Alias: Juan Cornago
Born: c.1400, Cornago? (near Calahorra)
Died: c.1475, Burgos?
Johannes Cornago is the earliest composer in Spain from whom a substantial number of compositions survives. He may have been the Johannes Eximii de Cornago of the diocese of Calahorra who may have received his musical training at Tarazona Cathedral. In 1449 Cornago obtained a bachelor’s degree in theology from the University of Paris. By 1453 he was already serving King Alfonso I of Naples; his reputation as a composer must have been firmly established. On 1455 Cornago, described as a Franciscan, was referred to as enjoying an annual salary of 300 ducats. Not even Josquin des Prez at the height of his career received so great a salary. In 1466 Cornago served Alfonso I’s successor Ferrante I as chief almoner. He is last recorded among the singers at the court of Ferdinand the Catholic in 1475.
Cornago’s surviving compositions comprise a Mass, a motet and 11 Spanish and Italian songs. His Missa ‘Ayo visto lo mappamundi’, based on a Sicilian popular song in barzelletta form, is one of the earliest surviving masses on a secular cantus firmus. The surviving motet is a freely composed four-voice composition, Patres nostri peccaverunt, a very early setting of a text from the Lamentations of Jeremiah.
The nine Spanish songs are among the earliest polyphonic canciones in Castilian. Cornago’s songs are characteristic of the mid-15th-century chanson, governed by a duet between discantus and tenor and syllabic declamation at the beginnings of phrases followed by melismas. Cornago drew his texts from several renowned Castilian poets, including Pedro de Torellas, the Marqués de Santillana and Juan de Mena.
The large number of alternative versions of Cornago’s songs reflects the versatility of the song repertory; they were not fixed compositions, but improvisatory and adaptable ones. Some of the reworkings, such as those of Pues que Dios te fizo tal, were conceivably composed by Cornago himself, but others may be seen as evidence of the esteem in which he was held; Johannes Ockeghem, for instance, composed two new contratenors for the discantus and tenor of Cornago’s ¿Qu'es mi vida, preguntays?. It is likely that the two composers met while Cornago was studying in Paris.
View the Wikipedia article on Johannes Cornago.
List of choral works
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