UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Politics and foreign influence in the development of Spanish court theatrical music with a study of composer Sebastian Duron (1660-1716) Acuna, Maria Virgina


The composer Sebastián Durón (1660–1716), who lived in a period of political and cultural transition spanning two antagonistic monarchic dynasties, was one of the most controversial musical figures of his time. Early in his career as a musician at the court of Charles II (1665-1700), the last Spanish Habsburg, he wrote theatrical music in the style established before him during the reign of Philip IV (1621-65). However, later during the reign of Philip V (1700-46), the first Spanish Bourbon, Durón composed theatrical music influenced by the new foreign musical idioms introduced in Madrid. Commentators have always taken into account politics and foreign influence when interpreting the theatrical music of the baroque period judging that the music by later musicians under foreign influence represents a decline and a loss of national music identity. In addition, the controversial concept of the Spanish political-economic decline has found its way into music historiography. It is perhaps for this reason that Durón’s music is treated rather obscurely as having arisen during a transitional period, both politically and musically. Two other factors contributing to the marginal status of Durón in the history of music are that little of his music has been published, and Spanish music as a whole has received relatively little attention from North American musicologists. The aim of this study is to examine the development of theatrical music in Madrid during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries acknowledging Sebastián Durón’s important contribution to the genre. Three works, each representing a different period in the life of the composer as well as a different political period in Spain, will be analyzed. I will argue that the idea of decline mentioned in connection with politics and economy cannot be applied in all fields. On the contrary, the political turmoil of the time paradoxically contributed to the development of theatrical music in the hands of Durón. By assimilating foreign musical elements and developing the Spanish manner, Durón achieved an unprecedented synthesis of diverse textures, forms, and musical style that epitomize the pinnacle in Spanish theatrical music of the baroque period.

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