Cantum Mensurable

Editions of Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century Polyphony


28 Nov 2011

Mateus d'Aranda

Spanish composer active in Portugal in the first half of the 16th century.

The Spanish composer and theorist Mateus d’Aranda was probably born in Aranda de Duero, c1495 and probably died in Coimbra 15 February 1548. He studied at the University of Alcalá de Henares sometime before 1524 with Pedro Ciruelo, going to Italy for further studies. He was Mestre de Capela at the Cathedral of Évora by 3 April 1528. He held this post until 26 August 1544, when he was appointed Lente de Musica (a teaching post) at the Coimbra University, a post which he holded until his death. During the years he spent in Évora, the royal court resided there Aranda gained praised from the administrator of the see Cardinal D. Afonso. At Coimbra, however (according to a collegue, Juan Fernández), the other colleagues were resentful towards a foreigner, and Aranda died (according to Fernández) of “pure vexation”. His body was carried back to Évora for burial on 2 June 1549.

Although he had composed music, Aranda is most important as a theorist. His two music treatises were the first to be printed in Portugal, although they are written in Spanish. In the Tractado d’Canto Llano (Lisbon, 1533) he fallows Juan de Espinosa and Martín de Rivaflecha declaring the sung diatonic semitone smaller that the chromatic. He also allowed the breaking of ligatures for the “correct” accentuation and, like his Spanish contemporary theorists, preferred more freedom in the use of ficta in plainsong. In his Tractado de Canto Mensurable (Lisbon, 1535), his examples of species counterpoint, were the first polyphony published in Portugal.

A few compositions are attributed to him: a four-voice setting of Adjuva nos Deus, and two mass fragments: Et Incantatus and Et Vitam, all found in the manuscript (P-EVp Cód. CLI/1-9 d.) at Évora Public Library. His music is less complex than, for example, that of Manuel Mendes. Almost none of his music survived.

Luís C. F. Henriques