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Juan Bautista José CABANILLES (1644-1712)
Tientos y Passacalles

Tiento 7 tono por A la mi re [06:16]
Passacalles de 1 tono [04:45]
Corrente Italiana [04:04]
Tiento 1 tono en tersio a modo de Italia [03:17]
Duo 'El galan que ronda las calles' al Santisimo Sacramento a 2 y continuo [05:14]
Tiento 2 tono, partido de dos Tiples por G sol re ut [06:50]
Tiento Lleno 5 tono por B quadrado [02:30]
Tocata de mano izquierda 5 tono [02:24]
Tiento de falças, 1 tono [03:21]
Pasacalles de 3ro tono [06:09]
Tiento Lleno de 1 tono [08:01]
Gallardas de 1 tono [06:22]
Pasacalles de 4 tono [01:58]
Villancico 'Mortales que amáis', tono al Santisimo Sacramento, a 4 y continuo [06:28]
Pasacalles de 1 tono [02:09]
Tiento Lleno 2 tono [03:59]
Jan Willem Jansen (organ)
Los Musicos de Su Alteza/Luis Antonio González
rec. June, August 1998, San Pablo, Saragosa; Church of Cariñena, Spain, DDD
HORTUS 013 [75:05]

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"Through very developed forms of an extreme contrapuntal density, he gave birth to a learnèd style that was compact, granite-like and monumental, though very ornamented. Exploiting to the fullest all the resources of 17th century (...) organ art, he was guiding that art towards a completion that was also a culmination."

This does sound familiar, doesn't it? But it is not about Johann Sebastian Bach, but rather about the Spanish composer Juan Cabanilles. These lines come from the booklet, and are written by Luis Antonio González, and the word I left out in the quotation was 'Spanish'. But the similarity between Cabanilles and Bach is striking. Bach was generally considered an exponent of the 'learnèd' style, and his works, like those of Cabanilles, are strongly contrapuntal.

There are more similarities. An important feature of both composers' output is a strong rhythmic pulse, and the use of dissonance for expressive reasons. Both absorbed influences from other musical traditions, in particular the Italian, and incorporated them into their own compositions without compromising their personal style.

Cabanilles began his musical career as a choirboy at Valencia cathedral. It is likely he received lessons from the cathedral's organist, Jerónimo de la Torre. When in 1665 de la Torre had to retire due to an injury of one of his hands in an accident Cabanilles succeeded him at the age of just 21, which is evidence of his skills. Precondition for his job was to be ordained as a priest. The fact that he retained this post until his death in 1712 proves that he was held in high esteem by the ecclesiastical authorities. There are also stories about him playing regularly in France, although there is no objective evidence of this.

Cabanilles has written a large number of keyboard works which are generally much longer and more elaborated than those by other composers. He particularly excelled in the genre of the tiento, the general term for a kind of fantasia. Some are called 'tiento lleno', containing an alternation of imitative sections and passagework. A specific kind of tiento is the 'tiento de falças' (or 'falsas'), which distinguishes itself by sharp dissonances and an unusual harmonic structure. He also composed passacallas and gallardas, consisting of variations over a bass pattern.

Jan Willem Jansen has made a selection from Cabanilles's keyboard works, consisting of tientos in different forms as well as passacalles and gallardas. He has avoided the showpieces some organists can't resist playing, like the batallas, in which a military battle is illustrated and in which the organist can use the characteristic reed stops of Spanish organs. Of course these stops can - and should - be used in the pieces on this disc as well. Jan Willem Jansen plays a historical organ, restored in 1992, which has a number of reed stops, like the 'corneta', the 'trompeta real' and the 'bajoncillo'. The programme is well put together and played brilliantly.

Very little vocal music is known to be written by Cabanilles. As an organist he didn't have an obligation to compose for the voice. The two pieces on this disc are villancicos, comprising a refrain and a number of verses. Both pieces were composed for the procession on the Feast of the Holy Sacrament. The four-part 'Mortales que amás' contains some very sharp dissonances, which are realised well in this performance. It is a shame that the balance between the high and low voices isn't satisfying, as the sopranos overpower the contraltos and tenors most of the time.

This is an interesting and musically impressive recording of music by a composer who is not that well-known. The booklet contains informative programme notes and a disposition of the organ. Unfortunately the lyrics of the two villancicos are only printed in Spanish and the notes on the organ only in French.

Johan van Veen


see also review by Paul Shoemaker


Complete Hortus Catalogue


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