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José Lidon - Sonata de Primo Tono

Martin Cooke

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I'm just wondering if anyone has discerned what sort of registration Lidon had in mind when he wrote this piece. I am very aware of George Guest's recording on the St John's, Cambridge instrument in which the chamade was used for both hands. I know little about Spanish organs but am I correct in thinking that the John's chamade is much louder than those in Spain? 

I have no opportunity to play this piece on an organ equipped with a chamade, but if I did, would it be appropriate to play the A section through on the chamade alone (both hands), repeat on some chorus work, and then repeat this pattern in the B section. If not, what? 

And, in this country, what would be the best instrument of all those with chamades, to play the piece on, even if the full Spanish organ sound is unattainable. 

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You probably know this recording already. Obviously you can’t tell absolute loudness from a record but I remember being stunned by this sound world first time I heard it. 


Greyfriars Edinburgh shouted well when new. Not heard it for decades and I believe it’s a challenge to keep it all working.

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As I’ve said on here previously (somewhere), there were plans for an Iberian-style organ for a church in London, associated with one of the conservatoires. These were mooted some ten, or more, years back, but seem to either be in abeyance, or have foundered. I would be most interested if they were ongoing.

‘Authentic’, Iberian-style instruments have been installed in the last few decades at locations in Spain, the U.S. and France (possibly, a few other EU countries – I forget), with hybrids in Spain itself.

The true ‘Spanish’ Trompeta is a tad different from the high-pressure simulacrums with similar names here, and elsewhere. As OwenTurner hints, to have these things blazing and fizzing away (true aural fireworks) just above one’s head is a privilege and awe-inducing.  

Listening to these recordings

Sonata de Primer Tono Con Trompeta Real - YouTube

Sonata de 1 tono para clave o para organo con trompeta real - YouTube

Sonata de 1 tono - YouTube

will reveal a tendency for the (often uneven) reed to be reinforced with a Corneta, sometimes this can be done with Flautados. One of these even ends without the Trompeta. Remember, many of these instruments were one (split) manual. Speedy stop-changing without an assistant was often tantamount to impossible. However, larger instruments would, of course, allow a more ‘varied’ interpretation. 

I don’t think there are set rules for how to register this piece – though it is later than the repertoire I used to perform. It has a bipartite structure (cf Scarlatti’s keyboard sonatas), with repeats: this presumes, or provides an opportunity for, varied registration. Note that this Sonata is “for keyboard OR organ .  .  .” Lidón was at the end of the heyday of the ‘Spanish Classical Organ’ and this tradition was quickly dissolving.

I do not have any more time this morning, but may comment on the recordings above in more detail, later.

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Many thanks for your most helpful post, John. One forgets the completely different nature of the true Spanish chamade trumpet stops compared with almost anything I have experienced over here. If you do have time to comment further, that would be most interesting. This has all come up in the process of looking for something to play as a concluding voluntary on Sunday - St James the Apostle, patron saint of Spain. 

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On 22/07/2021 at 09:08, Martin Cooke said:

If you do have time to comment further

The first recording in my previous post was made in the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, in Labastida in the Basque Country, by the Brazilian Elisa Freixo. The large one-manual organ dates from Francisco 1735/Gasparini 1770/Carvajal 1803 and restored in 1984 by Arrizbalaga. Here, the registration is Trompeta real 8’, Flautados at 8’, 4’ + 2’, with Corneta (upper half of keyboard). There is a Trompeta de batalla which puts the real a bit in the shade: Sonata para Clarines y Cadireta - YouTube

The second recording, from Segovia, is on the 3-manual Pedro Echevarria of 1772. The ‘expressive’ lowest manual (Cadera) is not used here and the registration not varied. It does not have as many stops as might be imagined but, in that marvellous acoustic (an almost invariable feature of Spanish churches) sounds magnificent. This building surely has one of the most imposing of the many dramatic settings of religious edifices in Spain: Rome, Islam and Christianity here combine on that mountain-backed skyline.

The third, from Santa María in Maó (Menorca), is on the 1810 Kyburtz 3-manual. This has four (!) mixtures on the Órgano mayor. Neither this, nor the second, give the registrations employed.

Thus, for the English audience, a possible solution would be 1a 'fanfare' reed; 1b flues; 2a 'Cornet' combination; 2b plus reed(s). The last note might easily be underpinned with the Pedal.

Having heard the above, I’m sure members will agree that, despite Curley’s manifest virtuosity, such a speed on organs of the day would have been impossible, or sounded plain ridiculous.

An aside: with warfare and general strife being much commoner on the mainland of Europe than here at the time of this music, it is no surprise that ‘battle music’ (in Spain, particularly the Batalla) formed a significant and striking part of their organ repertoire. Even small(ish) instruments would often have a Trompeta, facilitating the performance of such.

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