Sonata for Harpsichord (1781)

by Charles Wesley, Jr.

It is the very nature of libraries to collect material and make it available to readers, patrons, and the wider community. This brings an added responsibility, however. From time to time they must pause from collecting and share their treasures through special exhibitions.

The 300th anniversary of the birth of Charles Wesley (1707 - 1788) afforded such an opportunity to share Methodist treasures. Dr. Valerie Hotchkiss, former director of Bridwell Library, in consultation with Dr. Carlton R. Young, Professor Emeritus of Church Music at Emory University suggested an exhibition not only honoring Charles, but all the musical Wesley family. Beginning with Charles’ parents, Samuel Wesley (1662 - 1735) and Susanna Annesley (1669 - 1742), and ending with his grandson, Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810 - 1876), the exhibition and catalog Sacred Harmony: The Musical Wesley Family focused on four generations of the Wesley family.

One of the featured recent additions to the Bridwell Methodist collections is a signed manuscript by Charles Wesley, Jr., “Sonata per il Cembalo” in F minor. At the exhibition opening, SMU Professor of Harpsichord and Organ Dr. Larry Palmer performed this work, followed by a lecture by Dr. Nicholas Temperley, Professor Emeritus of Musicology at the University of Illinois, entitled “Music and Charity in Eighteenth-Century England, with Special Emphasis on the Lock Hospital.”

More information about the exhibition is available online at

Page A. Thomas
Director, Center for Methodist Studies at Bridwell Library, Southern Methodist University

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Performance notes have been supplied by noted harpsichordist and organist Larry Palmer. The publication consists of seven color prints of the actual score and a "modern" reprint with performer friendly page turns. The score measures 11.5 by 9 inches. Dr. Palmer asks "Harpsichord or Piano for Wesley’s Sonata in F Minor ?" There are several indications that this composition may have been intended to be played on either instrument.

Dr. Palmer has recently recorded the Wesley sonata together with other works by Jacques Duphly (La de Belombre, Les Grâces), Glenn Spring (Hommages), W. A. Mozart (Fantasia in D Minor, K397 with Fugue in D Major, K394), Domenico Scarlatti (Sonata in F Minor), J.S. Bach (Prelude in A Major, BWV 888, Chaconne in D Minor, BWV 1004) and Herbert Howells (Hughes' Ballet). The CD is available from him by writing to him at the following address: