Portuguese Keyboard Music Vol. 1 – Felicja Blumental – CB4835




Jouo de Souza Carvalho was sent by the King of Portugal to study in Italy for several years. He returned in 1767, our first known date, to find that the first pianofortes were starting to be manufactured in Lisbon. For the next thirty years (up to one year before his death) he busily composed, and his output included many operas. His Toccata in G minor shows a general Italian influence as well as a trend towards the pianoforte and away from the cembalo.

Frei Jacinto. Of brother Jacintho we know very little, except that, like Soler and Angles he was a cleric. Unlike these two priests, however, he was Frei rather than Padre, and perhaps his conventual vows restricted his life and the scope of his music. His brilliant little Toccata in D minor is in its binary form exactly like most of the Sonatas of the period.

Carlos Seixas. If Padre Antonio Soler, dominates the Spanish music scene, Carlos Seixas is just as important in the Portuguese.

In 1720, when Domenico Scarlatti arrived to the Infants of Braganza, Seixas, though only sixteen, was already an educated musician and organist of the Chapel Royal. As organist and cembalist Scarlatti were both in the same household, they must have come into much contact, and their association was deepened, for better or worse, by the fashion of Italian music. This does not mean that Seixas, whose teacher was his father, organist of Coimbra Cathedral, had any particularly pure Iberian springs of music from which to drink. Pasquini scores had reached Portugal, and he had learned the Pasquini style, and later companionship taught him the Scarlatti style. But Seixas’ music shows an independence of any but a general Italian style, and his music, represented here by three works, is less known than that of Soler though capable of giving just as great a degree of pleasure.

Scarlatti and Seixas worked side by side, each developing and enriching his own style, until 1729, when Scarlatti went off to Madrid with the Princess after her marriage, leaving Seixas behind at his accustomed duties in the Portuguese Chapel Royal for another thirteen years, until he was claimed by an early death. Although the two composers worked side by side, Seixas does not seem to have been more than generally influenced by Italian music,

Seixas is more independent than the Spanish Soler of Scarlatti’s style and his Sonatas dated from after Scarlatti’s departure.

There is story that the Infante (or crown Prince) of Portugal asked Scarlatti shortly after his arrival to give Seixas lessons, but as soon as he saw the young player place his hands on the keyboard he recognised Seixas’ talent and remarked “You are the one who could teach me!”.

Felicja Blumental – piano

In 1956, Felicja Blumental recorded one volume of Spanish and Portuguese Sonatas for Decca in London, so great was the success of this album with the critics and the public alike, another two records were recorded and released, again to great acclaim.

To take the music to a far wider audience Felicja played them in over 55 recitals across the world, from Lisbon to Paris, London, Manchester, Zurich, Lausanne, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Stockholm, Helsinki, Oslo, and also in the remote Norwegian city of Trondheim.

Felicja Blumental was renowned for pioneering the revival of “forgotten masterpieces” from romantic and classical periods she also made many first recordings, of such forgotten composers as: Hoffmeister, Platti, Manfredini, Clementi, Kuhlau, Anton Rubinstein, Rimsky Korsakof in his Piano Quintets, Albeniz in his Spanish Piano Concerto, the only Piano Concerto by Viotti, Dinu Lipatti, in his Concertino and Rumanian Rhapsody and of course the five piano concertos by Beethoven. Felicja also recorded his original version of the Violin Concerto Op. 61, for piano, Romanza Cantabile, Rondo Posth., the juvenile concerto written by Beethoven at the age of 14, in E flat major, plus concertos by Paisiello, Stamitz, Jon Field, Hummel, Carl Czerny both his piano concerto in G major and his Variations on a Haydn theme.

Heitor Villa-Lobos wrote his 5th Concerto for Felicja and Krzysztof Penderecki, dedicated his Partita for harpsichord and orchestra to her, this work won the Prix du Disque in 1975.

In 1978 Witold Lutoslawski orchestrated his ‘Variations on a Theme of Paganini’ for Felicja Blumental which she premiered with the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Brian Priestman.

Other recordings included: Busoni, Spanish Rhapsody with orchestra, Arensky, his Russian Concerto, Paderewski, Concerto and Polish Fantasy with orchestra, and of course the concertos by Grieg, Schumann, Tchaikovsky (No.1) and Rachmaninov (No.2)

Felicja Blumental also recorded the complete Scherzos, Waltzes, Polonaise and also the complete 19 Polish Songs by Chopin with soprano Annette Celine.

On her last American tour Felicja Blumental played the Mozart Concertos in 22 cities along with the Wiener Kammerorchester, which consisted of the outstanding members of the Wiener Philharmoniker.

Cover Picture: Felicja Blumental by the Japanese painter Tsugonharn Foujita (Tel Aviv Museum of Art)