José António Carlos de Seixas (June 11, 1704 – August
25, 1742) was a pre-eminent Portuguese composer of the
18th century. An accomplished virtuoso of both the
organ and the harpsichord, Seixas succeeded his father
as the organist for Coimbra Cathedral at the age of
fourteen. In 1720, he departed for the capital, Lisbon,
where he was to serve as the organist for the royal
chapel, one of the highest offices for a musician in
Portugal, a position which earned him a knighthood.
Much of Seixas’ music rests in an ambiguous
transitional period from the learned style of the 17th
century to the galant style of the 18th century.
Seixas was born in Coimbra to Francisco Vaz and
Marcelina Nunes. From a young age, he was surrounded by
musical activity; his father served as the cathedral
organist, and the flurry of musical activity in the
local monastery of Santa Cruz had an equally important
role in his musical training. In 1718, a few days
before his father's death, Seixas succeeded his father
as cathedral organist. Two years after, in 1720, he
moved to Lisbon to take up his new position in the
court of John V of Portugal as court organist and
Citing his elegance and agility on the keyboard, he was
a favorite teacher of many noble families, including
the family of Luís Xavier Furtado de Mendonça, the
Viscount of Barbacena, where he gave harpsichord
lessons to the Viscount's wife and daughters in
exchange for artistic patronage. In Lisbon, Seixas met
Italian composer Domenico Scarlatti, who was working in
Portugal from 1719 to 1728 as appointed director of the
court cathedral. In an account by José Mazza in his
Diccionario biographico de Musicos portugueses e
noticia das suas composições of 1780, the king's
brother, Dom António, arranged for Scarlatti to give
Seixas harpsichord lessons. Scarlatti, immediately
recognizing Seixas' talent, replied, "You can give me
In 1731 he was married at age twenty-eight to D. Maria
Joana Tomásia da Silva, with whom he had two sons and
three daughters. He was knighted in 1738 by the king,
inducted into the Order of Christ. Four years later, in
1742, he died of a rheumatic fever, and was buried in
the Santa Maria Basilica in Lisbon.
Seixas' keyboard works were written for a variety of
instruments, including the organ, harpsichord, and the
clavichord. Stylistically speaking, however, his
sonatas showcase a range of musical styles: some are
exemplary of a Baroque toccata; some are firmly in the
galant style; some are clearly influenced by the German
Empfindsamer Stil (literally 'sensitive style').
Despite rarely, if ever, traveling outside of Lisbon,
his work also includes various geographical styles,
such as the German Mannheim school, the French minuet,
and the Italian style as composed by Scarlatti, his
colleague and contemporary. Santiago Kastner, Seixas'
biographer and editor of his pieces, describes Seixas'
works as "unoccupied" with a particular form, and given
over to frequent improvisation. Much of his work was
destroyed in the earthquake that devastated Lisbon in
1755. Only three orchestral pieces and around one
hundred keyboard sonatas out of over an alleged seven
hundred survived, plus a handful of choral works for
liturgical use (much more conservative than what one
would expect from his instrumental music).
Although originally composed for Harpsichord, I created
this Interpretation of the Concerto in A Minor (No. 22)
for String Quartet (2 Violins, Viola & Cello).