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Tiento (Spanish pronunciation:  [ˈtjento] , Portuguese : Tento [ˈtẽtu] ) is a musical genre originating in Spain in the mid-15th century. It is formally analogous to the fantasia (fantasy), found in England, Germany, and the Low Countries, and also the ricercare, first found in Italy. By the end of the 16th century the tiento was exclusively a keyboard form, especially of organ music. It continued to be the predominant form in the Spanish organ tradition through the time of Cabanilles, and developed many variants. Additionally, many 20th-century composers have written works entitled "tiento".



The word derives from the Spanish verb tentar (meaning either to touch, to tempt or to attempt), and was originally applied to music for various instruments. In the early eighteenth century, some composers also used the term obra, originally a more general term meaning "work", to refer to this genre. [1]

Formal aspects

The tiento is formally extraordinarily diverse, more a set of guidelines than a rigid structural model such as fugue or rondo. Nearly all tientos are imitative to some degree, though not as complex or developed as the fugue. This has led to their being associated with the other embryonic imitative forms cited above. Similarly, it is difficult to assign a single texture to the form, since it underwent a considerable amount of evolution from its inception to its decline in the late 18th century. The earliest tientos (such as those of Cabezón) were stylistically quite close to the ricercare in their extended use of the strict, motet-style counterpoint. Later (especially in the works of Cabanilles), tientos would frequently alternate between the older style of strict counterpoint, and virtuosic, affective figuration typical of the toccata and some fantasias. The evolution of the form was in part conditioned by the evolution of the Spanish organ, and it eventually came to include several variants or sub-forms, several of which are listed below:


Contemporary composers


  1. Sadie, Stanley; Tyrrell, John, eds. (2001). "obra". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2nd ed.). London: Macmillan.[ full citation needed ]
  2. "Error".

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