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REVIEW
RECORDING OF THE MONTH
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Joan Bautista José CABANILLES (1644-1712)
Keyboard Music Volume 1

Tocata I de primero tono [2:22]
Pasacalles II de primero tono [5:05]
Tocata IV de quinto tono [2:36]
Tiento XII de falsas de 4° tono * [4:33]
Tiento XXXI partido de mano derecha de 1° tono * [6:47]
Tiento LXXXII lleno, por Bequadrado de quinto tono [8:06]
Tiento IX partido de mano derecha de 2° tono * [7:29]
Tocata II de mano izquierda 5° tono [2:53]
Tiento LXIII de contras de 4° tono * [10:56]
Tiento LV lleno, de 1° tono [5:33]
Tiento XIV partido de dos tiples, de cuarto tono * [8:21]
Timothy Roberts (historic organ, 1724)
rec. Basilica of Sant Jaume, Vila-real, Castellón, Valencia, 5-7 April 2016. DDD
* reconstructed by Timothy Roberts
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0391 [64:41]

I had several other reviews on the stocks when I listened to this from Qobuz, where it can be streamed by subscribers or downloaded, with pdf booklet. Subscribers to emusic can download it there in 320 kb/s mp3 for just £4.62, albeit without the very important booklet. I simply had to drop everything to recommend this Toccata Classics recording in the strongest possible terms to all lovers of renaissance and baroque music and of organ music in general.

I must admit at once that I know Tim Roberts slightly. Last year I reviewed for Seen and Heard a concert which he gave at St Botolph’s without Aldgate with Emma Kirkby and a very talented semi-professional group of young players from Mallorca. It transpired that he thought that he knew me, mistaking me not for one of the Beach Boys but for someone else who shares my name. False pretences or not, I greatly enjoyed the concert and his subsequent recording of the organ music of John Worgan, former incumbent of the organ loft at St Botolph’s on the organ of that church (TOCC0332 – Download News 2016/6: see also review by John France).

The first reason to welcome this recording is that several of the pieces are not otherwise available. An older recording from John Butt on Harmonia Mundi which contained some of them is now download only (HMU907047). That recording was made on a modern organ, albeit one in the Spanish style of the early eighteenth century, in the O’Neill collection at the University of California. I downloaded that in 16-bit lossless sound from eclassical.com but UK purchasers will find that expensive at $14 when Presto offer mp3 for £4.98 and 16-bit lossless for £5.98. Neither supplies the booklet.

The booklet which accompanies the new Toccata recording is my second reason for recommending it. Roberts’ notes contain all that you need to know about Spanish organ music of this period and about Cabanilles’ in particular. If you can’t tell your tocata from your tiento or your pasacalle, or if your mano derecha doesn’t know what your mano izquierda is doing, this is the place to learn about these things. The information about the tonos or traditional modes which Cabanilles employs is especially useful and not just to novices.

There’s also a full specification of the organ, almost completely destroyed in the Spanish Civil War but lovingly restored: Roberts himself, as well as performing and producing the recording, re-tuned some of the pipes for this album. It’s the instrument which gives me my third reason for recommending the recording: it’s a real joy to hear an organ which has just the right voicing for Spanish music of this period without sounding out of tune. Indeed, those blessed or cursed with perfect pitch will probably find the sixth-comma meantone tuning just right: as explained in the notes, such tuning means that the most common major thirds are almost exactly in tune while other chords have a more ‘fruity’ flavour (my word). It’s the fruitiness that’s part of the appeal.

The fourth and most important reason concerns the performances themselves. I enjoyed hearing John Butt’s recording – Download News 2014/10 – but found myself hoping for some more authentically raucous-sounding performances, even if that meant a slightly out-of-tune instrument. Here is the very thing that I was looking for – playing to equal Butt’s on the genuine thing. It’s not even out of tune except to ears attuned to equal temperament and that’s part of the enjoyment.

The recording is very good, even as heard in the emusic mp3 download, but I do recommend obtaining the CD or the Qobuz download for the excellent booklet.

By all means go on to the Harmonia Mundi album if this inspires you as much as I expect – there’s some overlap but some of the music on the older recording is not otherwise available until, of course, Toccata bring us the other volumes in the series. I can’t wait to hear more of Cabanilles´ prolific output.

Let me mention another ongoing project on which Toccata have embarked in the form of an album entitled Music for my Love, a series of compositions and arrangements commemorating the life of Yodit Tekle, the late partner of Toccata’s boss Martin Anderson. You can find details of Volume 1, TOC0333, performed by the Kodály Philharmonic Orchestra and Paul Mann, on the Toccata website.

Brian Wilson

 



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