- Harpsichord Sonata No. 9, Op. 163
- Harpsichord Sonata No. 8, Op. 158
- Harpsichord Sonata No. 1, Op. 52
One learns plenty about the harpsichord from the booklet of this Naxos release, and plenty about the American composer Vincent Persichetti, but little about how Persichetti happened to take up writing for the instrument, although once he did, harpsichordists commissioned him to write more music. The program of Christopher D. Lewis, playing powerful instruments (one of them a Ruckers-inspired model) that fit the mid-20th century sound well, includes a piece written in 1951 and five more from the 1980s. The 1951 "Harpsichord Sonata No. 1, Op. 52," is a bit more tonal than the others, but not fundamentally different in nature: all the pieces make modern idioms collide with the Baroque references inherent in the instrument. Sample one of the movements of the "Serenade No. 15, Op. 161," where the larger form of the music also comes from the Baroque, but the abstract thematic development explored in one way or another by most 20th century composers is still paramount. The sonatas have characteristics implied by the term, but lots of Baroque figuration. By Persichetti's own testimony the pieces are a mixed bag, with the tonal content ranging from serialism back to a Stravinskian neoclassicism, but the individual movements are tightly woven, and the use of Baroque idioms is unique. These are short pieces that could work very well in a harpsichord recital, and they're recommended for anyone enthusiastic about the instrument.