> SOLER Sonatas 8555031 [DB]: Classical Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Padre Antonio SOLER (1729 - 1783)
Sonatas for harpsichord Volume 8

Sonata No.7 in C major
Sonata No.8 in C major
Sonata No.9 in C major
Sonata No.115 in D minor
Sonata No.40 in G major
Sonata No.47 in C minor
Sonata No.48 in C minor
Sonata No.59 in F major
Sonata No.20 in C sharp minor
Sonata No.21 in C sharp minor
Sonata No.98 in B flat major (Op.8 No.2)
Gilbert Rowland (harpsichord)
Recorded in Epsom College Concert Hall, July 2000 DDD Stereo
NAXOS CD 8.555031 [76.26]


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One of the joys of "classical" music is that one can explore for a lifetime and still make discoveries. Whilst I had heard of Soler I cannot recollect hearing any of his music in recent years, if ever. What a pleasure, then, to report a discovery of such quality. Soler was supposedly a pupil of Domenico Scarlatti, whose sonatas are clearly the model for his own. But for me these are very much more "modern" in style. If I can single out a handful of pieces for particular mention: No.40 in G major is startlingly Beethovenian in its power and indeed the soloist’s own notes mention its orchestral quality; No.59 in F major is a wonderfully rousing rondo in the manner of a country dance; No.20 in C sharp minor contains some decidedly unexpected modulations; No.21 in C sharp minor is a mini drama. Soler’s Sonata No.98 in B flat major is even more extraordinary. To begin with it has four movements and lasts for 23 minutes, I am not aware of that being the case with anything by his teacher. Mozart was of course writing music of similar scale at a similar period but he was not an obscure Spanish monk! The music is all very well presented by the remarkable Gilbert Rowland. I say 'remarkable' because I cannot remember hearing such rhythmical and expressive playing from a harpsichordist before. Only in Dinu Lipatti’s historic recordings on the piano of Scarlatti’s Sonata’s L23 and L413 have I previously heard such musical excitement in pieces like these.

The programme on this disc has been arranged to give variety for the listener playing several sonatas in succession. The recording is close and there is little sense of the acoustic of Epsom College Concert Hall where it was recorded. The harpsichord sound is clean and very realistic as if one were an audience member sitting very close to the instrument. The notes by the soloist are first class and radiate the enthusiasm that Gilbert Rowland clearly must have for this composer because the CD is labelled "Volume 8". It has been an oversight on my part to miss the other seven volumes and I will hasten to repair the gap in my collection where Padre Soler clearly belongs. A final note on the cover picture. Sweet and delicate though Velasquez’s daughter clearly was, I suspect that Padre Soler’s fiery inventions would have left her gasping for air with the flowers in her hair awry.
Dave Billinge


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