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"Tientos y Glosas - Iberian Organ & Choral Music from the Golden Age"

Martin Neu, organ
ensemble officium (Wilfried Rombach)a

rec: May 31 - June 2, 2014, Córdoba, San Hipólito & Oct 1, 2014, Mössingen, St Peter und Paula (chant)
audite - 97.713 (© 2015) (54'48")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover & track-list
Scores Coelho
Scores Correa de Arauxo

Manuel Rodrigues COELHO (1555-1635): Ave maris stellaa [1]; 5 Versos de Kyrie do 1. Toma [1]; Francisco CORREA DE ARAUXO (1584-1654): Tercero tiento de quarto tono [2]; Tiento de medio registro de tiple de octavo tono [2]; Tiento tercero de sexto tono sobre la primera parte de la Batalla de Morales [2]; Tiento y Discurso de medio registro de dos baxones de octavo tono [2]; Tres glosas sobre el Canto llano de Immaculada Concepcióna [2]; Diego XARABA (1652-1715) (attr): Tiento lleno segundo tono

Sources: [1] Manuel Rodrigues Coelho, Flores de musica, 1620; [2] Francisco Correa de Arauxo, Libro de tientos y discursos de música practica, y theorica de organo intitulado Facultad organica, 1626

Organ music by composers from the Iberian peninsula has a special place in the 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 in other parts of Europe. This inevitably has led to this repertoire being less wel-known than that of other countries.

The music included on this disc is presented as being written during the Golden Age. This siglo de oro is generally considered to have started not before the last decade of the 15th century and to have ended shortly after the middle of the 17th century. Portugal had its own 'Golden Age'. One of the composers included in the programme is Manuel Rodrigues Coelho; in 1580 his country lost its independence and with that its Golden Age came to an end. In 1620 he published his Flores de musica from which the pieces on this disc are taken. He dedicated the collection to Philip III of Spain who was also King of Portugal as Philip II. The liner-notes could cause some confusion in this matter.

The main genre in Iberian keyboard music is that of the tiento. This is what would be called a ricercar or fantasia outside Spain, and is characterised by counterpoint and imitation. Many tientos employ the medio registro, the 'broken keyboard'. In many organs the keyboard was divided into two halves with different dispositions. This allowed the composer to write a solo part for one hand, often including virtuosic figurations, and a polyphonic accompaniment for the other hand. A good example is the Tiento de medio registro de tiple de octavo tono by Francisco Correa de Arauxo. He seems to have been more or less self-educated and acquired his skills by studying the works of others. He was ordained a priest and worked for many years as an organist at the collegiate church of S Salvador in Seville. From 1636 to 1640 he held the same position in Jaén Cathedral. In 1640 he was elected a prebendary of Segovia Cathedral. Here he also died in poverty. His organ works are collected in one book which was printed in 1626 and has a clear didactic purpose as the title indicates. This explains why the pieces are arranged in various stages in order of difficulty.

The Tiento tercero de sexto tono sobre la primera parte de la Batalla de Morales refers to another popular genre in Spain: the battaglia. It is an arrangement of a batalla by Morales, the most famous Spanish composer from the first half of the 16th century. His batalla is lost and therefore this tiento by Correa de Arauxo is the only way to get some impression of what that piece may have sounded like. Especially the closing episode includes some typical features of batallas: repeated fanfare motifs and echo effects. The Tiento de dos baxones de octavo tono is another brilliant piece with two independent bass parts. As Spanish organs usually didn't have a pedalboard these parts are played on the manuals. The Tiento lleno segundo tono is a late specimen of the genre of the tiento. It has come down to us anonymously but is attributed to Diego Xaraba for stylistic reasons. He was organist at the Royal Chapel in Madrid.

Another important genre is that of the glosas. These are not fundamentally different from diferencias, or - in other languages - divisions, diminutions or passaggi which were frequently written in England and Italy during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The Tres Glosas sobre el Canto llano de la Immaculada Concepción is one of the best-known compositions by Correa de Arauxo and appears in many recordings of Iberian organ music. However, the Hymn to the Virgin Mary which is the subject of these variations is hardly ever sung. It is very nice that here the variations are embraced by a vocal performance of this hymn.

The third genre represented here is liturgical music. In the Catholic liturgy the organ played an important role in alternatim compositions: the verses of the mass or another liturgical chant were performed alternately by the choir and the organ. Here we hear two examples from the only published collection of keyboard music by Coelho, Flores de musica mentioned above. It is the earliest surviving keyboard music printed in Portugal. According to the title the music is conceived for a keyboard instrument or the harp. It contains 24 tentos (Portuguese for tientos), three for every tone, and also over a hundred verses on various hymns and Kyrie settings. A specimen of the latter are the 5 Versos de Kyrie do 1. tom. The hymn Ave maris stella is also performed alternatim: the organ plays four verses with the cantus firmus moving from soprano to bass.

This disc offers a good survey of the keyboard music written on the Iberian peninsula during the 17th century. The value of this disc is enhanced by the fact that Martin Neu in his choice of repertoire has largely avoided the most obvious. Although Arauxo's music is often played, the pieces recorded here are not among the most frequently recorded, except the Glosas. Coelho's oeuvre is far less known. The collaboration with the ensemble officium in the liturgical pieces is another real bonus. On top of that Neu plays a magnificent organ, one of Spain's larger instruments with two manuals and 35 stops. The tuning is 1/5 comma meantone, the pitch is a=430 Hz. It dates from 1735 and was restored and partly reconstructed in 2006/2007. It proves itself the ideal medium for the music played here.

Johan van Veen (© 2015)

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