Iberian Clavichord Music
Though the Spanish term clavicordio meant any type of early keyboard instrument, including the harpsichord – which has misled many people – the music by Spanish and Portuguese composers here really is played on the clavichord, the monacordio, which was widely used as a practice and training instrument for the large number of organists called upon in the expansion of the Catholic church in the sixteenth century in Spain and the New World. It is therefore no surprise that, with the exception of a few dance forms (pavane, jacara, galliard) and glosses by Cabezon and Coelho on Lassus’s famous Susanne un jour, most of the pieces here are either church music or tientos (ricercari or fantasias of greater or less contrapuntal complexity) primarily intended for the organ. The one exception, a lively battle piece by Braga which would have exploited the trumpet stops en chamade that are so striking a feature of Iberian organs, comes off astonishingly effectively on this delicate domestic instrument (which nevertheless offers possibilities of dynamic contrast), thanks to the vital rhythm and articulation of the Brazilian-born, French-domiciled Ilton Wjuniski. Well exemplified here is the elaborate variation technique current in Spain which, from Cabezon onwards, had a profound influence on the English virginalists; and the tientos by Cabezon, Correa and, particularly, Cabanilles illustrate Iberian composers’ inventive virtuosity. The strangely austere little piece on the canto fermo of Ave maris stella is a notable exception to the general luxuriance. The two copies of Portuguese clavichords from the Lisbon Conservatory have been recorded with great fidelity.'