carlos seixas (1704-1742): exquisite portuguese composer
appa writes on 11.Jun.04 at 21h52
Carlos Seixas

Today we celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of one of the greatest portuguese composers.

Born in Coimbra in the 11th of June 1704: José António Carlos de Seixas, is the greatest portuguese composer of music for keyboard of the Baroque. His works are not only for harpsichord — the largest number —and organ. But include sacred and instrumental works — like the B flat symphony, for example.

Son of Francisco Vaz, organist at the cathedral of Coimbra, and Marcelina Nunes. With 14 years of age Carlos Seixas occupies the place of his father at the cathedral. In 1720 he travels to Lisbon to become organist at the Lisbon cathedral. A little later he ascends to the distinguished office of Vice Chapel Master at the Royal Chapel, something remarkable since the Chapel Master was none other than Domenico Scarlatti. He died in the 25th of August 1742, occupying the office of Chapel Master: the highest rank in portuguese music of the time.

Carlos Seixas created a musical sytle of his own, no doubt inspired by italian music, but with specific elements of the portuguese temperament.

A certain lightness, smoothness and experimentalism caracterize his music. Furthermore, it was conceived having in mind the instruments made by the portuguese school of harpsichord builders.

From his numerous sonatas for harpsichord — believed to be more than 700 — only 105 have reached us. The bulk of them being destroyed in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.

Carlos Seixas' sonatas have a more experimental character than Scarlatti's.

He is a Baroque composer at the highest level, ranking with a Scarlatti or Handel. Unfortunately thanks to the negligence of the successive powers that be in Portugal Seixas's work lacks being promoted. Reaching the ludicrous situation of concerts in Portugal featuring bad foreign composers in detriment of excellent portuguese composers such as Seixas.

Much better than talking about Seixas' music is listening to it. I've selected the first movement — Allegro — of the Concerto for harpsichord and strings in A Major.

Ketil Haugsand and the Norwegian Baroque Orchestra interpretation is excellent. All the irresistible swing of this music is present. Who said that Northern Europeans can't understand the southern elements?

Now a short list of recordings with Seixas's music.


The recording with the forte-piano is new for me. I had no knwoledge of its existence until now. One of the best performances of Seixas' music that I've heard so far was a sonata played by Andreas Staier in the Queluz' Clementi. Therefore I recommend this recording in the forte-piano.
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> some more of seixas' music on cd
> by rjstove on 20.Aug.04 at 05h14
Thank you for providing a very interesting introduction (which I've only just discovered) to Carlos Seixas and his compositions.



You might like to note at least one other CD devoted, in part, to Seixas' music. Two motets by Seixas - Ardebat Vincentius and Tantum Ergo - appear on a 2-CD set issued by Archiv Produktion (453182-2). These performances originally turned up on LP in 1971, along with the rest of the repertoire in the set (the work of other 18th-century Portuguese composers: António Teixeira, Francisco António de Almeida, and João de Sousa Carvalho).


Despite their age, the renditions - many of them directed by Michel Corboz, of Lisbon Gulbenkian Foundation fame - are still eminently recommendable, in very good sound. I've been regularly playing the CDs ever since they appeared in the late 1990s. Theoretically they're now out of print, but they should still be obtainable fairly easily via Amazon or some other such clearinghouse.