Oakeley, Sir Herbert (Stanley)

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Orejón y Aparicio, José de

(b Huacho, 1706; d Lima, between 7 and 21 May 1765). Peruvian composer and organist. The son of Esteban de Orejón and Victoria de Aparicio y Velasco, he showed such precocity that at the age of nine he was considered suitable to succeed an adult singer at Lima Cathedral who had died. On 2 December 1715 the Archbishop of Lima fixed his yearly salary until he ‘lost his voice’ at 100 pesos. In 1724 Orejón was still on the cathedral payroll, but as a ‘contraalto’ instead of a ‘tiple’. Probably Orejón studied with Tomás de Torrejón y Velasco, the Spanish-born director of music at Lima Cathedral, who was in office until 1728; he studied the organ with Juan de Peralta, the Lima Cathedral chief organist who died in 1725. But for his youth, Orejón might have been Peralta's successor; he served briefly as ‘interim’ organist, but the assistant organist Joseph de la Madre de Dios was appointed.

In 1728 Roque Ceruti, a native of Milan who had spent two decades in Peru, became maestro de capilla at Lima; an admirer of Corelli and contemporary Italians, Ceruti freshened the cathedral repertory with his brilliant violinistic music and imposed Italian taste on the younger cathedral personnel. In 1730 Orejón applied for an appointment outside Lima Cathedral, as sacristán mayor of the church at nearby Pisco, for which he was now eligible as he had just been ordained to the priesthood; but he was unsuccessful. However, the post of chief organist at Lima fell vacant in 1742 and no one ventured to compete with Orejón ‘because of his known superior ability’; the chapter tested him alone and on 9 October declared him elected. In response to his applications for salary increases, his starting salary of 500 pesos was raised to 550 in 1745 and to 630 ‘with the archbishop's consent’ in 1754. The cathedral canons particularly praised him for ‘his punctuality and for the great amount of work’ involved in playing cathedral services twice daily, morning and evening. In that same year his name appears for the first time prefaced with licenciado, indicating that he had received the licentiate degree from the University of S Marcos at Lima.

On Ceruti's death, Orejón was nominated maestro de capilla on 8 December 1760, while continuing as organist; shortage of funds because of rebuilding after the 1746 earthquake delayed his titular appointment (involving higher salary) until 9 April 1764. He did not live long to enjoy the fruits: he dictated his will on 24 September 1764 from the infirmary of the S Francisco monastery, but was unable to sign it ‘because of the severity of his accident’. The organist position was declared vacant ‘on account of the death of the licentiate Don Joseph de Aparicio’ on 21 May 1765.

His unprecedented talent gained him acclaim in print as early as 1736 (in P.J. Bermúdez de la Torre's Triunfos del Santo Oficio) and such favour from an archbishop as no previous cathedral organist had enjoyed; and after his death praise continued to be lavished on him. The Mercurio peruano of 16 February 1792 contained Toribio del Campo y Pando’s tribute:

My beloved Aparicio came back to the path from which Ceruti had strayed when he again emphasized melodic line. He exceeded all others, particularly in church music. Several of his hymns are still sung, various masses, psalms, and a canticle to the Sacrament beginning, ‘I adore Thee, Mystery Incomprehensible’. Until we heard the works of Terradellas and the immortal Pergolesi, none could compare with Aparicio.

That judgment can be verified by the study of his surviving works in the Lima archiepiscopal archive (subject to depredations in the late 1900s). The most ambitious is a Good Friday Passion composed for triple chorus with orchestra in 1750 (arranged for double chorus in 1810 by Melchor Tapia, cathedral organist). Among the other 18 extant items is a tenderly elegiac solo cantata ‘al SS Sacramento’ in E minor which, though not beginning with the same words as the cántico mentioned in the Mercurio peruano eulogy, displays as rare a melodic gift as any item in the Latin American colonial repertory. In the normal Baroque manner, it begins with a recitative accompanied by continuo, but then follows a grand da capo aria during which two violins weave in as moving a discourse against the solo voice as the violins in the ‘Et misericordia’ of Bach's Magnificat. Such works as this, or as his Copacabana duo A del dia, or his sacrament duos Enigma divino and Gilguerillo sonoro, bespeak the unique gifts that kept his music in the repertory for a half-century after his death.

Though in his lifetime his music seems not to have circulated in Spain, it was known and sung at least as far away as Sucre (Bolivia): in the archive of La Plata Cathedral (music now transferred to Archivo Nacional at Sucre) there survived as late as 1966 several concerted pieces showing how frequently his poignant bittersweet, mostly minor-key, music was in demand during the twilight years of the colonial regime.


written in honour of the Blessed Sacrament, unless otherwise stated

Lima, Archivo Arzobispal: A del dia, Our Lady of Copacabana, 2 S, 2 vn, bc; A la mesa zagales, SSAT, 2 vn, org; A mecer de un Dios la cuna, SSST, 2 vn, bc; Contrapunto a 4º, Immaculate Conception BVM, SSAB [Hexachord cantus firmus]; Despertad canoras avecillas, SSAT, 2 vn, bc; De aquel globo, SSAT, 2 vn, bc; Dolores y gozos, TTB; En el dya festivo, Immaculate Conception BVM, SSAT, 2 vn, bc; Enigma divino, 2 S, 2 vn, bc; Gilguerillo sonoro, 2 S, 2 vn, bc; Ha dela esfera de Apolo, 2 S, 2 vn, bc; Ha del gozo, BVM, 2 S, 2 vn, bc; Ha del mundo, 2 S, 2 vn, tpt, bc; Ha del safir del mundo, BVM, ST, inc.; Lit, BVM, SSAT, TB, org; Mariposa de sus rayos, S, 2 vn, bc; Passion for Good Friday, double chorus, orch; Por besar de este fenis, SST, 2 vn, bc; Terrible dolor y espanto, St Joseph, 2 S, bc; Tres razionales, BVM, SAT, 2 vn, bc

Sucre, La Plata Cathedral (1966): Al resplandor de esa esfera, 2 S, 2 vn, bc; Cordero sagrado que estas entre nieve, 2 S, 2 vn, bc; Ha del mar, SSAT, 2 vn, org, bc; Luminosas esferas, BVM, SSAT, 2 vn, bc



R. Stevenson: The Music of Peru: Aboriginal and Viceroyal Epochs (Washington DC, 1960), 79, 85ff, 192

A. Sas: ‘Notas sobre José de Orejón y Aparicio, músico peruano del siglo XVIII’, Revista peruana de cultura, no.5 (1965), 116

C. García Muñoz: disc notes, Música de la Catedral de Lima, Qualiton SQ1 4068 (1975)

R. Stevenson: disc notes, Latin American Musical Treasures from the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries, Eldorado 2 (1977)

G. Béhague: La música en América latina (una introducción) (Caracas, 1983), 73–81 [incl. excerpts from Good Friday Passion]

R. Stevenson: disc notes, Salve Regina, Eldorado 5 (1985)

J.C. Estenssoro: Música y sociedad coloniales (Lima, 1989), 36–7, 112, 115, 118, 121


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