Greetings from the North Central AGOYO: Iberian Organ Music

This month we delve into the under-appreciated world of Iberian organ music from the late Renaissance and Baroque. The organs with their large arsenals of horizontal reeds provide a pleasing sight not only to our eyes, but to our ears as well. Composers also utilize the unique split keyboard design of Iberian organs to compose pieces that are not playable on other instruments of the same time.

-Phillip Radtke

Understudied and underappreciated, Iberian organ music and organs had the biggest impact during the 17th century while the Iberian Peninsula experienced a period of strong political power. Iberian organs were influenced by builders of France, the Netherlands and most of Europe. While the music was conservative it is distinctively Iberian in style.

Organs & Music styles

● Tiento – Polyphonic form of writing that accounts for the vast majority of the Spanish baroque organ music output. Different subsets of this genre described more about the piece, e.g. Tiento de medio registro – Tientos making use of the unique split keyboard of Spanish organs. …de tiple – indicates a right-hand solo. …de baxon – indicates a left-hand solo.

● Tiento de medio registro are made possible by the unique split keyboards of many Iberian organs. Two stop knobs would control each rank, one for the bass register to
“middle c” and one for the upper register from c# on. This feature made it possible to use one keyboard for both accompanying parts and solo parts.

● Iberian organs from the 17th century lacked pedal boards that would be used for extensive solo lines. The pedal keys were similar to Italian organs with pulldowns or a very limited set of dedicated pipes played by short length keys or buttons.

Significant Composers

● Late Renaissance composer, Antonio de Cabezon had an important influence on the shaping of Iberian organ music. His name appears in multiple treatises and his works foreshadow the music of Correa and Cabanilles.

● Fancisco Correa de Arauxo had a prolific output of Tientos that employed highly ornamented solo lines. His works are thought to have been used as pedagogical exercises and utilize the unique Spanish organ design to its most full effect.

● Considered one of the greatest Spanish organists, Juan Bautista Cabanilles composed many works for organ that were technically and compositionally ahead of his time. His
Batalla Imperial is well known for its use of the Clarins, or the horizontal reeds found on most Iberian organs of the time.

–Phillip Radtke

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