Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla
• 1590 — 1664
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Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla was easily among the most important Mexican composers of the post-Renaissance era. He wrote much in the realm of sacred music including masses, motets, and hymns, all having Latin texts. He also composed a number of villancicos, whose vernacular texts dealt with religious subjects, such as Christmas, the Immaculate Conception, and other Roman Catholic feast days.
Born in Malaga in about 1590, Padilla received extensive musical training at the Malaga Cathedral under Francisco Vásquez, the maestro di capilla there. In 1612 Padilla was appointed maestro di capilla at the Jerez Cathedral, where he served for over three years. By the end of his tenure there, or perhaps even earlier, Padilla was ordained a priest, as attested to in documents relating to his next appointment, in 1617, as maestro di capilla at the Cádiz Cathedral.
Padilla left Spain in 1622 for Mexico, probably in an arrangement made by the Church and Spanish monarchy. Upon arrival in Puebla that autumn, he assumed the post of assistant maestro and cantor at the local Cathedral, working under Gaspar Fernandes, whom he would succeed as maestro di capilla seven years later. Although Padilla had apparently written music in Spain, it is his output from Mexico that has survived.
As the maestro at the Puebla Cathedral, Padilla was required to supply sacred music for services there. Many of his most important compositions appeared in the Puebla Choirbook No. 15, which contains masses, hymns, and numerous other sacred works, many of them scored for two choirs.
By 1641 Padilla was also involved in the selling of musical instruments and, in addition, may have served as a teacher at the Colegio de San Pedro and Colegio de San Juan. Although Padilla was generally well paid in his maestro post at the Cathedral, his salary was reduced in 1651, apparently for economic reasons. Eight years later it was restored to earlier levels, but by then the composer had delegated certain of his duties to another musician, Juan García de Zéspedes.
Though Padilla resumed performance of previous duties by the summer of 1660, his health soon began to decline. In the autumn of 1663 sweeping efforts by Cathedral authorities were made to collect and preserve his works. Padilla died in 1664, probably in early spring, as news of his death came on April 22 of that year.