David's Review Corner
, August 2011
In reviewing the first volume in this cycle of harpsichord sonatas by the Portuguese composer, Carlos de Seixas, I recalled that most of his works were destroyed in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. What did survive, though often of questionable authenticity, included 80 solo sonatas from a musician of such prodigious gifts that at sixteen he held the position of organist to the Royal Court. His short life coincided with Domenico Scarlatti, their style having much in common, though Seixas’s thirty-eight years were long outlived by Scarlatti. It was surely Seixas who influenced the Spanish composer, Antonio Soler, who shared a love of big dramatic gestures that showed the sheer bravura of the performer. They both composed sonatas of various length, here exemplified by the Forty-fifth, that lasts little over a minute, to more extended two movements of the Seventy-eighth. No explanation is given as to why Debora Halasz plays them completely out of numerical order, not out of variance of mood as the first five tracks—all given to one-movement sonatas—are very similar. Still we must admire the high impact and dexterity of her playing, the historic copy of an instrument by Hieronymus Haas of 1734 able to despatch quick and forceful music. She often employs tempos that would test the agility of any performer, and you have to go no further than the opening track—the Third sonata—to sample the vivacity of her uninhibited playing. If in the opening Allegro to the Fortieth it is adventurous even for her dexterity, you smile at her taking such risks. In providing maximum impact the Bavarian Radio recording contains instrument action noise, but I hope they don’t make us wait another four years for volume 3.