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The repertoire of this album is truly fascinating: the great importance that instrumental music lived in the late sixteenth century was continued in the seventeenth century. It was the era in which it emancipated from vocal music, and at that time the keyboard repertoire freely developed from Renaissance models: dances with variations, variations on vocal melodies or on bassi ostinati and tenors, improvisatory forms like toccate, and stricter forms based on imitative counterpoint, as ricercare, fantasia, canzona and capriccio.

Although Girolamo Frescobaldi is undoubtedly the best known figure of the period covered by this CD, most of the pieces chosen are due, however, to much less popular composers, but of unquestionable artistic value, which is sure to be a discovery for many music lovers: from Antonio Valente, Giovanni Macque, Ascanio Mayone or Giovanni Maria Trabaci, the creators of the Neapolitan school (that composed works with much chromaticisms and dissonances, like those of later composers represented here, as Giovanni Salvatore, Gregorio Strozzi or Bernardo Storace), to Luzzasco Luzzaschi, Ercole Pasquini, or Fescobaldi itself, representing the schools of Ferrara and Rome, this recording is a wonderful and amazing promenade through the essence of Italian keyboard in this crucial period in the history of music.

Sevillian harpsichord player Javier Núñez presents in Cantus his first a solo recording, which was produced by the great gamba player Fahmi Alqhai (director of Accademia del Piacere, for which Javier serves as harpsichordist), who was artistic director of this recording. The basic idea has been to produce a recording that, while remaining musically and scholarly consistent and with strong stylistic foundations, could be very attractive to those who first come to this repertoire, and also to those who know it. Paraphrasing the famous passage referred to the great vihuela player Luys de Narváez, "so that those who do not know this music become marvelled, and those who know it, most mervelled". To achieve this, three factors work together: firstly the impressive technique and transparent, flexible and full of musical direction touch of Javier Núñez; second, a varied and very beautiful program that, as we said at the beginning, is fascinating to listen to; and finally the colours added with the participation, in some tracks, of three great guest musicians and their instruments: double harp by Sara Águeda, percussions of a living legend of early music as Pedro Estevan, in his third appearance in Cantus (you can hear him with the great guitar-player Xavier Díaz-Latorre on two discs), and the contribution of artistic director Fahmi Alqhai in the production, and as a performer of colascione (an exotic string instrument of Turkish origin), that closes the recording.

Let's see, then, what we find in this CD. The first piece is already a true statement of principles in which Javier Núñez shows his sovereign control over the lines' movement, the fluidity with which he draws the low parts, and the fullness of his touch. Sara Águeda's double-harp and Pedro Estevan's unmistakable percussion come soon to offer us fired colorful readings of Valente's variations on the Passamezzo and Romanesque grounds, including a wonderful dialogue between the harp and the keyboard. We shall then enjoy the lightness and freshness of Macque's Capricietto or the severity of Luzzaschi's Ricercare, the noble lines of the works of Ercole Pasquini, where serene passages alternate with rapid ones served by Javier Núñez with an admirable transparency. We shall find the wonderful, mysterious chromaticism of Trabaci and Macque's Stravaganze, crowned by the sublime piece of the great Frescobaldi. Javier Núñez does not miss a single opportunity to add emphasis and full colours to its chromatic passages and draw our attention to them, a fundamental feature of Italian music of that era. In short, there are so many riches that stand out in this album ... The delightful Salvatore and Trabaci works, with their powerful and well marked rhythms and adventurous harmonies, the eloquent way in which Javier Núñez negotiates the ornamentations in Mayone's Toccata, with its abstract passages of pure music, the accuracy of his touch on the imitative passages of the variations on Trabaci's Io mi son, and three irresistible pieces that close this CD, so different and of such profound beauty: first the fascinating recreation of the piece composed by Strozzi, in which keyboard and harp display a lovely dialogue, offer their own nuances and alternate in short solo passages, with moments of unmatched beauty; then a selection of works built on the well-known theme of La Monica follows, all of disarming beauty, in which Javier Núñez shows the most refined, precise and elegant features of his performing gifts. The recording ends with a piece that can be defined with four terms like extravagant, exotic, experimental and exceptional: the emergence of the colascione, that most weird instrument played by Fahmi Alqhai, and how it is combined with the harpsichord, bring Oriental elements, and unexpected, remote sounds that will leave nobody indifferent. In short, an excellent way to round off an hour of music à modo Italiano (in an Italian way).



  • Javier Núñez
    (Italian harpsichord based on a model by Giovanni Battista Giusti, 1681, built by Titus Crijnen, Sabiñán, 2011)


    Fahmi Alqhai, colascione
    Pedro Estevan, percussion
    Sara Águeda, double-harp

Production information

Total time total 58:00

Booklet including a comprehensive artile byJavier Núñez

Recording location Estudio Sputnik, Sevilla, November 2013

Engineer and digital editing Jordi Gil

Assistants Ale Barranco & Ángel Márquez

Producer Fahmi Alqhai

Executive production Javier Núñez & José Carlos Cabello

Cover "An Italian palace", photo by Nancy Brown, 2009.


"One of the best recordings ever produced of this repertoire, if not actually the best".
SCHERZO MAGAZINE (Spain, April 2015)

One cannot but marvel at the technique and easinness with which this Sevillian harpsichord player negotiates the variety of styles and genres of this impressively virtuoso repertoire. A real gem that restores the spirit of the age".
SONOGRAMA.ORG (Spain, April 2015)

Impressive recording that will no doubt be among the most interesting instrumental CDs of the year and which introduces a performer that will have a name in the early keyboard field in Spain and Europe. The CD is crowned with the usual, spectacular Cantus lay-out. The label must be recognised for presenting the début of such an outstanding performer and for creating a first-rate artistic object. Add on top the wonderful sound of the beautiful instrument selected -built by Titus Crijnen in 2011 after a Giusti instrument of 161- favoured by a chrystal-clear engineering".
CODALARIO.COM (Spain, April 2015)

    ✋ Please adjust first the VOLUME control on the SPEAKER ⇓ before playing ▶

    Tenore del Passo e mezzo-Romanesca
    Seconde Stravaganze

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