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SOLER, A.: Sonatas for Harpsichord, Vol. 6


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Antonio Soler(1729-1783)


Sonatas forHarpsichord Vol. 6



Owing mainly to thetireless efforts of the late Father Samuel Rubio and other editors in makingmany of his works available in print during the past forty years, Antonio Soleris now justly regarded as the most important composer active in Spain duringthe second half of the eighteenth century. He was born at Olot, in the provinceof Gerona in north-eastern Spain in 1729 and baptised on 3rd December. At theage of six he entered the famous choir school at the Monastery of Montserratwhere he studied organ and composition. Before that he probably received sometuition from his father, who was a regimental bandsman. In 1744 he wasappointed organist at the cathedral in Seo de Urgel and was later ordained assubdeacon there.



At that time theBishop of Urgel asked him if he knew of a boy who could play the organ and whowished to take holy orders at the Escorial. Soler volunteered himself, sayingthat he very much wanted to take the vows and retreat from the world, and so on25th September 1752 he became a monk and entered that famous monastery nearMadrid, built by Philip II. He also became master of the Chapel there, probablyin 1757 following the death of his predecessor, Gabriel de Moratilla. Soler remainedthere until his death in 1783.



During the years 1752to 1757 Soler is reputed to have studied composition with Domenico Scarlattiand many of Soler's sonatas show his influence to a marked degree both in formand musical language. Despite his probable debt to Scarlatti, however, Soler'sown personality is very much in evidence in these works. Many of these sonatas,like Scarlatti's, are single movements in binary form, that is, in twosections, each of which is repeated, although Soler also composed a largenumber of multi-movement sonatas. It is quite possible that he was one of thecopyists of some of the manuscript volumes of Scarlatti's sonatas, now housedin Venice and Parma.



Fortunately forposterity Soler's wish for a quiet life did not work out quite as he intended.

Apart from his monastic duties he was expected to train the choir, providechoral music for services, and provide the Royal family with secular andinstrumental music during their frequent visits to the Escorial. The Spanish courtregularly spent the autumn there. Soler's achievement is also astonishing whenconsidering that much of his day would have been taken up with prayer and theroutine of the community. Periods of illness often prevented him from working.

We learn from the anonymous obituary of Soler, written by a fellow monk on theday he died, that he survived on only four hours sleep most nights, oftenretiring at midnight or one o'clock in the morning before rising at four orfive o'clock to say Mass. Mention is also made of his religious devotion,compassionate nature, scholarly interests and excessive candour. Soler died atthe Escorial on 20th December, 1783, from a gradually worsening fever which hehad caught the previous month. Soler's huge output runs to nearly 500individual works, and of his 150 keyboard sonatas, most were intended forharpsichord.



A large number ofSoler's instrumental works, including many of the sonatas, were composed forthe Infante Don Gabriel (1752-1788), son of Carlos III, whom Soler served asmusic master from the mid 1760s. As with Scarlatti, Spanish folk-song and danceelements feature prominently in his sonatas. Soler was much influenced by thechanging musical fashions of the second half of the eighteenth century and someof the single movement sonatas, as well as the four-movement works dating fromthe late 1770s and early 1780s approach the Viennese classical school inmusical language. There are a large number of slow movements amongst thesingle-movement works which contain some of his most profound and memorablemusic.



Recent research hasshown that, as in the case of Scarlatti, many of the single movement sonataswere intended to be played as pairs, though this is not always apparent inRubio's edition, except in the case of Rubio Nos. 1-27, which follows the samenumerical sequence of the English edition. Many of Soler's sonatas make use ofthe full five-octave compass and were probably originally played on a 63-keyharpsichord with a compass from F to g′′′ which DiegoFernandez built for the Infante Don Gabriel in 1761.



Sonata No. 4 in G major is a rich-textured,festive sounding work, complete with guitar-like repeated notes and theimaginary sounds of trumpets and drums. Each of this sonata's two main sectionsis divided into three sub-sections separated by fermatas, and there are sometypically abrupt modulations coupled with short repeated phrases in the mannerof Scarlatti.



Sonata, Nos. 102/104 in D minor are both light-?¡texturedworks consisting of mostly two-part writing throughout. Triplet figurationdominates most of Sonata No. 102 except for the four bars in eachsection where a three-voice texture is introduced making effective use ofsuspensions. Sonata No. 104 is a sprightly little work, very Spanish inidiom with occasional syncopations giving an aural impression of 3/4 against6/8. This is characteristic of the Zapateado, of which this is a typicalexample.



The musical languageof Sonatas Nos. 109/56 in F major is far closer to Mozart than Scarlattisuggesting that both must be late works. The first is a Rondo of muchcharm and rhythmic buoyancy with occasional unexpected excursions into thePhrygian mode. The second is a warm, lyrical work containing at least threedistinct ideas. It also approaches sonata form since the opening theme isrecapitulated in the second half after a short development section. Again,Soler's gift for surprising modulations is apparent.



>Sonata, Nos. 70 and 71 in A minor are a wellcontrasted pair. The first is a brilliant perpetuum mobile of much drive andvirtuosity complete with scales, hand-crossings, and passages in thirds. SonataNo. 71 is a poignant, intense slow movement (unusually placed second),containing many subtle rhythmic and harmonic changes. Each section builds up toan impressive climax, re-inforced by octaves in the bass. Again there arehand-crossings.



Sonata No. III in D major is a genial work which like Sonata No. 4contains three sub-sections in each of its two halves. Guitar-like repeatedchords feature prominently and there are some striking modulations.



Sonatas Nos. 100/103 in C minor are another strikingly contrasted pair ofsonatas with one of Soler's most memorable and heartfelt slow movements placedfirst. The work is rich in thematic content as well as offering plenty ofvariety in the way of rhythm, texture and figuration. Sonata 103 is alively Spanish dance movement containing melodies which appear to be of folkorigin. The sound of the Spanish guitar is portrayed by the use of arpeggios,broken-chord figurations, and repeated chords in the left hand.



Sonata No. 96 in E flat major is the last of Soler's set ofsix-movement sonatas (Op. 4) dating from 1779. Perky march rhythms characterisethe first movement which is not really a slow movement despite the Andantegracioso tempo marking. The idiom is similar to certain movements from thesix Concertos for two organs. Allegro cantabile is an apt description ofthe long, flowing lines governing the amiable second movement which begins withthe same rising thirds as Sonata No. 73. Of the pair of Minuets whichtallow, the first is dominated by lively
Facts
Item number 8554565
Barcode 636943456521
Release date 02/01/2000
Category Sonatas
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Performers
Artists Rowland, Gilbert
Rowland, Gilbert
Composers Soler, Antonio
Soler, Antonio
Disc: 1
Sonata No. 96, E flat major, Op. 4 No. 6
1 Sonata No. 4 in G major
2 Sonata No. 102 in D minor
3 Sonata No. 104 in D minor
4 Sonata No. 109 in F major
5 Sonata No. 56 in F major
6 Sonata No. 70 in A minor
7 Sonata No. 71 in A minor
8 Sonata No. 111 in D major
9 Sonata No. 100 in C minor
10 Sonata No. 103 in C minor
11 Andante gracioso
12 Allegro cantabile
13 Minuetto I (suo tempo) - Minuetto II (Allegro)
14 Pastoral (Allegro non molto)
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