Cristóbal de Morales has frequently been described in the modern literature as a composer of the central-European tradition. On the basis of a selection of motets composed predominantly by Sevillian composers, this dissertation investigates Morales' stylistic relationship to Spanish sacred music in general and selected composers in particular.
The question is considered from four different perspectives, namely, how the Spanish style has been defined in the modern musicological literature and how this definition is supported by historical evidence; how Renaissance polyphony and music theory have been interpreted in the light of recent scholarship; to what extent Spanish music theory written contemporaneously to the music provides evidence of compositional practice; and how stylistic characteristics of the earliest pieces in the selection are reflected and developed in Morales' work.
The dissertation concludes that many modern assertions about the Spanish style cannot be maintained on the basis of historical or stylistic evidence. Spanish sacred music, in particular that of the early sixteenth century, shows many idiosyncrasies, but it does not differ essentially from central-European music. Some compositions by Morales -- presumably early works -- clearly relate stylistically to older Spanish composers. Motets written in emulation of compositions by Escobar and Penalosa provide circumstantial evidence that Morales was indeed trained at Seville Cathedral and may have had these two composers among his teachers or, at least, was familiar with their work. Morales was, however, an extremely versatile composer who defies an easy categorization. Thus the works included in the selection range from simple devotional motets with Spanish characteristics to complex compositions in the pan-European style of the mid-sixteenth century.