Antonio de Cabezón

Spanish composer and organist (1510-1566)

Antonio de Cabezón (born Castrillo de Matajudios, near Burgos, Spain, 1510; died Madrid, 26 March, 1566) was a Spanish composer and organist of the Renaissance. He was blind from early childhood. He is best known for the music he composed for the organ.

Life change

His parents came from noble families and owned a lot of land. He probably had his first organ lessons at the local church. Then he had more music lessons in Palencia. He probably had organ lessons from the cathedral organist. He never had an official job at the cathedral, but he must have been an excellent student, and his teachers, who had a lot of influence, recommended him to the royal family. In 1526 he became organist to Queen Isabella and played at the Spanish chamber concerts of King Charles V of Spain.

About 1538 he married the daughter of a rich family and he went to live in Avila where his wife came from. They had five children who had important positions at the royal court when they grew up.

After Queen Isabella died he spent all his time working for Prince Philip, who became Philip II. King Philip thought he was the world’s greatest artist except for the painter Titian. He often travelled with the king to countries such as Italy, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. He influenced many European composers that he met, and they influenced him. When the king moved to Madrid and made it the capital of Spain, Cabezón went there too. He stayed there until his death.

His music change

Cabezón was one of the greatest composers of his time. He was good at writing music which sounded just right for the organ and the clavichord. He used the techniques of other composers of his time, but added some very special effects. Instead of just putting in a lot of ornamentation to make the music interesting, he enjoyed creating tension between harmony and melody.

He wrote diferencias (sets of variations) which use Spanish tunes which were often dances such as the folia, pavan and galliard. Many of his organ compositions are called glosas . Each one has something very special to say.