Estêvão Lopes Morago (c.1575-c.1630), composer of Spanish birth, studied at the choirboys school in Évora Cathedral, probably with Filipe de Magalhães, in the last decades of the sixteenth century. He was one of the many musicians who studied at the Cathedral and later became chapel masters and musicians in other Portuguese and foreign musical institutions. In the case of Morago, he became chapel master (mestre de capela) of Viseu Cathedral.
Among his surviving works copied in two choirbooks preserved at Viseu Districtal Archive (P-Va) the motet Oculi mei semper ad Dominum is found in the Ms. 3, the so-called Livro da Coresma, which comprises music for Christmas, Lent, Holy Week and the officium defunctorum.
The motet is tonally challenged for its ambiguity, a characteristic also present in the motes of Manuel Cardoso, with the frequent use of the interval of a diminished fourth. It is also a fine example of the expressive musical setting of the Lenten texts, which are full of repent. This is the case of Oculi mei where Morago wrote a central homophonic section with the text “respice in me” (turn Thou to me), repeating the word “respice” at a lower and higher pitch so as to rhetorically emphasise the command and the supplicant tone.
I recorded this motet with Ensemble Eborensis during one of the group’s rehearsals in the Évora Museum (June 4, 2014). This recording follows the edition I prepared for the n.º 8 of the “Polyphonia” series edited by Movimento Patrimonial pela Música Portuguesa is available HERE