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This third volume of Timothy Roberts’s survey of the vast complete keyboard works of the Valencia master Joan (or Juan) Cabanilles is another welcome addition to the recorded corpus of yet unknown, remarkable 17th- and 18th-century music from the Iberian peninsula. Roberts’s monumental undertaking demands respect and, in general, his playing is persuasive. Occasionally I find his touch, especially in Vila-real (awkward action?), a little laboured, the weak beat not always differentiated, the (often fiendish) ornamentation and passagework lacking the ‘quicksilver’ quality it seems to require. The expressive balance in his harpsichord playing is perhaps more natural. In addition, the recorded sound is uncomfortably direct, the eight-second audible decay of the Vila-real church quite a shock at the end of the first track. Nevertheless, there are many extraordinary sounds here and some extraordinary music; I especially enjoyed the extended ‘dos tiples’ Tiento de cuarto tono with its amazing sense of rhythmic accumulation. Roberts’s extensive research extends to hypothetical reconstructions for two manuals of the tientos for divided keyboard (tientos partidos). These may originally have been conceived for two manuals of longer compass, later being adapted for single, divided keyboard by copyists with more limited resources than those available to Cabanilles at Valencia Cathedral. It’s a great shame that no images of the organs heard here are included in the booklet, but this series is certainly one to watch.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica


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