Gilbert Rowland continues
the epic series of recordings of the harpsichord works of Soler,
now with a very-recently released 12th volume. The
biographical details have been covered before by other reviewers
of this series such as those for volume 10 (see review),
so I’ll focus more on the music for this review.
The recording quality
is comparable to the other very well-recorded harpsichord Naxos discs, intimate,
yet with enough ambient inclusion to give a sense of space.
The pleasant sound is similar to that of the Naxos discs of the harpsichord works of Carlos de Seixas,
a series recorded by Debora Halasz.
Many of the sonatas
of Soler, evidently, were intended to be performed in pairs,
acting as a sort of binary sonata. Sonatas 22 and 23 work as
one of these contiguous pairs. This first sonata is a bit more
dainty and coy, with 23 being the more outgoingly forthright
in the presentation of its material.
Sonata 128 develops
two contrasting themes more or less in rondo form, the first
being similar to a Courante, which is explored before the more
fleet-footed second in duple meter takes over. Over the course
of the piece the sombre dignity of the first is coloured by
the sunnier second theme, as the second theme is rendered more
There are two other
highlights on the disc: two larger-scale later sonatas, the
earliest being the Sonata No. 65 in A minor. There were six
three-movement sonatas from 1777, and according to the liner-notes,
this is the only one in a minor key; being so it is by no means
grim. There are snatches of folk music here in this first dignified
triple-meter opening movement and the middle Allegro
that follows, which is a greatly enjoyable movement that, in
spite of Soler’s overarching style, at times has a whiff of
Mozart about it. For fans of intricate counterpoint, we have
the fugal last section, marked Intento con movimento contrario,
beautifully rendered by Rowland. The piece keeps a wonderful
sense of repose, without things getting too crowded.
The other multiple-movement
sonata is my favourite piece on the disc, the gregarious No.
62 in B-flat major, composed shortly before Soler’s death.
The opening movement is a Rondo. The liner-notes mention Mozart
in regard to the sound of this movement, and I agree. It has
a sort of almost smilingly sly crowd-pleasing quality about
it. The following Allegretto expresivo is, though it
begins in the relative minor, a joyous five minutes that keeps
a courtly sense of decorum — a quite enjoyable listen. The
third-movement minuet is marked a “revolving minuet,” in which
the themes presented rotate in changing orders, like the members
of a confused volleyball team. Ending the sonata is the Allegro
spiritoso, which continues the effervescent tone that the
previous movements set. Delightful.
Overall, yet another
beautifully-recorded disc, with some lovely pieces finally seeing
the light of day. This is the first disc of the series that
I’ve heard, but now that it’s been heard, I doubt it will be
the last I have in my collection.
see also Review
by Glyn Pursglove