Valls – Missa Regalis & organ works by Arouxo & Cabinelles

5 of 5 stars

Francisco Valls
Missa Regalis
Francisco Corrêa De Arouxo
Tiento y discurso de Segundo tono
Juan Bautista José Cabinilles
Tiento de falsas primer tono
Francisco Corrêa De Arouxo
Tiento de media registro de tiple de séptimo tono

The Choir of Keble College

Members of the Academy of Ancient Music – [Joseph Crouch (Bass Violin), Inga Klaucke (Dulcian), Edward Higginbottom (Organ continuo)]

Matthew Martin (organ)


Reviewed by: David Truslove

Reviewed: August 2020
CD No: Academy of Ancient Music AAM008
Duration: 41 minutes

Spanish composer and theorist Francisco Valls (c.1671-1747) is remembered, if at all, for his sacred music written for use at Barcelona Cathedral. Of the forty or so Masses composed for its chapel choir, his lavishly conceived Missa Scala Aretina of 1702 is his most renowned and caused controversy for the daring use of unprepared dissonances (considered a rule-breaking infringement) which provoked considerable debate amongst many of his Iberian contemporaries. Nearly forty years later during the composer’s retirement his reputation was sufficient, even after the slap on the wrist from the harmony police, to produce a Missa Regalis (1740) written to honour King João V of Portugal. Regarded as his swansong, this Royal Mass is built, like the Missa Scala Aretina, on a six-note rising sequence or hexachord that creates thematic unity for each of its five movements. 

Previously unpublished and newly edited by Simon Heighes, the Missa Regalis is modestly scored for five-part choir and continuo: Edward Higginbottom (organ), Inga Klaucke (dulcian) and Joseph Crouch (bass violin) provide tasteful support for Keble’s  twenty-six choral scholars under Matthew Martin’s invigorating direction. The exhaustive, seventy-two-page booklet note, complete with colour images, refer to this mass as a sober, even severe work. Fair enough, but there’s no sobriety in the dancing rhythms of the ‘Christe eleison’ or any lack of forward momentum in the ‘Gloria’. Expressive harmonies are noble in the ‘Sanctus’, so too in the expansive chordal writing of the ‘Agnus Dei’ which suddenly moves up a gear emotionally for an upbeat ‘dona nobis pacem’. The harmonic language of the ‘Credo’ is the most striking, fearlessly expressive.

Martin generates an involving performance by the Keble singers who radiate clarity and energy, fully responsive to the work’s buoyant polyphony.It’s a shame this disc of just over forty minutes doesn’t offer any other sacred music by Valls. Instead, the movements of the Missa Regalis are interleaved by three pieces by Francisco Corrêa de Araujo and Juan Bautista José Cabanilles. Performed by Martin they are recorded on the 2008 Bernard Aubertin organ in the chapel of St John’s College and are beautifully phrased, paced and articulated.

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