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Alfonso X (el Sabio)

November 23, 1221 - April 4, 1284
born in Toledo, Spain, composed during the Medieval period
Alfonso X, the thirteenth century Spanish King of Castile and León, has been called a Renaissance man before the Renaissance. As a warrior prince, he led fierce Spanish armies against the Moorish occupation. As a politician on the European stage, he contended for the crown of the Holy Roman Empire. At the same time, he made his court a multicultural haven for artists, scientists, and musicians -- Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike. The king himself composed poetry and learned treatises, and left an enduring cultural legacy that continues to this day.

Alfonso achieved the unified throne of Castile and León in 1252 upon the death of his father, Fernando III "the Saintly." He immediately embarked upon an ambitious program of military and political campaigns that would last throughout the 30 years of his reign. By the end of his life, his contemporaries were disillusioned by his ambition; modern historians have repeated their accusation that he dealt too harshly with his own family members and risked the political stability of the entire realm. However, he unquestionably fostered within the Spanish court a cultural and intellectual renaissance. His sobriquet "el Sabio" means both the Learned and the Wise, reflecting Alfonso's support of both learning and the wisdom that results from it. Alfonso was the first king to codify the Castilian language in both written and spoken courtly records; he himself composed a history of the world in that language, as well as codes of law and treatises on astronomy. For lyric poetry, Alfonso favored Galician-Portuguese. Both that language and his court's poetry are related to the Provençal lyrics of the Troubadors, many of whom took refuge in Alfonso's court during the Albigensian Crusade. Alfonso was buried in Seville Cathedral. His will bequeathed the Cantigas de Santa Maria to the Cathedral for singing on Marian feasts; this custom still takes place in the twenty-first century.

The Cantigas represent Alfonso's most enduring cultural contribution. Four sumptuous manuscripts preserve a collection of over 400 Gallician songs to the Virgin Mary compiled in Alfonso's court between 1250 and 1280. Most of the Cantigas relate miracles the Virgin performed for Compostela pilgrims; every tenth poem lauds her outright. Alfonso himself probably wrote a number of the elegant poems. The manuscript illuminations preserve his physical portrait for posterity, and also document the vibrant musical life of his court: its images record some 40 different musical instruments played by nobles and commoners, women, Jews, and Muslims. ~ Timothy Dickey, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

True Prince...mul t i c u l t u r a l Court & Cantigas Composer.
dredning
Brilliant music...and overall contribution to the arts.
cmaure09
Absolutely gorgeous! I knew some of the cantigas, but these are new to me.
Bravo
Perfectly brilliant music!
I too was very surprised by the dates associated with the composer. Well ahead of his time. His music sounds very modern, and yet just as relaxing as Bach.
Was very surprised to see the date associated with such well composed and passionate music.
In many ways a man ahead of his time. Among the laws he set down: Since synagogues are houses where God is worshiped, they shall not be vandalized, nor shall theft therefrom be permitted. Few other places in Christendom at that time could say the same, at least on paper.
softmedia199 4
Really like the Cantigas by this composer previously unknown to me, very exciting. He's not exactly in the baroque period, but I'm glad they put him in.
Alfonso X really knew how to get it on. One heavy dude!

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