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Joan CABANILLES (1644 - 1712): "Keyboard Music, Volume Three"

Timothy Roberts, organab, harpsichordc

rec: August 7, 2004, Banyalbufar, Mallorca, Parroquia católica La Natividad de Maríab; Nov 17, 2015, Fontmell Magna (Dorset, UK), workshop of Michael Johnsonc; May 30 - 31, 2017, Vila-real (Castellón/Valencia), Església de Sant Jaumea
Toccata - TOCC 0451 (© 2019) (70'55")
Liner-notes: E
Cover, track-list & booklet

Diferencias de Folías de 1° tonoc; Tiento No. 26 lleno, de 1° tono (WSC 110)c; Tiento No. 30 lleno, de 1° tono (WSC 116)b Tiento No. 40 partido de mano izquierda, de 3° tonoa; Tiento No. 57 de 1° tono 'a modo de Italia' (WSC 101)a; Tiento No. 59 partido de dos tiples, de 2° tono por G sol (WSC 9)a; Tiento No. 81 partido de dos tiples, de 4° tono (WSC 7)b; Tiento No. 89 partido de mano derecha de batalla, de 8° tono (WSC 32)a; Tiento No. 107 partido de mano derecha, de 6° tono (WSC 150)a; Versos de 1° tono (Nos. 42, 43, 45-53, 57 de Contras)a

Spanish music has a special place in the organ repertoire. Its peculiar style and the specific timbre of the organs for which it was written, makes it rather difficult to be performed on organs outside the Iberian peninsula. This inevitably has led to this repertoire being less well-known than that of other countries.

The heydays of Spanish organ music were in the late 17th century, and this was mainly due to Joan Cabanilles. He was born and died in Valencia, where he was unanimously appointed second organist of the Cathedral in 1665, only to become first organist just one year later. He held this position until his death. His fame is reflected by the wide dissemination of his organ compositions, which were still copied in the mid-18th century. His organ music consists of about 200 pieces and about 1000 versos for the alternatim practice in the liturgy. Although he is better known in our time than most Spanish organ composers, a large part of his output waits to be discovered, in part because to date not all of his compositions are available in modern editions. The present disc is the third in a project concerning the recording of his complete output by the British keyboard player and early music specialist Timothy Roberts.

In Cabanilles' oeuvre we find the genres common in Spanish organ music. One of the most popular genres was that of the tiento, a piece dominated by counterpoint and comparable with the fantasia or ricercare. A particular kind of tiento is the the tiento partido, which means that the manual is split and one of the hands plays a solo, whereas the other hand delivers an accompaniment. It is mostly the right hand which is given a solo role, such as the Tientos No. 89 and 107 included here. In the Tiento No. 40 it is the other way around: the solo part is played by the left hand, whereas the right hand plays an accompanying role. However, the 'accompaniment' can be different from one tiento to the other. In some the accompaniment is more elaborated than in others.

This disc includes three tientos of a particular character. The Tiento No. 89 is an example of a batalla, a genre which was very popular at the time. It has the characteristic frequent repetition of notes, which one encounters in all battaglias of the baroque era. The Tientos Nos. 59 and 81. have two solo parts in the right hand. These pieces are brilliant specimens of imitative counterpoint: the two solo parts imitate each other, and are then imitated in the left hand. The latter of the two is quite spicy, thanks to the meantone temperament of the organ.

The programme opens with a tiento "in Italian style". However, Andrés Cea Galán, in his liner-notes, states that there is little that specifically reminds of what was common in Italy, although he notes some similarity with the corrente. The title does not mention it, but it is again a piece with a solo part for the right hand. As I noted, battaglias were quite popular at the time, not only in Spain, but across Europe. The same goes for the Folia, one of the ostinato schemes frequently used for variations. It is one of the pieces played here at the harpsichord. In the booklet, Timothy Roberts refers to a scholar who stated that Cabanilles did not compose for the harpsichord. However, "we cannot know whether Cabanilles used his domestic instruments for anything other than private practice; more widely, his work was transmitted in musical circles that traditionally regarded organ, harpsichord and clavichord repertoire as often interchangeable." That seems quite plausible, and I also find it hard to imagine such a piece being played at the organ. Whereas it seems likely that tientos were played as part of the liturgy or as a prelude or postlude to a service, I can't see any function for a piece like this. On the harpsichord it sounds quite natural.

The twelve Versos de primero tono represent purely liturgical music. These were played in alternation with plainchant or polyphony during mass. In a way it is regrettable that no attempt has been made to perform them within a liturgical framework. Individually, they make little sense. It was a good idea to play a number of them as a sequence. Especially the last one is notable for its harmonic progressions.

I was impressed by the performances at the first two volumes, and I am again very happy with what we get here. Timothy Roberts has studied this repertoire thoroughly, and is an excellent guide in this rather unknown territory. He has the assistance of three excellent instruments, which through pitch and temperament are perfectly suited to do justice to Cabanilles' art. No organ lover should miss this disc, and those who have the previous volumes undoubtedly have looked forward to this sequel. I hope that we will see the fourth volume very soon.

Johan van Veen (© 2020)

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