Pisador, Diego

Active 1526-1557

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Person Born Died Gender Person ID
Diego Pisador Salamanca 1509c M P0099

Instrument(s) Professional group Social status Social sphere Why is the person listed?
vihuela Government (municipal) Bourgeoisie Urban Vihuelist & Composer Instrumentalist & composer (plucked)

Years active Place active Century Region
1526-1557 Salamanca 16cent/2/mid Castilla
Biographical information

Diego Pisador is one of the principal vihuelist composers of the sixteenth century, author of of Libro de música de vihuela (Salamanca, 1552). He appears to have been a native of Salamanca and to have spent his entire life there. Important information about the printing of his book was published by Narciso Alonso Cortés (Alonso Cortés 1921) that relate the family dispute that resulted from Diego’s desire to publish a book of tablature. Since then, only small amounts of new information have emerged to give greater depth. It is now clear that he engaged Lyonnaise printer Guillermo de Millis to assist him to print his music using type borrowed or hired from the Fernández de Córdoba printers in Valladolid. It also appears likely that there was a close connection between the Pisador family and the Archbishop of Santiago, Alonso III de Fonseca, and this was possibly the avenue that gave Pisador access to music from Salamanca cathedral to use as the sources of his intabulations, but these hypotheses have not yet been proven. Pisador’s music has been assessed extensively. His book has numerous typographical errors, his original compositions show his weakness in writing intelliglble counterpoint, and he is renowned for having intabultaed six complete masses by Josquin. Ward 1953, Roa & Gertrudix 2002 and the articles by Griffiths in DMEH, MGG and New Grove give the best biographical coverage.

The following is a list of documentary evidence concerning Pisador:
1508 — Alonso Pisador, notary in the office of archbishop Fonseca, married Isabel Ortiz (†1550), possibly a “niece” of the archbishop, in Salamanca. They lived in their own home and Alonso came to purchase several further properties.
1509.0.05 Dowry of Isabel Ortiz.
1509-1510 — Birht of Diego Pisador. A document of 1553 cites him as about 44 years old. His younger two siblings were Alonso and Francisca (†1550).
1526 — Diego took minor orders but did not pursue an ecclesiastical career. He did not marry.
1532-1551 — Alonso Pisador (father) moved to Galicia where he served as “contador y justicia del estado” of the Count of Monterrey (an illegitimate son of archbishop Fonseca). Diego remained in Salamanca as administrator of the family estate, collecting rents to maintain the properties and support his mother, himself and his younger brother. His sister had married Francisco Ortiz and lived in Avila. During this time, in the name of his father, Diego was a mayordomo of the city of Salamanca.
1550.05.18 — granting of licence for the printing of his Libro de música (reproduced in the book). He claims that the compilation of the book took 15 years
1550.09 Isabel Ortiz dies leaving Diego “en tercio y quinto” of her estate.
1550-1557 A series of family disputes between Diego, his father and brother. The father initially sides with Diego, then changes his allegiance. Alonso Pisador (father) expresses his desire for Diego to sell his vihuela book to a printer rather than pursing its publication himself.
No documents later than December 1557 are known.

Further notes
• Prat 1934, without reference, claims that Pisador "como músico alcanzó notoria fama y como ejecutante fue el animador de las fiestas musicales de la corte del rey Felipe II, que lo retuvo a su lado para ser su discípulo en aquel instrumento". This has not been substantiated
• Bermudo 1555 (fol. 100v) alludes to a vihuela book which I suspect maybe a reference to Pisador: "El músico que entiendiere las vihuelas que yo pintare, y quisiere specular los libros de cifras… verían la Música que algunas llevan, indigna de nombre de música. Digo verdad, que contrapunto de tañedor de vihuela (y no de los malafamados) puesto en cifras, he sacado en punto: que se ha reido entre cantores no poco. Y porque no tengo oficio para decir mal: callo el nombre del tal tañedor."
• Ruíz Fidalago 1994 has shown that the vihuela book was printed by Guillermo de Millis in Salamanca with type rented from Francisco Fernández de Córdoba.
• roa&gertrudixP argue (without definite proof) that Isabel Ortiz was the daugther of Beatriz Álvarez and Alonso III de Fonseca, archbishop of Santiago, probably on the basis of the dowry document.
See: (consulted 22/03/2009)

Related persons
Alonso III de Fonseca y Acevedo was his grandfather?
Alonso Pisador was his father
Alonso (II) Pisador was his brother
Isabel Ortiz was his mother

Source documents
Date Document
1552 Diego Pisador, Libro de Musica de Vihuela.
1509.01.05 Isabel Ortiz, dowry to marry Alonso Pisador
1550.10.13 Alonso Pisador, letter to Diego Pisador
1550 Alonso Pisador, declaration in the Pleito between his sons Alonso and Diego
1550 Diego Pisador, testimony against his father and brother
1553.08.12 Diego Pisador is paid the money left to him by his mother
1553.02.02 Diego to be restituted with his mother’s estate
1557.08.19 Alonso Pisador seeks from Diego Pisador restitution of an annuity
1557.12.14 Diego Pisador obligated to restitue money to Alonso Pisador

Ref Author Item Pages
pisador1552 Pisador Diego. Libro de Musica de Vihuela. Salamanca: the author, 1552.
saldoniD Saldoni, Baltasar. Diccionario Biográfico-Bibliográfico de efemérides de músicos españoles. 4 vols. Madrid: Antonio Pérez Dubrull, 1868-81; reimp. ed Jacinto Torres, Madrid: Centro de Documentación Musical, Ministerio de Cultura, 1986. IV/255
morphyL Morphy, Guillermo. Les Luthistes espagnols du XVIe Siècle. 2 vols. Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1902; rpt New York: Broude Brothers, 1967.
pedrell1918 Pedrell, Felipe. Cancionero Popular Musical Español. 4 vols. Valls: E. Castells, 1918-1922. 3rd edn: Barcelona: Boileau, 1958. III
alonsocortes1921 Alonso Cortés, Narciso. “Diego Pisador: algunos datos biográficos”. Boletín de la Biblioteca Menéndez y Pelayo 3 (1921): 331-335.
pratD Prat, Domingo. Diccionario biográfico- bibliográfico- histórico- crítico de guitarras (instrumentos afines), guitarristas (profesores - compositores - concertistas - lahudistas - amateurs), guitarreros (luthiers), danzas y cantos, terminología. Buenos Aires: Romero y Fernández, 1934; rpt Columbus OH: Editions Orphée, 1986.
ward1953 Ward, John M. “The ‘Vihuela de mano’ and its Music, 1536-1576”. Diss., New York University, 1953. 385-388
honeggerPISA Honegger, Marc. “Les messes de Josquin des Pres dans la tablature de Diego Pisador (Salamanque, 1552). Contribution a l'etude des alterations au XVIe siecle.” Diss. U. Paris, 1970. 2v.
honegger1973 Honegger Marc “La tablature de Diego Pisador et le problème des altérations au XVIe siècle”, Revue de Musicologie 59 (1973): 38-59; 59 (1973): 191-230; 60 (1974): 3-32.
casares1986 Barbieri, Francisco Asenjo. Biografias y documentos sobre música y músicos españoles. Legado Barbieri, vol 1. Ed. Emilio Casares. Madrid: Fundación Banco Exterior, 1986. 521
pisadorMGG Griffiths, John. “Pisador, Diego”. Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. 2nd edition, ed L. Finscher. Personenteil, 13. Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1994-. 627-628.
pisadorDMEH Griffiths, John. “Pisador, Diego”. Diccionario de la música española e hispanoamericana. Ed. Emilio Casares Rodicio. Madrid: Sociedad General de Autores y Editores, 1999-2002. Vol. 8, 827-29.
roa&gertrudix1994 Roa Alonso, Francisco and Felipe Gértrudix Barrio. “Diego Pisador: Libro de Música de vihuela”. Thesis. Real Conservatorio Superior de Madrid, 1994.
pisador2002 Roa Alonso, Francisco and Felipe Gértrudix . El libro de música de vihuela de Diego Pisador (1552). 3 vols. Madrid: Editorial Pygmalión, 2002.
hutchinsonP Hutchinson, Loving. The Vihuela Music of Diego Pisador. Unpublished Dissertation. (M.A.). Eastman School of Music, 1937.
ruizfidalgo Ruiz Fidalgo, Lorenzo. La imprenta en Salamanca (1501-1600). Madrid: Arco Libros, 1994.
antonio1672 Antonio, Nicolás. Biblioteca Hispana Nova. 2 vols. Roma: Nicolai Angeli Tinasii, 1672.
baker1958 Baker, Theodore. Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians. 5th edn revised by N. Slonimsky. New York: Schirmer, 1958.