Manuel Blasco de Nebra, Seville-born contemporary of Mozart,
has undergone a small voyage of rediscovery in recent years.
In the vanguard has been pianist Pedro Piquero, himself a native
of that city of oranges, who has arrived at the last volume
in his three disc survey of the solo piano music.
What a curiously compelling composer de Nebra proves to be.
He’s more prone to soliloquise than to address a crowd,
more given to introspection than vainglory. And yet he can certainly
parade his wares, as the Op.1 Sonatas clearly prove. These are
all two movement structures, with an Adagio followed by an Allegro
or Presto finale. The opening movement is invariably more extended
than the finale that follows, and the expressive weight inevitably
falls heavily on that first slow movement.
These openings are grave, interior and introspective. Sometimes
they sound almost too tentative for public performance. This
unshowy gravity, spare of syntax, denuded musically speaking
of adverbs and adjectives, is part of Nebra’s individuality.
He can be almost-solemn, as in the opening of No.4, but the
main tenor is a tempered gravity, as in No.2, with its gradient
chordal steps that present a compelling sound world. These slow
movements are explicitly contrasted with their finales: Yin
to Yang. These are lightly embellished with trills, ascending
and descending runs, light and airy in the extreme. They don’t
cleave to any Galant model, though in general one could, I suppose,
point to the influence of C.P.E. Bach and Soler. In the finale
of No.6 one can also hear crosscurrents from Haydn.
The two Sonatas para fuerte piano were written for the
fortepiano, unlike the six Sonatas Op.1, which were written
explicitly for harpsichord or fortepiano. These two little
one-movement sonatas, the manuscripts of which are housed in
the abbey of Montserrat, reveal another clear influence - that
of Scarlatti. He hovers benignly over these two, and though
they’re played on a modern piano, Piquero manages to suggest
the sound of a harpsichord, most notably in No.12.
This excellent series has been in more than capable hands throughout.
Piquero’s performance of the slow movement of No.7, in
particular, is a real highlight. The seamless aria of the music,
its deeply vocalised quality, is superbly realised by the Spanish
pianist. This absorbing recital has been well recorded.