Spanish and Portuguese Keyboard Music, Volume 2

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Spanish and Portuguese Keyboard Music, Volume 2

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This is the second of two volumes of Spanish and Portuguese Keyboard Music recorded by pianist Felicja Blumental. This collection presents the keyboard works of by Iberian composers, Angles, Soler, Ferrer, Freixanet and Seixas.

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Description

This is the second of two volumes of Spanish and Portuguese Keyboard Music recorded by pianist Felicja Blumental. This collection presents the keyboard works of by Iberian composers, Angles, Soler, Ferrer, Freixanet and Seixas.

Rafael Angles – Adagietto (1’59)
Rafael Angles – Fugato in B flat major (2’03)
Antonio Soler – Sonata in G minor (4’06)
Mateo Ferrer – Sonata in D major (4’22)
Freixanet – Sonata in A major (2’37)
Anon – Toccata in C major (2’58)

Carlos Seixas – Sonata in A minor

  • Allegro (3’00)
  • Minuet 2 (1’10)

Carlos Seixas – Sonata in C

  • Allegro (3’41)
  • Adagio (1’53)
  • Minuet (1’32)

Carlos Seixas – Minuet in A minor (3’05)
Carlos Seixas -Toccata in D minor (3’46)

Carlos Seixas – Sonata in F minor

  • Allegro (2’19)
  • Minuet (3’03)

Carlos Seixas -Sonata in C minor (1’40)

Carlos Seixas – Sonata in D minor

  • Moderato (1’40)
  • Giga (0’39)
  • Minuet (1’28)

Total running time (53’45)

Some may believe the music of 18th Century Iberian composers to be less interesting than the music from Germany, France and Italy of this period. However, these two volumes of keyboard music illustrate the originality of Spanish and Portuguese composers Angles, Albéniz, Cantallos, Carvalho, Ferrer, Freixanet, Jacinto, Seixas and Soler.

At the beginning of the 18th Century, Louis XI was King of Spain. He had no enthusiasm for Spanish national art and preferred foreign artists. Consequently, Italian singers and composers gradually influenced the aristocratic tastes and the court life in Spain. It was a similar situation in Portugal. When King Johan V (1707-1750) became ruler of Portugal, he set about cultivating the arts in the city of Lisbon. Portuguese musicians had the opportunity to take apprenticeships in Italy while Italian musicians, such as Domenico Scarlatti were welcomed into Lisbon to perform.

The authoritative musical figures during this time were men of the church. Father Antonio Soler was a friar, organist and composer as well as an important theoretician who dominated the musical scene in Spain. The first pianofortes were being manufactured and Soler was fortunate to have a piano at the monastery. Although he wrote for the organ, the compositional quality of his colourful keyboard works show that he had the piano in mind.

His Portuguese counterpart was José António Carlos de Seixas. Seixas became Portugal’s finest keyboard player of this period and one of the country’s most prominent and prolific classical composers who bridged the gap between Baroque and Classical eras.

Both composers did not simply duplicate Italian idioms, but developed and expanded the style while recalling their Spanish and Portuguese roots. They blended vocal-like melodies into quasi-contrapuntal lines and simple block harmonies. This formed a model on which classical composers such as Haydn and Mozart were to base their 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.

This Adagietto is in ternary form and is notebly melodic in character. The Fugato in B flat has a misleading title as there are very few contrapuntal lines so it seems homophonic rather than polyphonic in harmony.

Antonio Soler (1729- 1783)

Father Antonio Soler was a friar, 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 exchanged 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 Sonata in G minor is an example of how Soler remained individual. It is in ternary rather than binary form.

Mateo Ferrer (1788-1864)

Mateo Ferrer was choirmaster and organist as Barcelona Cathedral. He wrote both vocal and instrumental works. This Sonata in D minor is in ternary form and is reminiscent of Haydn’s earlier keyboard works.

(Joseph) Freixanet

Freixanet is another Spanish composer about whom very little is known. His first name was probably Joseph, born around 1730 and he started siging at Lerida Cathedral. It is likely that he only composed sonatas, one of which is in A major found here. His style is very similar to that of Soler and Scarlatti and this work is in binary form, as is the Toccata in C major by an anonymous composer.

Carlos Seixas (1704-1742)

While Soler dominated the Spanish musical scene in the 18th century, Jose Antonio 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.