José Luis González Uriol in Lisbon

José Luis González Uriol in Lisbon
1765 Fontanes de Maqueira organ, São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon
Arkhé Music. 72’23

Music by Cabezón, Trabaci, Bruna, Kerll, Sola, Cabanilles, Nassarre, Zipoli, Lidón.

José Luis González Uriol is one of the most influential Iberian organists and teachers, and this recording is a homage to him, and also to the organ in the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, built by João Fontanes de Maqueira in 1765, and restored in 1994 as part of Lisbon’s European City of Culture celebrations. Unusually for organs, it had survived virtually unaltered since it was built, and retains 98% of its original pipework. The recording was made on 17 October 1994, just after the opening of the restored organ in a recital by González Uriol. A combination of factors, including the death of the recording producer Joaquim Simões de Hora (who was also heavily involved in the restoration project), meant that the recording has never been released until now.

Image may contain: indoorThe São Vicente de Fora organ is a particularly fine example of the 18th century Iberian style. It has two manuals, with 60 stops, divided into treble and bass sections as is typical of Iberian organs. It might be surprised to find that it now has its own Facebook page.  I originally thought that the CD did not include a specification, but it is hidden on the inside of the rear cover of the pull-out booklet, which needs pulling out to reveal it. For those not familiar with the Iberian organ, it is worth studying. Although registrations for individual pieces are not given, most are fairly obvious. Of particular interest is the battery of reed stops, eight of which are visible projecting from the front of the organ case. The second manual is an Eco division, probably added to around 1800. The organ is at a’=438 pitch and is in a rather moderate unequal temperament.

The programme reflects a variety of Iberian, Italian, and German music from the 16th to the 18th century, although the one German contribution is also attributed to the Spanish composer Cabanilles, represented here by four other pieces. The playing is exemplary, showing José Luis González Uriol’s full absorption into the musical genre of his roots. For my taste there are rather too many pieces for full organ, although there are some quieter moments, and several examples of the solo stops of the organ. The CD notes include detailed information about the organ, the story of the recording, the performer and original record producer, but nothing about the music itself. But that generally speaks for itself.

More information, and access to the companion film can be found here.

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