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Antonio de CABEZÓN (1510-1566) 
Tientos, Diferencias y Glosadas 
Léon Berben (organ)
rec. 2018, St. Andreas, Soest-Ostönnen, Germany
AEOLUS AE11171 SACD [78:20]

The Spanish Renaissance composer and organist Antonio de Cabezón (1510-1566) was robbed of his eyesight from an early age probably due to a serious eye infection. Despite this he became a distinguished keyboard player and, from 1526, was engaged by the Royal family, in whose employment he remained for the rest of his life. His duties initially included playing the clavichord and the organ, but he was later required to teach the royal children. Influential and innovative, he was to become one of the most significant composers of his day and the first major Iberian keyboard composer. Not much is known about his personal life, except that he married Luisa Nuñez de Mocos from Ávila, and the couple had five children. One of  his sons, Hernando de Cabezón (1541–1602),  also became a composer, and we must be thankful that, due to his efforts, most of his father's work was preserved and later published posthumously in a volume titled Obras de música para tecla, arpa y vihuela (Madrid, 1578). The oeuvre consists of 275 pieces for organ or other keyboard instruments.

Cabezón wrote prolifically for the keyboard. His music is both highly original and idiomatic, drawing influence from Franco-Flemish composers, particularly Josquin Des Prez. Characteristics include impressive modulations, daring intervals and modal chromaticism. This audacious approach to composition invests his music with an infectious, captivating quality. His work clearly anticipates the future progress made by such composers as Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck. This recording offers wonderful examples of tientos, a free fantasia form, of which twenty-nine examples by the composer survive. Differencias are free-form variations on popular dance melodies, and in glosas chansons and madrigals are given a virtuosic ornamented treatment. Many of these pieces were to influence English composers such as Thomas Tallis and William Byrd.

We are offered an engaging selection of all three genres. What I find attractive in Cabezón's music is its improvisatory character, and in many of the pieces you feel as though the music is being created on the wing, two perfect examples are Ad Dominum cum tribularer and Canción glosada Anchor che col partire. 

Berben's imaginative use of registrations is another plus factor.  The warm, luminous radiance of Canción glosada Anchor che col partir contrasts strikingly with the bright trumpet-like sonority of the two Tiento del sexto tonos. Then there's Comunio Beata viscera Mariae which is cloaked in a burnished haze.

The instrument used for the recording is the Gothic organ of St. Andreas in Soest-Ostönnen. One of the oldest organs in the world, with only seven stops, it dates from around 1425-30.  It replicates the sort of sound the composer would have been familiar with and confers a variety of timbres on the music. I particularly like the responsive acoustic of the Church of St. Andreas, which adds warmth and intimacy to the sound. Berben is a true master and coaxes a diverse palette of sound from the instrument. Added to that, his excellent musicianship contributes greatly to the recording’s success. The booklet notes are excellent, and I was particularly interested to read about the history of the organ and its evolution and restorations.

Stephen Greenbank

Tiento del primer tono [6:46]
Canción glosada Triste départ [4:51]
Diferencias sobre La dama le demanda [3:07]
Himno Ave maris Stella I [3:17]
Himno Ave maris Stella II [4:03]
Diferencias sobre El Canto llano del Caballero [3:23]
Ad Dominum cum tribularer [3:58]
Tiento del sexto tono [5:31]
Canción glosada Anchor che col partire [4:57]
Diferencias sobre Quién tu me enojó Isabel [8:12]
Tiento del sexto tono [9:40]
Canción glosada Au joly boys [4:47]
Diferencias sobre La Gallarda Milanesa [2:29]
Comunio Beata viscera Mariae [3:20]
Diferencias sobre La Pavana Italiana [3:51]
Tiento del primer tono [1:55]
Tiento del cuarto tono [4:27]



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