Nebra, M Piano Sonatas Op 1, Nos 1 - 6

A composer in the mould of Scarlatti but also so much more than that

Author: 
Lindsay Kemp

Nebra, M Piano Sonatas Op 1, Nos 1 - 6

  • (6) Sonatas, C minor
  • (6) Sonatas, B flat
  • (6) Sonatas, A
  • (6) Sonatas, G minor
  • (6) Sonatas, F sharp minor
  • (6) Sonatas, E
  • (6) Pastorelas & (12) Sonatas, Pastorela No 2
  • (6) Pastorelas & (12) Sonatas, Pastorela in E minor

Manuel Blasco de Nebra, appointed organist of Seville Cathedral in 1770 at the age of 20 but dead by the end of 1784, is not quite new to the catalogues – Carole Cerasi produced a wonderful disc of his music on harpsichord and fortepiano (Metronome, 2/04) – but for most “modern” pianists he will surely be a novelty. His Scarlattian heritage is obvious at almost every turn but it would be wrong to dismiss him as a mere imitator. Not only does his music cut a more Classical figure but there is a vein of soulful poetry here which distinguishes it from the more nervy brilliance of the Italian. True, the quick finales of his two-movement sonatas are Scarlattian to the core but the long opening adagios have something of the poise and balance of a Haydn and the expressive eloquence of a CPE Bach. Bach would surely have admired the intense opening of Op 1 No 5, for instance; indeed, in its pained right-hand melody, with slow Alberti accompaniment twisting the knife, this movement even had me thinking briefly of Chopin’s E flat minor Etude.

Javier Perianes has so far shown in his choice of composers to record (Schubert and Mompou) that he has a taste for this kind of quiet but deep expression, and his natural introversion, delicate touch and controlled tone are ideal for the still waters of Nebra’s adagios. Even so, I feel he occasionally lingers a little too long, while in the rhythmic tricks of the lighter three-movement “pastorelas” he surely needs to be more playful. Cerasi is, and to great effect, yet while her recording perhaps conjures more of the atmosphere of Nebra’s world, Perianes’s concentration and refinement certainly make a strong case for the introduction of his music into the modern piano repertoire.

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