Juan de Esquivel Barahona

Juan de Esquivel Barahona (c.1560 – after 1625) was the most prominent of the last generation of Spanish church composers of the Renaissance era. Although he never served in one of the major Spanish cathedrals, his music was known throughout Spain during the early seventeenth century.


Juan de Esquivel was born in or near Ciudad Rodrigo, an ancient cathedral city southwest of Salamanca. He began service as a choirboy in the cathedral in 1568 and, according to choir chaplain Antonio Sanchez Cabañas, he was a student of Juan Navarro, the cathedral's choirmaster during Esquivel's youth. Esquivel's first position as maestro de capilla came in 1581, when he was named to the post in Oviedo, the capital of the province of Asturias in Northern Spain. He left that position in 1585 and took a similar position in the Riojan city of Calahorra. In 1591 he returned to Ciudad Rodrigo as choirmaster, where he remained until his death.


Esquivel composed only sacred music. His output survives in three publications, printed in Salamanca during the early seventeenth century. Since he began his career during a time when Spanish churches were adopting the Roman liturgy as prescribed by the Council of Trent, his music reveals an attempt to reconcile Spanish polyphonic traditions of the sixteenth century with Tridentine preferences for clarity of text and brevity of statement. This is especially true in his motets, which are among the shortest in the repertoire.

His principal influences were Cristóbal de Morales and Francisco Guerrero, although some influence of his teacher, Navarro is sometimes evident. Esquivel's appreciation of Guerrero is apparent in his use the older master's motets as sources for parody masses. Esquivel, however, was never reluctant to set a text for which a previous composer had gained some fame.

Esquivel's polyphonic style is characterized by a succinctness in his melodic subjects, an occasional use of noncadential chromaticism and the parallel motion between voices. His music has some similarity to Portuguese polyphony of his time.


Motecta festorum et dominicarum cum communi sanctorum, IV, V, VI, et VIII vocibus concinnanda (Salamanca, Artus Tabernielis, 1608)

Missarum Ioannis Esquivelis in alma ecclesia Civitatensi portionarii, et cantorum praefecti, liber primus superiorum permissu, Salmanticæ, ex officina typographica Arti Taberniel Antverpiani, anno a Christo nato M.DC.VIII (Salamanca: Artus Tabernielis, 1608)

Ioannis, Esquivel, Civitatensis, et eiusdem sanctæ ecclesiæ portionarii, psalmorum, hymnorum, magnificarum et B. Mariæ quatuor antiphonarum de tempore, necnon et missarum tomus secundus (Salamanca: Francisco de Cea Tesa, 1613)

Lost book of hymns, motets, falsobordone items, and pieces for instruments (Salamanca, 1623)

References and Further Reading

O'Connor, Michael B. "The Polyphonic Compositions on Marian Texts by Juan de Esquivel Barahona: A Study of Institutional Marian Devotion in Late Renaissance Spain." Ph.D. diss., The Florida State University, 2006. [FSU Electronic dissertations link] http://etd.lib.fsu.edu]

Sanchez Cabañas, Antonio. Historia de la M.N.Y.M.L. Ciudad de Ciudad-Rodrigo, comprensiva de su situacion, antigüedad, variedad de poseedores que ha tenido, y otras particularidades dignas de atencion por D. Antonio Sanchez Cabañas, Capellan de número de la Sancta Iglesia Catedral de la misma Ciudad. Mss. 1708–1710. (ca. 1626)

Snow, Robert J. The 1613 Print of Juan Esquivel Barahona. Detroit Monographs in Musicology 7. Detroit: Information Coordinators, 1978.

Stevenson, Robert M. “Spanish Polyphonists in the Age of the Armada.” Inter-American Music Review 12/2 (1992), 17–114.

Walkley, Clive. “Juan Esquivel: An Unknown Spanish Master Revisited.” Early Music 39/1 (February 2001), 76–92.

Rodilla León, Francisco: El libro de motetes de 1608 de Juan Esquivel de Barahona (c. 1560- c. 1624): Estudio y transcripción, Centro de Estudios Mirobrigenses- Ayuntamiento de Ciudad Rodrigo, 2005.

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