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Francisco VALLS (c.1670-1747)
Missa Regalis [27:07]
Francisco CORRÊA DE AROUXO (1584-1654)
Tiento y discurso de Segundo tono (1626)
Juan Bautista José CABINILLES (1644-1712)
Tiento de falsas primer tono (late 17th Cent)
Tiento de media registro de tiple de séptimo tono [4.52]
The Choir of Keble College
Academy of Ancient Music/Matthew Martin
Joseph Crouch (Bass Violin) Inga Klaucke (Dulcian) Edward Higginbottom (Organ continuo) Matthew Martin (Organ solo)
rec. 2018/19, Chapel of Keble College, Oxford; Chapel of St. John’s College, Cambridge
Texts and translations included.
Organ specification included.
AAM RECORDS AAM008 [40:52]

Francesco Valls is best known for his Misa Scala Aretina, which has now been recorded more than once (review) but is still more of a curiosity than something you might call a ‘hit’. The Missa Regalis was composed for the King of Portugal, João V when the composer was approaching the age of 70 and had long retired from the profession. Álvaro Torrente’s booklet note for this lavish release tells us that “this is a comparatively severe work with no concession to the splendour of the modern concertato style that Valls had cultivated during his career.” This approach to the mass setting came as the result of conventions adopted decades previously by the Portuguese Royal Chapel, following patterns acceptable to Rome and also adopted by many other European royal courts.

The music may be conservative, but the sound of the performance is anything but austere. The organ used is a modern one, and it adds a warmth and fullness to the sound that is further enhanced by the other instruments, none of which is high in the general balance. It is correct that the choir should have centre stage, but the general impression is one of English candle-lit beauty rather than having any kind of Meditteranean edge. Talking of edge, the Missa Regalis also lacks the dissonant spice that makes parts of the Misa Scala Aretina more interesting, even though both works use the same hexachord of Guido d’Arezzo. The final Agnus Dei has some juicy suspensions in its descending sequences, but while this is a sound in which you can bathe deliciously there are few really thrilling moments that might transport you onto higher planes.

With the Missa Regalis coming in at under 30 minutes, the programme has been filled out with some organ works representative of the Spanish School. These are all examples of the “tiento”, which is a catch-all title that apparently can apply to just about any kind of keyboard piece of the period. The elaborate ornamentation around Francisco Corrêa de Arouxo’s Tiento y discurso makes this the most virtuoso of these pieces, and Matthew Martin plays them all with distinctive stylishness and considerable panache.

Presented with a glossy 72 page booklet with bags of information, sung texts with English translation, photos and (for some reason) 12 pages of notes on Iberian organs not on the recording, this is the kind of thing which would make a glorious gift for anyone who is keen on choral music and unusual Baroque repertoire. One thing is for sure, you won’t find any other recordings of Valls’ Missa Regalis around, and this recording will take some beating in terms of quality. Short playing time has to be pointed out, but the production values of this release compensate, and, once acquired, you will be reluctant to part with it.

Dominy Clements

Previous reviews: Brian Wilson ~ Gary Higginson



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