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Blasco de Nebra: Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 1

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 25, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Nephew of the zarzuela composer, Jose de Nebra, Manuel Blasco de Nebra wrote some 170 works of which only 26 keyboard sonatas and six pastorellas are known today. This disc features his earliest known pieces, six sonatas from the Osuna Encarnació

Review

This is the first of a projected set of three CDs devoted to the extant piano sonatas of Manuel Blasco de Nebra (1750-1784) by pianist and musicologist Pedro Casals. During his short life, Blasco de Nebra is said to have composed some 170 works, though we don't know in what form nor for what media he wrote. According to Casals's interesting and informative notes, only 26 keyboard sonatas and six pastorellas are known to survive. Six of the sonatas were apparently published as op. 1, a copy of which is in the Library of Congress. The remainder are known from manuscripts from the Monastery of Montserrat (Catalonia), Encarnación Monastery of Osuna (near Seville), and the Santa Clara Convent (Seville.) Blasco de Nebra was born and died in Seville and, except for two years in Madrid, where his uncle, the zarzuela composer José de Nebra had connections at court, his entire life was spent in the Andalusian city. It may be straddling the fence to call these pieces "keyboard sonatas": the prominence of Alberti bass figuration alone would seem to argue in favor of the piano. It's worth noting that one of the more prominent Iberian piano makers, Francisco Pérez Mirabal, flourished in Seville contemporaneously with Blasco de Nebra. Two of Mirabal's pianos survive. He, like other Iberian makers, had the advantage of basing their instruments on the imported Florentine pianos of Cristofori and Ferrini, unlike Silbermann in Germany, who was forced to experiment on the basis of simplistic published diagrams of the Cristofori action. In any case, it's obvious from the persuasive performances by Casals (albeit on the modern piano) that Blasco de Nebra's sonatas are well crafted, often quite beautiful, and never less than effective.

Without being derivative, these pieces bring to mind the Catalan composer, Antonio Soler. Certainly the sonatas of Soler's master, Domenico Scarlatti, seem a constant point of reference. This recording presents Blasco de Nebra's sonatas chronologically. The earliest (Nos. 107-112, deriving from the Osuna Encarnación and Santa Clara manuscripts) are cast in single-movement, binary form, like Scarlatti's. The latest recorded here (Nos. 1-5, from the Montserrat Abbey manuscript) preface each Allegro movement with an extended Adagio. Most of the sonatas unfold in two-part textures; their inventive motivic structure is often triadic and highly ornamented. Blasco de Nebra was active among several organists who played at the cathedral in Seville. It's not surprising that, in the couple of sonatas that seem to effectively employ tone-painting, church bells are evoked: festal peals in Sonata No. 111, for instance, and in the Adagio of Sonata No 2, somber chimes. Casals brings a rhythmic vitality and crisp touch to his performances, appropriately achieving his varied affects with scarcely any pedal. Given his decision to present the sonatas in the order written, it will be interesting to observe Blasco de Nebra's stylistic evolution in future releases.

The piano sound (in this case an instrument that could have used a touch-up during the recording) leaves something to be desired, possibly due to overly close microphone placement and a less than resonant space. But the playing is so good and the music so interesting that one quickly forgets the less-than-optimal technical aspects of the recording. Casals's performances, authoritative and imbued with a love of the music, will no doubt attract greater attention to this little-known but obviously gifted composer. Recommended. -- Fanfare, Patrick Rucker, Jan-Feb 2010

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Product Details

  • Conductor: --
  • Composer: Manuel Blasco De Nebra
  • Audio CD (August 25, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B002ED6VH2
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #438,757 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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