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Joan CABANILLES (1644-1712)
Keyboard Music, Volume Two
Including several first recordings and new reconstructions.
Details after review
Timothy Roberts (organs and harpsichord)
rec. 30–31 May 2017, Church of Sant Jaume, Vila-Real, Castellón/Valencia; 20 August 2006 Church of San José, Navalcarnero, Madrid and 17 November 2015, the workshop of Michael Johnson, Fontmell Magna, Dorset.
Full specification given of organ of Sant Jaume and brief specification of organ of San José.
Reviewed as 24/44.1 download with pdf booklet from

Volume of this series (TOCC0391) was very well received, not least by me. I made it a Recording of the Month and ended by saying that I couldn’t wait to hear the next volume: here it is, and it’s just as recommendable, with equally fine playing from Timothy Roberts, mainly on the same instrument as before, partly on another Spanish organ and the last two tracks on a copy of a single-manual harpsichord in the Flemish style of the period.

I’m not sure that I would go so far as to call Cabanilles ‘the Spanish Bach’, as some have done, but I have greatly enjoyed hearing both albums and hope that there may be more to come. He certainly merits being described as “the most … important Spanish organist and organ composer of the second half of the 17th century, and one of the greatest organists before Bach” (Oxford Companion to Music).

Don’t worry about the often lengthy and complex Spanish titles of these works. Most of them are tientos, a form of instrumental free study originally composed for the vihuela, one of the precursors of the guitar, but best known from Cabezón’s keyboard works with that title1. Cabanilles’ tientos are often virtuoso affairs, designed to exploit developments in organ building. An organ such as the Vila-Real instrument used for most of these recordings offers a variety of stops imitative of various instruments, including, for example 8- and 16-foot trumpet stops (trompa real and trompa major respectively).

While some of the tientos make full use of the bravura possibilities of the organ, however, others are much quieter and more reflective: the bright opening tiento and its successor on track 2 are good examples of such contrasts in style. I need not expatiate at length because the notes in the booklet, as usual with Toccata, are at once splendidly scholarly, readable and informative. Those on the music are written by Nelson Lee, currently working on a major edition of Cabanilles and contemporaries, while those on the chosen instruments are by Timothy Roberts himself.

It’s typical of Toccata’s thoroughness that a series of errata are included for Volume 1, mostly minor, such as the use of the Italian secondo for the Spanish segundo on one track. I’m sure I have committed more faux pas than that in every review.

As before, it’s part of the enjoyment to hear music of this period played on the right sort of instrument – and one that’s blessedly in tune, so not requiring any allowances on the part of listeners. Spanish organs – and, doubtless, Spanish choirs – have come a long way since I heard Victoria sung and played out of tune in Toledo Cathedral over 50 years ago. The only adjustment that string players and others with absolute pitch will need to make concerns the fact that the organ in Valencia is tuned markedly lower than the instrument in Navalcarnero, Madrid.

The transition didn’t worry me, though the sound of the two organs is different. One small criticism: we are given the specification of the first organ but the second is described in only the most general terms.

Though made in different locations and at different times, the recordings are very good. The 24-bit comes at 44.1 ‘only’ but it’s worth paying the little extra if you plan to download.

Where next while hoping for more Cabanilles from this source? There’s more of his organ music, opening with a wonderfully exuberant Battalla Imperial, performed by the equally flamboyantly named Modest Moreno i Morera (Edicions Albert Moraleda AM0254, download only). Another fine-sounding baroque instrument, though some of the action sounds a trifle intrusive. There's also music by ior asacribed to Cabanilles on a Ton Koopman recording of battle music for the organ on Challenge Classics – review.

How about his complete vocal works from Amystis, directed by José Duce Chenoll (Brilliant Classics 94781 – review)? Try it first if you can from Naxos Music Library, sadly without the booklet, where the two Toccata albums can also be found. Meanwhile, Volume 2 of the latter, like its predecessor, leaves me hoping for more Cabanilles from this source.

1 Cabezón Complete Tientos and Variations performed by Glenn Wilson (Naxos 8.572475/76 – review ).

Brian Wilson

Tiento No.65 lleno, de quinto tono [6:14]
Tiento No.109 de contras, de octavo tono [4:08]
Tiento No.126 de clarines de sexto tono [partido de mano derecha, y de dos tiples] [7:42]
Verso No.61 sobre Ave Maris Stella, de primero tono [1:40]
Tiento No.4 partido de mano derecha sobre Ave Maris Stella, de primero tono [8:28]
Verso No.62 sobre Ave Maris Stella, de primero tono [0:57]
Tiento No.15 de falsas, de quinto tono [4:10]
Tiento No.97 partido de mano izquierda, de tercero tono [6:30]
11 versos de cuarto tono
No.230 [1:23]
No.232 [0:56]
No.257** [1:04]
No.233 [1:26]
No.262 partido de dos bajos [2:25]
No.277 de ecos [1:24]
No.278 [1:03]
No.286 [1:01]
No.261 partido de dos bajos [1:32]
No.276 [0:54]
No.231 [1:29]
Tiento No.42 partido de dos tiples, de cuarto tono [8:46]
Tiento No.16 lleno, de quinto tono [2:47]
Tiento No.24 lleno, de octavo tono [5:34]
Passacalles No.4, de cuarto tono [2:21]
Tiento No.10 lleno, de tercero tono [4:47]

Organ of the Church of Sant Jaume, Vila-Real, Valencia (tracks 1–20); organ in seventeenth-century style by Gerhard Grenzing for the Church of San José, Navalcarnero, Madrid (tracks 21–22); harpsichord in seventeenth-century Flemish style by Michael Johnson (tracks 23-24).


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