Bermudo's masters and models of excellence for keyboard players in sixteenth-century Spain

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Bermudo's Declaración, published in 1555, is one of the most important testimonies to teaching methods for keyboard players in mid-sixteenth-century Spain. Besides learning from the best teachers and players, Bermudo considered that becoming acquainted with vocal polyphony was a sine qua non for instrumentalists. The rigour demanded of him ensured that students would get to know large quantities of both national and imported polyphonic repertories by playing them on the keyboard. His explanation of a system of scoring-up and intabulating this music («poner obras») provides considerable insight into this didactic process. Emphasis throughout is on learning to play and understand the music of the great Franco-Flemish masters such as Josquin, Gombert and others, besides that of Morales and other Spanish composers. It is clear that Bermudo had access to a large number of collections of masses and motets that included the early prints of Antico, Petrucci, later Italian collections, and the mass books of Morales, a number of which are revealed in his work. His knowledge of mensural music (canto de órgano) was also obtained from the profound study of copious treatises, including the works of Gaffurius and Glarean. In addition, he gives the names of famous keyboard players of the time whom he saw as «excellent» masters. This study concludes with a survey of repertories in the two main surviving keyboard collections-Venegas de Henestrosa's Libro de cifra nueva (1557) and Cabezón's Obras de música (1578), both of which provide ample evidence of how vocal polyphony was intabulated and rearranged for keyboard performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-115
Number of pages39
JournalRevista de Musicologia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Instrumental teaching
  • Intabulation
  • Juan Bermudo
  • Keyboard music
  • Music printing
  • Polyphony
  • Tablature


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