“Into the Millennium” The Harpsichord in the 20th Century – [TrackList follows] – Elaine Funaro, harpsichord – Gasparo
ANTONIO SOLER: Harpsichord Sonatas [TrackList follows] – Anna-Maaria Oramo, harpsichord – Alba

“Into the Millennium” The Harpsichord in the 20th Century – [TrackList follows] – Elaine Funaro, harpsichord – Gasparo GSCD-331 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

ANTONIO SOLER: Harpsichord Sonatas [TrackList follows] – Anna-Maaria Oramo, harpsichord – Alba ABCD 328, 1:05:53 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

Some of the many solo harpsichord CDs coming out today may sound a bit boring to those who aren’t harpsichordists or musicologists themselves, but these two are beyond that. Most of the contemporary pieces written especially for the harpsichord have left me cold, but I found the eight composers represented on the first disc to be great listening, not too atonal, and not sounding at all like piano music transcribed for the harpsichord.

Wanda Landowska may have performed on an instrument more like a piano than a harpsichord, but she got a few contemporary composers to write the first modern harpsichord works. Here are a bunch more by living composers, lovingly performed on two different harpsichords—a double manual French Taskin copy and a double manual Flemish instrument built in 1984. Engineer Christopher Greenleaf gives details of his recording approach—using main and ambient Schoeps mics and two professional Tascam DAT recorders.

Harpsichordist Elaine Funaro studied at Oberlin and the New England Conservatory as well as two years in Holland with Gustav Leonhardt and Ton Koopman. The two longest work, at over 14 minutes, are Nicole Clément’s Covalences Multiples, and Dan Locklair’s The Breakers Pound. The French woman refers in her suite to the chemical bond between two atoms and their shared electrons, The work is a study in semi-tonal relationships, and a Bach theme from The Art of Fugue underlys the entire suite. Locklair’s work is a dance suite for harpsichord, commissioned by and dedicated to harpsichordist-composer Barbara Harbach. It was inspired by a Stephen Sandy poem, “Freeway.”

The red harpsichord on the cover was built and decorated in Paris in 1990.

TrackList:

Edwin McLean: Sonata; Penka Kouneva: Raga; Nicole Clément: Covalences Multiples; Isaac Nagao: Ancient Cities; Dan Locklair: The Breakers Pound; Stephen Yates: Suite; Tom R. Harris: Jubilate Deo; Peter B. Klausmeyer: Pet Johnson’s Ground.

[audaud-hr]

After the exciting (and many) harpsichord sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti, those of Antonio Soler provide a similar and wonderful descended style but also begin to be more into early Classicism, and it is thought many were designed not for the harpsichord but the fortepiano. Scholars disagree on whether Soler actually studied with Scarlatti, but there are many similarities in their sonatas.  They are often in a one-movement form, often paired according to their keys, and both require tremendous virtuosity of performers in some of them. Soler was born and bred in Flemish culture, as Scarlatti had been in Italian culture, but both created perky sonatas which sometimes overflowed with a Spanish flavor, and in fact some may remind listeners of elements of flamenco.

Unlike Scarlatti, Soler spent most of his life in meditation as a monk, but one  critic called him “the devil dressed as a monk.” He developed a radical modulation technique and distinctive ornamentation. Like Scarlatti, he lived and worked at Spain’s El Escorial, and created his music primarily for the royal children. He established a warm teacher-pupil relationship with the Infante there.

Finnish harpsichordist Oramo also plays a Taskin harpsichord copy, built in 2008, teaches early music at the Sibelius Academy and is the harpsichordist and organist of the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra.

TrackList:

Sonatas Nos. 61, 107, 69, 18, 5, 6, 24, 84, 37, 34, 106 & 71

—John Sunier

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