A release in Marco Polo’s "20th Century
Spanish Composer Series", this disc contains the entire series
of Nocturnos written as a deliberate homage to Chopin by Josep Soler,
influential Catalan iconoclast and pedagogue. Concluding with the later
(and significantly more discordant) Nocturne Poem, the programming here
is logical but leaves this reviewer, at least, with a wish for greater
variety in the musical style. A little of Soler goes a long way!
Not that it isn’t good music. On the contrary, there
are moments of sheer brilliance and references to all sorts of important
musical influences of the twentieth century. Soler is a great exponent
of Schoenberg, Berg and Reger, and his piano music in particular reflects
a deep-rooted knowledge of and level of comfort with twelve-tone writing.
But an hour of introspective, often almost static music is asking a
bit much of my powers of concentration on a sunny Sunday morning. Perhaps
I should wait for a grey, overcast autumn day and play it again!
There is variety of a sort within the individual works
in this collection. Although they all occupy an introspective, contemplative
sound world, there are certainly changes of pace, timbre and dynamic.
All these take place within the confines of pretty rigid serialism,
so the thematic motifs tend to be somewhat limited.
Soler is probably one of the most important – and certainly
one of the most influential – Catalan composers of the last fifty or
more years. In the artistic life of Barcelona he is considered to be
something of a bridge between conservatism and experimentation in music.
As his career has progressed, he has tended to write increasingly abstract
music, of which this disc contains good workmanlike examples. The performances
are excellent, the sound quality unsurpassed and the liner notes comprehensive
and informative. I just wish it had been possible to put together a
slightly more varied programme as an introduction to this important
composer’s music. But I AM grateful to Marco Polo for bringing this
music to a wider audience!