Spanish and Portuguese Keyboard Music, Volume 1

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Spanish and Portuguese Keyboard Music, Volume 1


Featuring Felicja Blumental on piano, this is the first of two volumes released to celebrate 300 years of Carlos Seixas. This collection presents the keyboard works of by Iberian composers, Soler, Angles, Albéniz, Cantallos, Seixas, Jacinto and Carvalho.


Featuring Felicja Blumental on piano, this is the first of two volumes released to celebrate 300 years of Carlos Seixas. This collection presents the keyboard works of by Iberian composers, Soler, Angles, Albéniz, Cantallos, Seixas, Jacinto and Carvalho.

Antonio Soler – Sonata in C sharp minor (5’28)
Antonio Soler – Sonata in D major (2’48)
Rafael Angles – Aria in D minor (4’14)
Mateo Perez de Albéniz – Sonata in D major (2’35)
Cantallos – Sonata in C minor (5’14)

Carlos Seixas – Sonata in A minor

  • Allegro (2’53)
  • Minuet 1 (1’12)
  • Minuet 2 (2’00)

Carlos Seixas – Toccata in E minor

  • Allegro (1’29)
  • Adagio (0’49)
  • Minuet (1’33)

Carlos Seixas – Sonata in B flat major (5’19)
Jacinto – Toccata in D minor (2’43)

João de Sousa Carvalho – Toccata in G minor

  • Allegro (4’46)
  • Andante (2’35)

Total running time (45’40)

The 18th Century was an eventful time for the religious establishments in Spain and Portugal. Musicians travelled frequently between the countries and the techniques employed by organists and choir masters were shared. As a result of this cross-fertilization of ideas, the keyboard techniques evolved.

When King Johan V (1707-1750) became ruler of Portugal, he set about cultivating the arts in the city of Lisbon. Institutions were reformed and Portuguese musicians had the opportunity to take apprenticeships in Italy while Italian musicians, such as Domenico Scarlatti were welcomed into Lisbon to perform. Scarlatti in particular, was a central figure at this time, filling the post of Chapel Master in the capital city for 10 years from 1719. Carlos de Seixas (who was Vice Chapel Master) and Frei Jacinto were two of Portugal’s most important musicians during this period. They composed prolifically for the keyboard, particularly sonatas and toccatas. Seixas was credited as having bridged the gap between the Baroque and Classical eras with his Sonatas.

Father Antonio Soler, on the other hand, dominated the musical scene in Spain. He too composed many works, some of which remain unpublished. He was greatly nfluenced by Scarlatti and wrote a technical treatise on modulation.

At this time, Spanish Zarzuela was the fashion but the increase in artistic activity around the city brought an Italian musical influence. This substituted the Spanish musical trends with Italian opera or small operatic productions (or serenatas as they were then known). Italian opera became dominant and João de Sousa Carvalho was one of the main Portuguese composers to begin writing in this style.

Tragedy occurred in 1755, when an earthquake shook Lisbon and destroyed many of its treasures including libraries containing music manuscripts. Because of this, many compositions by Carlos de Seixas and Frei Jacinto were destroyed. However a few survived that still enjoy exposure today. Here is a handful of wonderful Spanish and Portuguese works that have survived the test of time.

Antonio Soler (1729- 1783)

Father Antonio Soler was a frier , organist and composer as well as an important theoretician who dominated the musical scene in Spain. He was best known for his 120 Keyboard sonatas but Soler also composed quintets, concertos for organ and over 300 vocal works. Keen to share his theories, Soler also wrote a controversial treaties on harmony/modulation titled Llave de la Modulacion (Key to Modulation). Strangely, he also wrote another treaties on currency exchange rates.

Soler began his career in the Benedictine monastery of Montserrat in Spain and later became the maestro de capilla at the Escorial Royal Palace in Madrid, where his duties included teaching, acting first organist and composing the music for church services. It is suprising how Soler found the time to compose. As a Hieronymite monk, he would wake at 5am for a series of masses, lessons and recitations, finishing after maitines at midnight.

Between 1752 and 1757, Soler was taught by Domenico Scarlatti so it is not suprising that his keyboard music bears similarities to that of his teacher. However, Soler experimented with the form and irregular phrasing , demanding a little more of a performer’s virtuosity. This is particularly evident in his Sonata in D major which appears a little unsettling in rhythm. Listen out for the bird like motifs of repeating notes. Unlike Scarlatti, Soler avoided the use of the acciaccatura and included and alberti bass in his compositions.

Rafael Angles ( 1730-1816)

Father Rafael Angles was a composer and cathedral organist. He was born in Aragon in 1730 and died in 1816 (possibly in Valencia). He admired the music of Haydn but very little is known of his life as a composer or organist.

Mateo Perez De Albeniz (c 1755-1831)

Albeniz lived and worked in San Sebastian. The Majority of his works were for the church (masses and motets) but he also composed some piano music and to some degree, was a musical theorist. He admired the work of Haydn and Mozart and was one of the few people of his time to introduce their music into the Spanish culture. This Sonata in D is said to have been composed around 1790.

Cantallos (born c.1760)

The sonata by Cantallos, written around the same time as the Albeniz, is full of Scarlatti-like characteristics and mannerisms. Very little is known of this Spanish composer but it is clear from his style that he was in close contact with his contemporaries. Like Soler, Cantallos uses repeated notes as rhythmic devices.

Carlos Seixas (1704-1742)

While Soler dominated the Spanish musical scene in the 18th century, Jose Antonia Carlos de Seixas did the same in Portugal. He lived a relatively short life and first received music lessons from his father, Francisco Vas (he adopted the surname Seixas). Seixas became Portugal’s finest keyboard player of this period and one of the country’s most prominent and prolific classical composers.

Seixas held various musical posts throughout his career. At the age of 16, he went to Lisbon to fill the post of organist/harpsichordist for King Johan V (1720 – 1740) who later knighted him in 1738. He was also Vice Chapel master at Lisbon Cathedral when Scarletti was Chapel Master and held the post of organist until his death. Seixas asked Scarletti for lessons, but the Italian believed it should be him asking that of Seixas. Little is known of their friendship but there are significant similarities in their keyboard music.

Seixas mainly composed music for keyboard (over 700 works). He was particularly fond of toccatas and sonatas in which he used modulations and explored the rhythms and irregular phrasing over bars. Some of his sonatas take the baroque two-part format, but indicate harmonic tendencies towards a three-part structure, like that of classical sonata form. This could be one of the reasons that Seixas’ music is said to mark the transitional period between
the Baroque and Classical eras.


Very little is knownof Brother Jacinto, including his first name. Like Soler and Angles, he was a cleric but a Frei rather than a Padre. This brilliant toccata in D minor is an binary form and explores some polyphonic textures, attempting three part harmonies.

Joao de Sousa Carvalho (1745-1798)

Carvalho was sent to study in Italy by the King of Portugal and on his return, discovered that the first pianofortes were being manufactured in Lisbon. He spent the years until his death (approximately a further 30 years or so) composing operas and occasionally keyboard music. This Toccata in G minor shows that he tailored his compositions towards the pianoforte rather than the cembalo.


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