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One of the greatest privileges of 2018 was the opportunity to perform a recital on the organ now thought to be the oldest in the world, at Ostönnen in Westphalia, dated, through dendrochronological analysis of the wind-chest, to around 1425. Originally built for a much larger church in nearby Soest, the intensity of sound produced by the centuries-old lead pipework is overwhelming. Here, Léon Berben performs Antonio Cabezón, whose mercurial music predates the archetypal division of the Iberian keyboard so essential for the music of, for example, Correa de Arauxo. At a time when geographical characteristics were much less prominent, the match between organ and music here is convincing, and Berben must be commended especially for his fluent and brilliant ornamentation and passagework on a somewhat agricultural action. An interesting detail here is the tuning: Harald Vogel’s interpretation of Arnold Schlick’s proposal in his 1511 treatise, often cited as a first step from Pythagorean tuning towards quarter-comma meantone. Cabezón’s music resolves both triadically and on the fifth/octave, so perhaps the parallel is apt if not justified in a purely historical or geographical sense. This is beautifully presented and performed, the sound of the organ unforgettable.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica


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