Manuel Mendes

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Alias: Manoel Mendes


Born: c.1547, Lisbon

Died: 24 Sept 1605, Évora


Portuguese composer Manuel Mendes was born in Lisbon c1547 and died in Évora 24 September 1605. His parents were António Vaz and Brites Mendes, both residents at the parish of Madalena, in Lisbon. According to Barbosa Machado (in his Bibliotheca Lusitana), he was mestre de capela at Portalegre Cathedral and mestre of Cardinal Infante Henrique’s private chapel. When the Cardinal became Archbishop of Évora, Mendes accompanied him to that city in 1575. There he became master of the choirboys at the Cathedral in 1578. He was ordained priest in the same year and in 1588 he became bacharel at the Cathedral, a post he held until his death.

Mendes is referred to as “mestre de toda a boa musica deste reino” (master of all the good music of this kingdom [of Portugal]), as a compliment to his mastery in composition. Mendes's considerable reputation rested also on his abilities as a teacher: among his pupils were the most famous Portuguese composers of the next generation, including Filipe de Magalhães, Duarte Lobo, Manuel Cardoso, Simão dos Anjos and Manuel Rebello among others.

His music can be described as conceived in a sober, firm and sometimes austere style, in the best tradition of Josquin or even Morales. Of his music survives an Alleluia for four voices which achieved a widespread circulation (preserved in sources in Arouca, Coimbra, Lisbon, Oporto and Puebla, in Mexico), an Asperges me for eight voices, and two masses: a Missa Ferialis and a Missa pro Defunctis, both transcribed by Manuel Joaquim, before the manuscripts became unreadable. D. João IV’s library catalogue mentions six motets by Mendes: Assumpsit Jesus, Doleo super te, Ductus est Jesus, Peccavi for five voices, Tu es Petrus for six voices, and Responde mihi for eight voices. The catalogue also mentions a treatise: Arte de Musica. All these works were lost.

Manuel Mendes stands out in Portugal’s music history as the master of some of the best Portuguese composers and musicians of the 17th century. His pedagogical skills make him one of the most influential music figures in Portuguese music history.

View the Wikipedia article on Manuel Mendes.

List of choral works

Click here to search for this composer on CPDL


NG states "an attempt by the dean of the royal chapel (of which Magalhães was a member) to have some books of Mendes's masses and Magnificat settings published came to nothing because of the price demanded by the Plantin firm of Antwerp."

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