I hope that Mr Sting's record does make people go out and discover early music like John Dowland because it's something I find calms my soul in times of trouble. Unlike later grand musical movements, the romantics and so on, which speak of grand themes of nature and politics and religion, early music speaks of the human heart, and that is the same now as it was half a millenium ago - Words of real wisdom over on Arthur Clewley's Diary, and Saturday took us to a harpsichord recital by Richard Egarr that really spoke to the human heart. The whole programme was exquisite, but the real delight was to hear several works by Antonio de Cabézon live.
The music of Cabézon is rarely heard either in concert or on recordings, although he made a fleeting appearance here a while back. Cabézon was a blind composer and organist at the Royal Court of Spain, and was responsible for the education of Prince Philip and his sisters. He travelled widely in Europe with the prince, and visited London to attend Philip's wedding to Mary Tudor. He is thought to have met Thomas Tallis and William Byrd on this visit. On ascending to the throne King Philip II became his patron, and the King held him in higher esteem that any of his other artists except Titian.
Cabézon made a major contribution to the development of the Iberian keyboard style, and his use of dissonance and chromaticism is well ahead of its time. His style has links with the Tudor composers of Gibbons and Byrd, and his writing is influenced by the sacred music of the time as well as the more common dance forms, and is a splendid antidote to Scarlatti sonata fatigue. He is an important composer who should be much better known, but recordings are rarer than the proverbial hens teeth. My recommendation for starters is an excellent recital of Spanish and Portugese Harpsichord music (that link has some brief audio samples) on Chandos by Sophie Yates which combines seven of Antonio de Cabézon's works with one by his son (Hernando) and others from José Ximénez, Manuel Rodrigues Coelho, António Carriera, and Joan Cabanilles - rare riches indeed and highly recommended.
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If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Peerless Portuguese polyphony