En fiesta tan alegre
A baroque religious feast in Spain.
Matías Durango was born in Falces (Navarra) in 1636. He was the brother of the harpist and singer Juan Durango (1632-1696), who would become chapelmaster of the monastery of El Escorial. Matías Durango was a choirboy in the cathedral of León during the 1640s. He was the disciple of Tomás Micieces (1624-1664), along with fellow disciples Miguel de Irízar (1635-1684), who would become chapelmaster of Segovia, and Pedro Ardanaz (1638- 1704), who would become chapelmaster of Toledo. Around 1660, Durango was in Logroño (La Rioja). This information is known thanks to the examinations that he took at the cathedral of Lérida, whose records refer to Durango as “magister cantus civitatis de Logronyo regni Castella.” More specifically, he was chapelmaster of the parish of Santa María de Palacio. At this time, he was married to María de León and in 1666 had a daughter named María Clara. Durango would later become a widower and be ordained as a priest, although the dates of both of these events are unclear. We do know that by 1688 he was already a priest, since he states it himself during his first attempt at being chapelmaster of the cathedral of Santo Domingo de la Calzada. In 1672, Durango was hired as chapelmaster of the parish of Santa María in Viana (Navarra), near Logroño; a position previously held by Diego de Cáseda y Zaldívar (ca. 1638-1694). Durango was in Viana until September of 1678 when he was hired as chapelmaster of the collegiate of Santa María de la Redonda in Logroño.
Diego de Cáseda also held this position before becoming chapelmaster of the Capilla del Pilar in Zaragoza. Durango remained in Logroño until August of 1686, when he was hired by the cathedral of Palencia as “harpist and tenor.” He had previously tried to change positions, writing a letter in November of 1684 to the council of the cathedral of El Burgo in Osma (Soria), in which he requests to be considered as a candidate for the position of chapelmaster, at the same time offering to “direct the Christmas celebration” of that year. During that same month of 1684, the cathedral of Sigüenza (Guadalajara) received a letter sent from Logroño by Matías Durango, in which he presents himself as a candidate for the position of chapelmaster, a position that was vacant at the time.
Matías Durango remained in the cathedral of Palencia for little more than a year, from August of 1686 to October or November of 1687. His time there coincided with that of Sebastián Durón (1660-1716), who in November of 1686 was hired as organist of the cathedral. It is noteworthy that one of Durango’s surviving villancicos, titled No suspires, Amor, is a three-part version of a Durón villancico in four parts with the same title. In 1687, Durango wrote a letter to the cathedral of Mondoñedo (Lugo), offering himself as a candidate for chapelmaster, although later he would write a second letter excusing himself from the examinations due to the “long distance.” It is possible that Durango left Palencia to be chapelmaster at the collegiate in his birth city, Falces. He held this position until 1695, the year in which he was accepted as chapelmaster of the cathedral of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, the position that he had previously applied for in February of 1688. At that time, the council reported to have been presented a candidate who “claims to be a priest and who is named Fulano Durango.” The council then elected another candidate, Mateo de la Prat Casanova, who occupied the position until the end of December of 1694, when he was released due to “disorder and indecency (…) within the choir” during the Christmas matins. Although at first it was agreed that edicts would be issued for provision of the position, the Council of Santo Domingo de la Calzada decided not to hold examinations in order to decrease costs. They were then notified that Matías Durango, “chapelmaster of the town of Falces”, had written a letter in which he offered himself as chapelmaster. The Council agreed then that, if the reports about Matías Durango’s “abilities and adequacy” were good, they would admit him immediately.
The reports were positive and by March 7, 1695, Durango was already in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. The church records describe the reception of the new chapelmaster in the following manner: “He entered the Council in a choir robe and, kneeling before the president of the council, he swore his oath in the customary fashion, and after having done so, he gave thanks for the favor which he had received.” After having been accepted into the new position, Durango requested eight days in order to “bring his house and his family.” Durango’s time working in Santo Domingo de la Calzada appears to have passed without any major occurrence, being that no noteworthy incidents appear in the church records. Matías Durango died on November 11, 1698 and was buried for free on the 13th of that month for being “a poor priest.”
Almost the entirety of Matías Durango’s works (more than 120) are currently found in the archives of the cathedral of Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Many of these documents appear to have been penned by Durango himself, making them extremely reliable sources. In addition to these works, a small collection of Durango’s works are found in various Spanish and American archives. Several of his works are currently kept in the monastery of El Escorial, possibly because they were sent there by Matías to his brother Juan, who was chapelmaster of the monastery. It is noteworthy that some of his works arrived in Spanish America, such as the villancico Amor obligado, found in the archive of the cathedral of Guatemala, and the villancico Pues mi Dios ha nacido, found in the archive of the cathedral of Bogotá.
The Ars Hispana project, promoted by the Gustavo Bueno Foundation, is currently preparing an edition of the complete works of Matías Durango, having published to this point a volume dedicated to the Villancicos with instruments.