Coelho: Flores de Musica

pera o instrumento de tecla & harpa (1620) vol 1
Sérgio Silva
Inventa INV 1009

The first volume of this projected complete recording of Manuel Rodrigues Coelho’s Flores de Musica of 1620 doesn’t get into the music for harp but concentrates on the organ music, played by Sérgio Silva on the main organ and organ positive of the Pascoal Caetano Oldovino, both instruments from the mid-18th century, a little late for this 17th-century repertoire, but which produce powerful performances on a wonderful range of vivid and occasionally gritty registrations. This large volume is Coelho’s only known work. He spent his whole life in his native Portugal, rising to the position of organist of the Chapel Royal in Lisbon. He has a confident declamatory style, and Silva’s flamboyant performances bring this out to an admirable degree. A couple of vocalists provide incipits and cantus firmi for several works – as they are often heard singing along with the organ, it is a little puzzling why the incipits are recorded in a much quieter context than the ensuing organ music, necessitating a sudden background ‘rush’ before the organ comes in. The various aspirations of the bellows and clickings of the keywork are a necessary and not unpleasing accompaniment, but surely we would have been less aware of them if they hadn’t kept disappearing in the incipit recordings? Anyway, this is a small reservation about a magisterial account of some very unfamiliar Portuguese organ music, and we look forward very much to seeing in later volumes how this distinctly individual composer deploys the harp in his compositions.

D. James Ross

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