Cabanilles: Keyboard works, volume three: 21 works for organ and for harpsichord

Timothy Roberts
70:49
Toccata Classics TOCC 0451

This is the third release in a series of as yet unspecified length that may eventually include the composer’s complete keyboard music. This is quite an ambition as there is a lot of it; much is not yet published; and the sources are poor, requiring a creative and corrective approach from editors and performers. Three instruments are used: two splendidly restored historic Spanish organs (one big, one small) and a Ruckers-style harpsichord by Michael Johnson and I’d like to pay a small tribute at this point to those who prepared the instruments for the recording. Though one seldom hears on disc an instrument that is unacceptably out-of-tune, it is also rare to hear instruments, especially organs, that are quite as well in tune as these two. Given the pungent nature of some of the sounds, this is an important and a significant factor in the recital’s success. The booklet (English only) contains concise essays on the composer’s life, his musical style, the instruments used and the player: frustratingly, footnotes suggest referring to the notes from previous releases in the series. I hoped to find these online but was unsuccessful.

Many EMR readers will know Tim Roberts as a player of skill and taste, and there is plenty of both on display. Typically, the pieces consist of a florid and colourful solo line supported by a gently contrapuntal accompaniment. Cabanilles’s sequential passages can sometimes threaten over-predictability, but here they always have a sense of direction and purpose. Some Spanish theorists recommended an approach to rhythm that combines elements of French-style inequality with almost modern concepts of rubato. Perhaps there could be a bit more of this in the performances: on the other hand, there’s a lot to be said for a relatively conservative approach when recording, especially when music is committed to disc for the first (and only?) time. I enjoyed this, and recommend that anyone not yet familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the Spanish organ school give it a try. But be prepared for a few shocks!

David Hansell

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