Notes and Editorial Reviews
FOLIAS: Spanish Music for Harpsichord from the 17th Century
Lydia Maria Blank (hpd)
PASSACAILLE 922 (76:58)
JOAN BAUTISTA JOSÉ CABANILLES, FRANCISCO CORREA DE ARAUXO, JOSÉ XIMÉNEZ, PABLO BRUNA
Here’s a fine album devoted to 12 selections of Spanish keyboard music, far too neglected in comparison even with the less noteworthy English composers of the 17th century. It may be the conservative complexity of their thematic
inspiration, the prevailing darker tone of much of the music, its comparative lack of rhythmic drive (at least once outside the ostinato-based folk pieces—so much keyboard music in England at that period was either transcribed or developed from dances, outside of the inevitable
), but the harpsichord works of such composers as Arauxo and Cabanilles are certainly not as well known internationally as Byrd, Bull, Gibbons, Farnaby, or Tomkins.
Given her technique, her knowledge of period ornamentation in general and that of the Iberian peninsula in particular, Lydia Maria Blank is as fine a performer in this music as could be hoped for. I admired her previous release of music by Giovanni Maria Trabaci (on Stellamaris 201001; sadly, still not easily available as an import) for its flexible singing line, and the way she harnessed its harmonic dissonance to expressive ends. That is certainly apparent on this release as well, though the dissonance is less and the extravagance of gesture is greater. Like Byrd’s variation sets, several of these pieces preen, and Blank gives them every chance to swagger with all the skill that must have drawn admiration of their performers in their day. She also possesses an ear for selecting a memorable piece or one with a striking effect—whether the vihuela strumming that leads off Correa’s
Dies y seis Glosas
, the arabesque fancy and contrapuntal play of his
Tiento de quinto tono
(XX), the kaleidoscopic brilliance of the
Tiento lleno de quinto tono
(XVIII) by Cabanilles, with its constant succession of imitative echo points, or the cumulative power of Ximénez’s dance-like
Folias con 20 diferencias.
My only criticism is that the recording sound is boomy, and moderately over-reverberant. The former can be dealt with easily enough through basic tonal or equalizer controls, so it’s less of an issue in such works as the delicate
Tiento lleno de cuarto tono
of Cabanilles, but the latter tends to blur some of the fastest, most elaborate divisions in several other pieces, among them the latter pages of Correa’s
Tiento de primero tono
(LXII). It’s all the more a pity in that the unnamed harpsichord is a beauty, with a sweet treble and well blended, elegant bass.
That said, the beauty of the music and the great skill of the performer are reason enough to overlook the sonic deficit. Definitely recommended.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Works on This Recording
Diferencias de Folias, for keyboard by Juan Bautista José Cabanilles
Lydia Maria Blank (Harpsichord)
Length: 6 Minutes 2 Secs.
Gallardas (2) de tercero tono by Juan Bautista José Cabanilles
Lydia Maria Blank (Harpsichord)
Length: 6 Minutes 17 Secs.
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