Manuel Cardoso

Manuel Cardoso


• 1566 1650


Portuguese composer Manuel Cardoso was born in the town of Fronteira, near Portalegre. At age eight or nine, he entered the choir school of Evora Cathedral, where he studied music and grammar. One of his teachers there was the respected composer Manuel Mendes. How long Cardoso stayed in school is unknown, but he entered the Carmelite Convent in Lisbon on July 1, 1688, taking his vow a year later. Cardoso remained a monk for the rest of his life, which is why his name often has Frei (brother) affixed to it. His great fame in Portugal as a musician was matched by a legendary piety. He became maestre di cappella at his Convent and was highly respected by King Joao IV, so much so that Joao had a portrait of the composer hanging in his library. As a sign of the mutual nature of their respect, Cardoso granted Joao the dedication of his first book of masses, in 1625, before the latter had even become king. Cardoso subsequently dedicated his second book of masses to Joao also, as well as the last volume he was to publish in his life, a selection of motets for various feasts, in 1648. The second book of masses was in fact composed on themes provided by Joao. Little else is known of Cardoso's life; he traveled to Madrid in 1631 and received an extraordinarily warm welcome there. He was eminent in his own time and country. Although most of his work seems to have been lost in the Lisbon earthquake and fires of 1755, what survives is of the highest quality. The relative cultural isolation of Portugal allowed Cardoso to continue developing the Palestrinian style of sacred music long after composers in Italy, France, and the lowlands had gone on to other things. To that basic template, he adds the gorgeously expressive harmonic language of a genuine mystic and a greater rhythmic variety.