina which you can hear below performed by The Sixteen conducted by Harry Christophers. It is a beautiful setting of this the greatest of the Marian antiphons, and I think that he must have been inspired both by the text and its subject and the setting in which it was to be performed. There's a sonority and variety of texture to this setting which is quite ravishing while the way in which he uses the double choir technique to exploit the possibilities of the short supplicatory and exclamatory phrases in the text is remarkably effective. Thus for example, at 'Ad te suspiramus …' de Padilla has the four voices mourning and weeping making full use of accidentals and daringly colourful harmonies to stimulate the desired response from the congregation, he managed to do this while simultaneously satisfying his patrons' desire for conservative polyphony and his desire to make full use AMDG of the sound world and compositional modes of the seventeenth century. Enjoy :-).
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