Francisco Guerau

(ca. 1659 - ?)

Spanish composer. Francisco Guerau was probably born in Majorca in 1659, and he received his musical education at the Royal College for the Little Singers in Madrid which he joined at the age of ten. This institution, like many others in Europe at that time, brought together gifted children to be taught singing and music, taking charge of their education with the help of a subsidy.

The post of "Master of the Little Singers" which Guerau held much later, in 1694, was far from easy. While the clothing, board, lodging and discipline within the College was the responsibility of the Rector, the Master had to teach the children plainchant and, gradually, "canto de órgano" (polyphony), to improve their voices, to put on works and finally of course to make "these little angels" sing in the sometimes interminable religious services. This was certainly not easy, either for the Master or indeed for the children.

But Francisco Guerau must have been a good pupil, a pupil "de provecho" (profitable). After his voice broke, the critical moment for boys, he was still able to sing as an alto, “with a very fine voice". We can suppose that, despite the celibacy of priests and the "tranquil" nature which certain later documents attribute to him -- he was not artificially castrated. And he continued to be in the royal service, as Singer to the Chapel, then as composer to the Royal Chamber, and by 1694, as Master of the College where he had received his training.

Guerau’s works are very different from those of Gaspar Sanz, ten years his senior, as was his education, hisz life and no doubt his personality. Guerau, with his attachment to the Royal Chapel clearly had a constant contact with vocal polyphony, traditionally the ever-present basis of the Catholic liturgy in Spain. Sanz, on the other hand, was a guitarist who had been educated in Italy, and was much more “modern.”


A Partial Francisco Guerau Discography   |   VIIH: Music in Iberia, New Spain and Colonial America