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aBritish Symphonies
4CDs £16 post-free


W.S. Bennett, Rootham, Moeran,
Bax, Rubbra, Rawsthorne, Berkeley
Alwyn, Grace Williams, Arnold, Wordsworth. Searle, Joubert

Van Dieren Chinese Symphony
Searle Symphonies 3, 5
Shaw Piano Concertos 1 and 2

£11.75 post-free

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Editor-in-Chief: Rob Barnett

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Antonio SOLER (1729-1783)
13 Sonatas
Sonata in D, R.86 [5:40]
Sonata in D minor, R.24 [4:49]
Sonata in C sharp minor, R.21 [6:14]
Sonata in D flat, R.110 [4:23]
Sonata in A minor, R.118 [3:29]
Sonata in C minor, R.19 [2:55]
Sonata in C, M.27 [9:00]
Sonata in F, R.56 [7:10]
Sonata in D, R.92d [5:40]
Sonata in D minor, R.39 [3:04]
Sonata in G minor, M.38 [5:54]
Sonata in D, R.74 [4:53]
Sonata in G, R.43 [3:47]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Fandango (from: Guitar Quintet in D, G.448), transcr. for two harpsichords* [5:46]
Richard Lester (harpsichord)
David Ponsford (harpsichord II*)
rec. no details given (compilation). DDD
NIMBUS NI5906 [72:49]

Antonio Soler's star is definitely waxing these days, at least as far as recordings go, with a good quantity of recent monographs across many labels. Some of these are single volumes in cycles currently in hand. Examples include Pieter-Jan Belder's on Brilliant Classics or the multi-artist project on Naxos - this latter more controversially using a modern piano. Others take a similar approach to Richard Lester here, serving up a choice selection of fruity, quirky, virtuosic Soler.
In his notes Lester assigns all the sonatas in his recital to one of three categories, not always in jargon-free language: those of a dance-like nature with "echoes of the guitar punteado and rasgueado styles", those approximating the new Galant style of the time, and those which "are slower and more vocal in nature [...] with a hint of the melismatic expression found in cante hondo".
Soler was influenced by Domenico Scarlatti, an honorary Iberian whose own five-hundred-plus keyboard sonatas are much better known. Anyone who enjoys Scarlatti's sonatas will find much to entertain and surprise in the mere 200-odd written by Soler, who was in many respects a more adventurous keyboardist - "the devil in monk's clothing", as one moniker had it - and arguably the greater composer. Certainly there are few if any better advocates for these pieces than Lester, a composer's musician who plays without cliché or affectation, his open-toed scholarliness striking just the right course between precision and warmth, pizzazz and coherence, devil and monk.
Unlike Soler, the slightly younger Luigi Boccherini did not write a fandango - or anything much, for that matter - for harpsichord. The one heard here is Lester's own arrangement for two instruments of the final movement of the guitar quintet in D, G.448 - mildly entertaining, but not a patch on the original. Lester's account of Soler's much-recorded Fandango is on another Nimbus disc, where he shares the programme with Portuguese composer Carlos Seixas, born a generation earlier than Soler (NI 5836).
Sound and technical quality are up to Nimbus's usual high standards, with minor variation in what is after all a compilation.
The booklet is fairly concise, with more information about harpsichord secondo David Ponsford than Boccherini, but generally covers as much ground as the non-specialist listener will require, including a brief description of the various instruments heard in this recording. Ponsford is lucky enough to own the two period replicas used for the Boccherini recording.
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