Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Penelope (overture) * [8.02]
L'Eumene (overture) * [7.00]
Perseo (overture) * [6.24]
Toccata in g minor ** [7.24]
Sonata in D major ** [8.39]
Sonata in F major ** [8.40]
* Ferenc Liszt Chamber Orchestra/János Rolla
** János Sebestyén/harpsichord
rec: May - June 1984 (overtures); July 1984 (harpsichord).
STRAUSS CD SP 4161 [47.06]

Portuguese baroque music was dominated by Italian opera, and the three overtures on this CD bear witness to this influence. Composed between 1773 and 1782, these three overtures follow the classical Italian model with three sections, fast, slow, fast. There is little in these works that makes them stand out from the many other Italian opera overtures - they sound as though they could have been written by Mozart. The music is efficient and agreeable, but eventually lacking in depth. The recordings of these overtures are not excellent, with a flat sound that lacks highlights - bear in mind that this is an analogue (ADD) recording made in 1984.

However, Sousa Carvalho's harpsichord works are far more interesting. This disc contains all of his known works for the keyboard, and it is a shame that he did not write more such music. There is real verve and energy in these short works, which are not unlike the harpsichord sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti.

The Toccata in G minor is a delightful work in two movements, allegro and andante. Like many of Scarlatti's binary sonatas, these two movements fit perfectly together. While not filled with the same types of difficulties, the rhythmic elements in this piece are quite interesting.

Sousa Carvalho was writing at a time that was at the crossroads between the baroque and the pre-classical periods, and the "classical" sonata was in development. Movements for this type of work were no longer named by the dance rhythms they were based on. The classical sonata of three movements was becoming fashionable, and the two sonatas on this disc, the Sonata in D Major and the Sonata in F Major, fit that form, each opening and closing with an allegro; the former with a larghetto in the middle, and the latter an andante.

These two sonatas are typical of the harpsichord idiom, and alternate virtuoso passages, with more rhythmic effects, and melodic passages. There is a certain cuteness in the slower movements of these sonatas. The larghetto of the D Major Sonata has a music-box sound to it, highlighted by the timbre of the harpsichord playing in a high register. The andante of the F Major Sonata recalls some of Bach's sarabandes in its melodic structure.

The performance of all three of these harpsichord pieces is joyful and bright, and the recording is quite good. János Sebestyén shows a mastery of harpsichord technique, and his choices in ornamentation and registration (there is an interesting use of a lute stop in the F Major andante) are quite judicious.

While the overtures are essentially forgettable, the harpsichord works are very satisfying, and show a composer who, unfortunately, left us only these works for keyboard.

Late baroque orchestral and harpsichord music.

Kirk McElhearn



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