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This recording is a landmark. Complete recordings of Correa’s facultad orgánica are thin on the ground – indeed, the only previous complete recording may be José Enrique Ayarra’s 2006 set on Almaviva. It is in any case the first recording made entirely in the New World. With such an enormous undertaking, it is difficult to know where to begin, but the scale of Robert Bates’s endeavour is worthy of serious acknowledgement. The project covered fully 20 years and the discs feature, in addition to two fine North American meantone organs in Spanish style, no fewer than three historic organs in Mexico which, although later than the collection (as would be the case had the recording been made in Spain), provide a vivid and unforgettable canvas for this most extraordinary music.

Recording these organs provided seemingly constant adventures; wild dogs, earthquakes, glass-less windows, snoring sextons, crickets and over-zealous Mexican customs officials all played a role. The condition of certain organs was so fragile that much had to be re-recorded on repeat visits. Bates’s playing, however, is irreproachable. He has an inherent feel for the mercurial and mannerist nature of Correa’s gargantuan tutor and for the fluidity of rhythmic expression and creative ornamentation that it demands. The lavish 120-page booklet is a model of its kind. It includes sumptuous photography, essays on the music, the organs and the registrations (citing a fascinating variety of influences), all of which are listed in detail. These include occasional use of exterior horizontal trumpets although, as Bates acknowledges, such stops were unlikely to have been available to Correa. Nevertheless, the agricultural reeds of the Mexican organs, and especially the bucolic Bajoncilla in Tlacochahuaya, are uniquely memorable. The organ world owes a debt of gratitude to Robert Bates for such a profound and magnificent gift.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica

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