Juan del Encina

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Juan del Encina

Juan del Encina (1468-1529?) is called the father of Spanish drama. He was also the foremost Spanish musical composer of his time.

The original name of Juan del Encina was Fermoselle, but he adopted the name of his probable birthplace, a small village in the province of Salamanca. In all likelihood Encina studied at the University of Salamanca under Antonio de Nebrija, the foremost Spanish humanist of his time. He then entered the service of the Duke of Alba, in whose palace of Alba de Tormes he discharged the multiple functions of playwright, poet, composer, and musician for 7 years. Encina published his Cancionero (a collection of plays and villancicos, or polyphonic songs) in Salamanca in 1496; other works were added to this collection in later editions.

Encina went to Rome in 1498, where he entered the papal chapel and eventually became singer to Leo X. During this time Encina continued to write plays. While in Rome he obtained several ecclesiastical benefices in Spain, and in 1510 and 1513 he was in Málaga as archdeacon and canon. He had obtained, however, papal dispensation to collect his benefices without discharging his duties.

In 1519, aged 50, Encina took holy orders and went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, which he described in his poem La Trivagia. He celebrated his first Mass in Jerusalem. Encina returned to Spain as prior of León, where he resided from 1523 until his death.

As a poet, Encina was most successful in brief, lyrical pieces, which he set to music himself; his romances were also more lyrical than narrative. His great popularity as a composer is attested to by the fact that 61 of his villancicos were collected in the Cancionero musical de Palacio (ca. 1500). As a playwright, Encina brought to their final development the theatrical forms derived from medieval liturgical drama. He inaugurated Renaissance drama in Spain. His early dramas (such as Egloga de las grandes lluvias) were Nativity plays, with rustic shepherds as protagonists. His later plays (such as Egloga de Plácida y Vitoriano) were Italianate in spirit, much longer, and complicated in form. His shepherds were now of classical inspiration. The joy of life he sang about in his later plays was almost neopagan in its exuberance.

Further Reading

The best interpretation in English of the literary works of Encina is James R. Andrews, Juan del Encina: Prometheus in Search of Prestige (1959). A good appreciation of his musical works is in Gilbert Chase, The Music of Spain (1941), and Gustave Reese, Music in the Renaissance (1959). The early chapters in N. D. Shergold, A History of the Spanish Stage: From Medieval Times until the End of the Seventeenth Century (1967), contain valuable background information. □

Encina, Juan del

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Encina, Juan del

Encina, Juan del, Spanish poet, dramatist, and composer; b. Salamanca, July 12, 1468; d. Leon, late 1529 or 1530. He was the son of a shoemaker of Salamanca named Juan de Fermoselle. He became a chorister at Salamanca Cathedral, and studied music under his elder brother, Diego de Fermoselle, and under Fernando de Torrijos. He took his degree in law at Salamanca Univ., where he enjoyed the favor of the chancellor, Don Gutiérrez de Toledo. In 1492 he entered the household of the 2nd Duke of Alba, for whom he wrote a series of pastoral eclogues that form the foundation of the Spanish secular drama. These eclogues included “villancicos,” or rustic songs, for which Encina composed the music. He went to Rome in 1500, and on May 12, 1500 he was appointed canon at the Cathedral of Salamanca. From Feb. 2, 1510 until 1512 he was archdeacon and canon of Malaga. On May 2, 1512, he again went to Rome, where his Farsa de Plácida e Vittoriano was performed in the presence of Pope Julius II on Jan. 11, 1513. In 1517, he was “subcollector of revenues to the Apostolic Chamber.” In 1519 he was appointed prior of Leon, and that same year made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he was ordained a priest. He described his sacred pilgrimage in Tribagia o Via Sacra de Hierusalem (Rome, 1521). After the death of Pope Leo X in 1521, Encina returned to Spain and spent his last years as prior at Leon. Besides being a leading figure in the development of the Spanish drama, Encina was the most important Spanish composer of the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella. He cultivated with notable artistry a type of part-song akin to the Italian “frottola,” setting his own poems to music. Some 62 works are found in H. Angles, ed., La música en la corte de los Reyes Catolicos: Cancionero de Palacio, in Monumentos de la Musica Espanola, V, X, and XIV (1947–65). Another modern ed. was publ. by C. Terni, Juan del Encina: L’opera musicale (Florence, 1974 et seq.).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

Encina, Juan del

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Encina, Juan del [ Juan del Enzina] (b Salamanca, 1468; d Léon, c.1530). Sp. composer and poet. Chorister, Salamanca Cath. Served 2nd Duke of Alba, 1492–8, then worked in Rome. Archdeacon of Málaga 1510–12, in Rome 1512–19, then prior of Léon from 1519. Wrote several eclogues (pastoral plays) and a large number of songs for 3 or 4 vv. His Cancionero, 1495, was an anthology of plays and poems.