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Alex Baran
The WholeNote, January 2018

Well-programmed and wonderfully played, the disc delivers far more than a first glance might suggest. It reincarnates the harpsichord as a credible modern keyboard instrument. © 2018 The WholeNote Read complete review



Joe Cadagin
Fanfare, January 2018

[Lewis] paid a great deal of attention to instrumental authenticity. It seems a bit paradoxical to speak of historically informed performance practice for 20th-century harpsichord repertoire, but Lewis has devoted an entire dissertation to the topic. Half of the pieces on this disc are performed on a 1930s Pleyel harpsichord, which the liner notes describe as essentially a “plucked piano.” It has a tinnier, more nasal timbre than the harpsichords we hear today, which are most often replicas of authentic Baroque instruments. Nonetheless, there’s a certain element of nostalgia in hearing the Pleyel—it was Wanda Landowska’s keyboard of choice, and it’s similar in make to the harpsichords used in 1960s Baroque pop albums. An arsenal of six pedals allows Lewis to easily maneuver the many changes in coupling that Persichetti notates in the score. Thanks to Naxos’s superior recording job, it’s possible to pick up on the subtle shifts in color that result, including a marvelously twangy upper manual; if anything, this album provides some enlightening insights into the sounds and instruments of the 20th-century early music revival. © 2018 Fanfare Read complete review



Bradley Lehman
American Record Guide, November 2017

Lewis continues his fine Naxos series of rarely-recorded harpsichord music from the 20th Century. This repertoire is his specialty as performer and scholar. Half of the program is played on an original Pleyel harpsichord from the 1930s and the other half on a more recent Flemish-styled instrument built by Kevin Fryer. He played these same harpsichords in his French and British programs.

The music is affable and melodious without sticking closely to tonality. © 2017 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide



Guy Rickards
Gramophone, October 2017

The recognisably neoclassical atmosphere of the First, familiar from Persichetti’s Sixth Symphony (1956), deservedly still a staple of the American wind-band repertoire, is absent from the later sonatas, which share the terser, more contrapuntal and tonally ambiguous style of his later years. This makes them less diverse a set than the 12 piano sonatas, spread more evenly throughout his career. Heard together, the later harpsichord sonatas have a certain dryness of musical language, the textures occasionally harsh, but Christopher Lewis, playing two different instruments, performs each as an individual masterpiece, bringing out the many shades of dark and light, frequently subtle colours, and the marches, dances and fantasias that abound in the music. The concluding Serenade No 15 (1985)—last of a series for differing combinations that began with his Op 1 in 1929—is lighter and breezier in manner. © 2017 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone



Ralph Graves
WTJU, August 2017

Lewis’ phrasing and precise execution bring out the best in these works, clearly outlining Persichetti’s musical structures. © 2017 WTJU Read complete review



Joseph Newsome
Voix des Arts, July 2017

Starting his public career as a pianist and composer whilst still an adolescent, Persichetti was a precocious artist, and the spirit of his youthful mastery electrifies the performances of his music on this handsomely-recorded Naxos disc by Welsh harpsichordist Christopher D. Lewis. As in his previous recordings for Naxos, the eloquence of Lewis’s playing of Persichetti’s music belies his youth. The notion of a young musician having an ‘old soul’ is silly if rather poetic, but Lewis is an artist whose sensibilities encompass a near-boundless array of musical styles. …Lewis perpetuates the initiative begun by Vicens, broadening listeners’ experiences with the harpsichord by venturing further into the immense trove of music composed for the instrument. © 2017 Voix des Arts Read complete review



David Denton
David's Review Corner, July 2017

It has been largely due to the recording industry that the harpsichord has gained its present popularity, the instrument in the early 20th century just a relic of times past. Though today it seems bizarre, but it was not until the 1950’s that period instrument performances of works from the Baroque era became widely available on disc and showed the harpsichord’s unique tonal qualities. Surprisingly, it also captured an interest among today’s composers, including the American, Vincent Persichetti, whose vast output, in every genre, includes a modest output for the solo instrument. Sadly, the notes that come with the disc fail to inform us how he came into contact with it in the first place—was it a commission from the distinguished harpsichordist, Fernando Valenti, who gave the premiere of the First Sonata? Certainly, the other sonatas on the disc were so generated. Stylistically, they were of their time with some crunchy harmonies that could be explored using the instrument’s unique sound, but are equally written in a mix of tonality and atonality. There is melody inherent in the First Sonata dating from 1951, with a naughty French influence often surfacing in the outer movements. By the time we reach the last of the seven sonatas, composed over the years 1983 until his death in 1987, he has moved to a version of atonality that falls pleasingly on the ear. All are in the conventional three movements and quite short in duration, and, with the exception of the brilliant finale to the Eighth, they are not outgoing virtuoso showpieces. Here performed, together with a brief Serenade, by Christopher Lewis who was Welsh by birth, but musically educated in the United States. Already with three outstanding discs of 20th century harpsichord works, he proves a highly persuasive Persichetti advocate. I am not going to pretend it will ask you to love it, but it is an excellently recorded disc, and I commend to you. © 2017 David’s Review Corner



Records International, July 2017

Persichetti was perhaps pre-eminent among composers who embraced the twentieth-century revival of the harpsichord, and it is surprising that his ten sonatas for the instrument, which combine entirely idiomatic harpsichord writing with thorough exploration of the potential of the modern harpsichord and a contemporary vocabulary free of pastiche, are not better known. These sonatas all weigh in at around the ten-minute mark, all are in a traditional three-movement form, and all make use of classical forms—sonata, rondo and so on. Clear and intricate counterpoint, which the instrument does so well, is central to Persichetti’s harpsichord style, and he clearly relished the possibilities of registration and dynamics afforded by the large two-manual modern instrument. His idiom is characteristically varied, from very tonal hymn-like chorale slow movements to brittle toccatas and recitatives with astringent modern harmony allied with baroque figuration to highly chromatic contrapuntal movements. Everything sounds entirely natural and pleasing to the ear, but represents a fresh and original contribution to the harpsichord literature. © 2017 Records International





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