Le Sommeil de l’ange – Basque music for txistu and organ
Luis URTEAGA (1882-1960) Marcha religiosa [12:02]; Tomás Garbizu SALABERRIA (1901-1989) Three extracts from “Euskal Suitea”* [8:55]; Juan URTEAGA (1914-1990) Plegaria (Prayer) [3:40]; Gorka CUESTA (b.1969) Le Sommeil de l’ange* [10:08]; Le Visage du vent [9:46] Eduardo GOROSARRI (1889-1947) Improvisación sobre un canto vasco [4:09]; Sabin SALABERRI (b.1934) Nondik nora* [10:36]
Jesús Martin Moro (organ); Sergio Torices Roldán* (txistu)
rec. St Vincent de Xanintes Church, Urrugne, 21-23 December 2009
HORTUS 077 [59:25]
It is refreshing to receive a disc where not only are none of the composers familiar even as names, but neither also is one of the two instruments featured. To deal with the instrument first, the txistu is a kind of Basque pipe and tabor. The pipe has three holes so that it can be played with one hand while the other plays a drum. About half of the pieces on this disc are for both txistu and organ, and the various composers involved have each approached this unlikely task in a different manner. Thus the three movements of Salaberria’s Suite essentially let the two instruments go their own way, with the txistu, including the drum, playing folk-like passages with an attractive if fairly conventional accompaniment from the organ. Salaberri’s “Nondik nora” is described in the booklet as having an organ introduction which “successively offers the twelve tones of the musical scale”, as paying “a fugal tribute to the organ tradition” and featuring “a bribilketa (pasacaille), an unveiled allusion to the active role of txistu in many popular festivals”. The piece itself however has an almost light music character, and this listener would not have been surprised to learn that it was really recorder music by, say, Armstrong Gibbs or Robin Milford. I certainly enjoyed it even if its specifically Basque character is not very strong.
The remaining work with txistu, Cuesta’s “Le Sommeil de l’ange” which gives the disc its title, is very different. Its musical language is very much in the post-Messiaen mainstream of organ music, but making very imaginative use also of the txistu. Its first entry sounds almost as though one of the organ stops had broken free of the organ and been given a human character, but as a whole the music has a logical shape as well as a wholly imaginative. The other piece by the same composer, for organ only, may be less obviously striking but is equally imaginative. It was written in memory of his father.
The remaining works for organ solo on the disc are varied, even if none of them is of any great consequence. The best is Luis Urteaga’s “Marcia religiosa”, in a post-Franck idiom and well written for the instrument. Indeed the particular instrument here is a good reason to buy the disc. It is in a church in Urrugne, on the Basque coast, and was constructed by Jean Daldosso in 2009. As recorded here it is a fine instrument with a real presence and character. The booklet includes a description and stop list, in French only although the notes on the music are also included in English and Basque. Without scores or any knowledge of the performance traditions of this music I can only say that the performances sound wholly admirable and have a real sense of musical direction.
If, like me, your knowledge of Basque music is severely limited, this disc is an attractive way of getting to know at least some part of it. This would be a very worthwhile addition to the collection of any jaded organ addict who is starting to think that they have heard everything. I very much look forward to hearing this instrument and player again in more music from this interesting tradition.

John Sheppard
I look forward to hearing this instrument and player again in more music from this interesting tradition.