Saturday 22 August 2015

Audite’s new release Tientos y Glosas – Iberian Organ and Choral Music from the Golden Age featuring organist Martin Neu and Ensemble Officium directed by Wilfried Rombach is something of a winner for all lovers of early Iberian music

The Golden Age of Spain began during the reign of the Emperor Charles V (1516-1556). The period lasted for over 100 years, reaching its height during the reign of Philip II who took over the Portuguese kingdom as Spain became a world power.

It was the wealth that brought a rise in culture with such figures as the artists Velazquez and Murillo, writers Espinel, Gracián and Cervantes and composers that included Francisco Correa de Arauxo (1584-1654) and Manuel Rodrigues Coelho (1555-1635).

A new release from Audite entitled Tientos y Glosas – Iberian Organ and Choral Music from the Golden Age brings music by these two composers as well as Diego Xaraba (1652-1715). Organist Martin Neu  plays the organ of San-Hipólito-Kirche, Córdoba, Spain  with the choir Ensemble Officium /  directed by Wilfried Rombach The title of this disc, Tientos y Glosas roughly translates as fantasia (Tientos) and variations or ornamentations (Glosas).

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Diego Xaraba was organist at the Royal Chapel in Madrid. His Tiento Lleno segundo tono opens this disc, the sound of the organ of San-Hipólito-Kirche, Córdoba filling the acoustic of the church to fine effect. Martin Neu draws some very fine sonorities from this lovely organ before combining the timbres beautifully.  Towards the end of this rhythmically buoyant work there are some gloriously penetrating sounds which are so typically Iberian.

The Portuguese musician Manuel Rodrigues Coelho was the Lisbon Court organist. His collection Flores de musica pera o instrument de tecla & harpa (1620) is the earliest surviving keyboard music surviving in Portugal. There are over 100 organ versettes on various hymns and Kyrie settings. His 5 Versos de Kyrie do 1. Tom opens at a steady pace revealing details of the wonderful sounds of this organ as the fine melody rises and falls. Ensemble Officium under the direction of Wilfried Rombach join to sing the Kyrie alternating with some exquisitely played passages for organ, quiet and subdued and played with fine sensibility. The choir brings an authentic sound that, combined with this fine organ, very much conjure up the ‘Golden Age of Iberian Music’. Neu brings a fine array of timbres and textures in this substantially subdued music, lifting it at times to a higher plane with a brighter sound, especially at the end.

The Spanish composer and theorist Francisco Correa de Arauxo held appointments in Seville before becoming organist at the cathedrals of Jaén and Segovia. His Libro de tientos y discursos de musica practica y theorica de organo, intitulado Facultad Organica (1626) contained 69 organ compositions intended as pedagogical works.

Tiento y Discurso de medio registro de dos Baxones de Octavo Tono opens with a flourish to which rich, deep textures are added combining to produce a superb sound. Nue provides lovely decorations, always bringing this music alive. There is a superb coda with beautiful rich textures. Pedagogical or not, this is a really fine piece, wonderfully played.

With Manuel Rodrigues Coelho’s Ave Maris Stella four organ adaptations of the hymn alternate with Ensemble Officium. After a grand introduction from the organ Ensemble Officium enter, a fabulous sound so well caught here. Neu brings such varied timbres and textures from his choice of registration in each of these fine adaptations of the hymn. There is such a great flow as well as some flamboyant little flourishes that are quite wonderful. Neu shows such freedom and panache; nothing dry about his playing.

Francisco Correa de Arauxo’s Tiento de medio registro de tiple de Octavo Tono opens gently before layers are slowly added to marvellous effect, Neu bringing a lovely spontaneity and freedom to his playing with such ear catching registrations.  

Ensemble Officium return for Correa de Arauxo’s Tres Glosas sobre el Canto Llano de la Immaculada Concepción bringing a lovely, finely balanced texture before the organ brings a variation of the melody with some lovely typically Iberian organ phrases. There are some very fine variations of the theme with lovely little decorations before the choir returning for the last two verses of this Hymn to the Virgin Mary.

Two more of Francisco Correa de Arauxo’s Tiento conclude this disc, Tercero Tiento de Quarto Tono where Martin Neu reveals some beautifully light textures and sonorities from his instrument as the lovely melody slowly unwinds in a fine undulating flow and Tiento Tercero de Sexto Tono sobre la primera parte de la Batalla de Moralis that has a terrific opening. Written on the Spanish composer Cristobal de Moralis’ (c. 1500-1553) Batalla, the original of which has apparently been lost, this composer weaves some very fine ideas, Neu bringing some impressive sounds from the San-Hipólito-Kirche organ as the piece develops. Slowly this piece becomes quieter and gentle before it suddenly bursts out in a terrific rhythmic episode full of energy and strength. As the coda arrives, Neu lightens the textures for a glorious conclusion. A fine ending to this disc.

This is something of a winner for all lovers of early Iberian music. The recording captures this fine organ in its lovely acoustic superbly. There are excellent notes from Martin Neu as well as a full organ specification and details of tuning and temperament.

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