Juan [de] Esquivel Barahona was the most prominent of the last generation of Spanish church composers of the Renaissance era. Although he never served in one of the major Spanish cathedrals, his music was known throughout Spain during the early seventeenth century.
He began service as a choirboy in the cathedral in 1568 and, according to choir chaplain Antonio Sánchez Cabañas, he was a student of Juan Navarro, the cathedral's choirmaster during Esquivel's youth. Esquivel's first position as maestro de capilla came in 1581, when he was named to the post inOviedo, the capital of the province of Asturias in Northern Spain. He left that position in 1585 and took a similar position in the Riojan city of Calahorra. In 1591 he returned to Ciudad Rodrigo as choirmaster, where he remained until his death.
His principal influences were Cristóbal de Morales and Francisco Guerrero, although some influence of his teacher, Navarro is sometimes evident. Esquivel's appreciation of Guerrero is apparent in his use the older master's motets as sources for parody masses. Esquivel, however, was never reluctant to set a text for which a previous composer had gained some fame.
Esquivel's polyphonic style is characterized by a succinctness in his melodic subjects, an occasional use of noncadential chromaticism and the parallel motion between voices. His music has some similarity to Portuguese polyphony of his time.