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Josep DE TORRES Y MARTÍNEZ BRAVO (c1670 - 1738): "Complete Organ Music"

Bruno Forst, organ

rec: August 28 - 29, 2009, Elche de la Sierra (Albacete), Iglesia parroquial de Santa Quiteria
Brilliant Classics - 94715 (© 2014) (54'11")
Liner-notes: E/S
Cover & track-list

Batalla; Canción; Fuga; Obra; Obra de 1° tono bajo; Obra de 7° tono bajo; Obra de lleno de 7° tono; Obra de mano derecha; Partido de 2° tono; Partido de 6° tono; Partido de primero alto

Before the 19th century there was no real 'national identity' in music. The whole concept of 'nation' hardly existed. There was much mutual influence between countries and regions across Europe, even though they all had some specific features of their own. There is probably just one part of music life where one can speak about a national identity, and that is in organ building. It is true that some German organ builders were interested in French organs and included some of its features in their own instruments. But that was far away from copying: those organs remained firmly German in character. It is one of the reasons that it is very hard to perform French organ music on German instruments. Likewise the performance of organ music by composers from the Iberian peninsula on organs in France or Germany is nearly impossible. And that greatly contributes to that repertoire being largely unknown outside Spain and Portugal.

Very few people will ever have heard of Josep de Torres y Martínez Bravo. He was born in Madrid around 1670 and was associated with the royal chapel from an early age. Between his seventh and tenth year he attended the royal boys' school and was appointed organist of the royal chapel in 1689. In between he had probably been a pupil of two nephews of the famous organist Pablo Bruna, whereas he was taught in composition by Cristóbal de Galán, director of music of the royal chapel. In 1708 Sebastian Durón had to leave his post as maestro de capilla and Torres was appointed as his temporary replacement; in 1718 he was officially appointed in this position. In 1734 a fire in the old Alcázar of Madrid destroyed the music of the chapel, and it was Torres' task to compose music for the liturgy to replace the lost scores. His vocal music shows the Italian influences which disseminated across Spain.

Torres was also active as a publisher, and in this capacity he printed a number of important treatises, including one of his own. It was the first which explained the basso continuo in Spanish. A plan to publish a translation of the well-known dictionary of Sébastien de Brossard was never fully realised, probably because of Torres' ill health.

This disc includes the complete organ music from his pen. His oeuvre in this department is rather small but of high quality. Spanish composers made full use of the features of Spanish organs. That is also the case here. One of the most prominent features - where the Spanish organs are most different from instruments elsewhere in Europe - is the horizontal placement of reed stops, such as clarins, trompetas reales, dulzainas and cornetas. They come spectacularly into action in the opening piece of the programme, the Batalla, a very popular genre at the time which is inextricably connected to the type of organs built in Spain. It is an example of a piece which can hardly be performed on a non-Spanish organ.

Another feature is the division of every manual into two halves with different registers. This was a tradition inspired by the fact that most Spanish organs in the 16th and 17th centuries had only one manual. This division was a way to allow an organist to play a 'solo' part - for instance the cantus firmus - with (mostly) the right hand, whereas the other hand could play an accompaniment. An example on this disc is Obra de mano derecha. A quite spectacular piece is Obra de 1° tono bajo which has a virtuosic bass part. This is not played at the pedals: this part of Spanish organs was not fully developed - the pedals the organ played here have only two stops of the same colour (contras de 26 y 13). It is rather played with the left hand on the grand organ.

The builder of the organ played here is not known; the booklet doesn't give any indication about the time it was built either. However, it is an historical instrument, and was restored in 2005. It has two manuals and pedal which suggests that it must be from the late 17th or early 18th century. It allows to play echo effects in various pieces.

Bruno Forst is a specialist in Iberian organ music and transcribed the pieces recorded here. He delivers colourful and often outright exciting performances. Torres' organ music is first-rate and Forst does it full justice. The sound engineer has also done a great job. If you like (Spanish) organ music you should not miss this disc.

Johan van Veen (© 2014)

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