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Opera omnia, vol. 7.

Juan Cabanilles has long been recognized as the leading composer of Spanish organ music between Cabezon and Domenico Scarlatti, for both the quality and the quantity of his work. For this reason he was the first Spanish organ composer after Cabezon whose works were chosen for publication in a collected edition. In 1927 Higini Angles issued the first volume of his Musici organici, followed by additional volumes in 1933, 1936 and 1956 with the title Opera omnia. Publication was interrupted by Angles's death in 1969 but was later continued under the editorship of Jose Climent. The series has now reached Vol. 7.

In most respects the new editor followed the editorial procedures established by Angles and, so far as it can be determined, his general plan for the volumes. This was necessarily fluid, since at the outset the extent of the entire corpus was not known in detail. In Vol. 1 it was estimated that only a third of the complete corpus had been found, enough to fill about ten volumes. In the meantime no substantial number of works has been discovered. A comparison of the contents of published volumes with the manuscript inventories provided seems to indicate that the remaining works will constitute about three volumes. Each volume opens with a series of tientos arranged by ecclesiastical tone in ascending order. To these may be added groups of works of other types. No other rationale for selection of pieces for each volume has been announced, but it would appear that in each volume the editor simply selected pieces following the general plan, without regard to the sources in which they appear or to the way they are arranged there. The present volume contains twenty tientos and six sets of versos.

The nearest equivalent to the Spanish tiento in other countries is the fantasia; that is, it is an extended piece, usually imitative and sectional, using a variety of themes which may be related but more often are not. Most have at least sections that are not imitative. These may be simply chordal, or they may involve figurative passage-work in one or more voices. Some entail intricate motivic play. Spanish composers were fond of the split keyboard, which enabled use of one registration for the notes c#' and above, another for c' and below. These usually include virtuoso passage-work in the featured hand while the other generally plays simpler accompanying material.

All the tientos in Vol. 7 are of types familiar from earlier volumes: lleno (uniform registration, usually imitative) and partit (split keyboard using various effects based on it). Two of the latter specify use of the trumpet stop and feature fanfare-like themes. One tiento is designated sin passo, that is, without imitation; within sections it relies on repetition of brief phrases transposed to keys a fifth apart, a favourite device in homophonic writing. Some distinctive types represented in earlier volumes are lacking here: tientos de falsas (employing chromaticism, dissonances, unusual intervals, unexpected modulations etc.), tientos based on chant melodies, and tientos de batalla (suggesting the sounds and excitement of battle). Those present do not differ in any significant way from similar pieces in earlier volumes. Many of them contain engaging music, with impressive counterpoint and effects that must have sounded brilliant on the distinctive Spanish organs of the day. A noteworthy feature is the rhythmic effects resulting from variable or asymmetrical organization of the metre. In C this may take the form of groupings of quavers in 3 + 3 + 2 units. Sections written in 3/2 may imply that metre (4 + 4 + 4 quavers), 12/8 (3 + 3 + 3 + 3), or 6/4, either alternately or simultaneously.

If the tientos are interesting, it is in the versos that some of the most impressive writing appears. These range in length from six to some 50 bars. Each maintains a uniform character throughout, rather as in a section of a tiento, so that averso is much like a single section from a longer work. Because they are compact, Cabanilles seems to have lavished careful attention on them, especially the imitative ones, which contain some of the most intricate and ingenious counterpoints to be found in the volume. One piece, of the figurative type, almost seems a forerunner of the style of Domenico Scarlatti.

In Cabanilles's day, sacred choral music was maintained in libros de coro carefully prepared and conserved in church libraries. Organ music, on the other hand, was solely the property of the organist; collections were prepared by him exclusively for his personal use. As a result, there was no institutional agent to ensure their preservation, and undoubtedly many have disappeared. No single manuscript in Cabanilles's own hand, or from the city of Valencia where he spent his entire career, is known to exist. The closest to him is very likely Barcelona, Biblioteca de Cataluna, MS 387 (888), which contains several pieces said to be 'de mi Mahestro Cauanillas'; the pupil would doubtless have copied them directly from his master's original. Since there was no need to convey the music to a public, we may assume that the copyist could be informal, even careless, in his notation, knowing that what he meant could be surmised. Indeed, the surviving manuscripts contain many obvious errors in pitches and rhythm, and some notes are omitted.

Less obvious is the haphazard treatment of accidentals. In principle, an accidental is valid only for the following note and its repetitions, although its effect may be more prolonged in written-out trills and certain other stereotypical figures. Hence, non-repetition of an accidental indicates cancellation. In practice, at least in some sources, the situation is probably quite different. Judging from musical logic, and sometimes from repeated passages with inconsistent accidentals, it appears that scribes often omitted accidentals required by strict adherence to the principle just mentioned. Consequently it behoves an editor to evaluate each source and to make clear just where accidentals appear. It was Angles's practice to do this by retaining all the accidentals in the principal source, including many not required by modern conventions. Editorial natural signs were inserted to indicate cancellation later in a bar. Climent has tried to follow modern conventions by omitting superfluous accidentals, but it is often unclear whether a note later in a bar should be affected. Moreover, his use of editorial accidentals is haphazard. Often they are omitted where musical logic calls for them, and it is especially puzzling when repeated passages are treated differently for no apparent reason. Some means should be found to clarify the validity of accidentals, preferably in the score but possibly in the critical report. Experience shows that Angles's practice achieves this purpose most satisfactorily, though it is sometimes awkward for modern readers.

An unfortunate feature of the entire edition is that there is no discussion or evaluation of any of the sources, beyond general comments and listing of contents of the sources in the first three volumes. This was standard treatment in the 1920s, but editorial practice nowadays is more exacting. Perhaps this omission will be rectified in the final volume, as promised in the introduction to the first.

It has been the aim from the beginning to provide an edition to serve the needs of both the scholar and the performer. To that end, the quarto format preferred by organists was adopted from Vol. 5 in place of the octavo size used earlier. The standard of printing is generally acceptable, but vertical alignment of notes is occasionally faulty. Too often notes are placed ambiguously, not quite on a line or within a space. One can determine the correct pitches, but having to do so places undue strain on the performer. And there are other unnecessary hardships, as, for instance, when a page turn occurs as early as after the first bar of a verso.

Despite these quibbles, we may be grateful to editor and publisher for producing this significant repertory for performance and study.

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Author:Hudson, Barton
Publication:Music & Letters
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 1994
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