ANTONIO SOLER: Keyboard Sonatas + Six Concertos for Two Organs [DiscList follows] – Pieter-Jan Belder, harpsichord & fortepiano/ Maurizio Croci & Pieter Van Dijk, organs – Brilliant Classics 9513 (9 CDs) [4/28/15] (Distr. by Naxos) *****:
This collection puts in one box all of the keyboard recordings on the Brilliant label of the last eight years by a Soler scholar, Pieter-Jan Belder. Padre Antonio Soler was a quiet monk who spent most of his life in the monastery of El Escorial near Madrid. Though he was isolated, strict and very religious he wrote an amazing 471 sonatas for keyboard that we know of, which are brilliant, tuneful and very sunny and optimistic-sounding. There’s no trace of his monkish life in these wonderful sonatas. They compete with those of his contemporary (with whom he studied), Domenico Scarlatti, but he certainly led a quite different sort of life. He had a 30-year career. These works make him one of the most original composers of the 18th century.
He was music master to the princes of Bourbon in the palace of the King of Spain, and many of his sonatas were written for Prince Gabriel. They have sometimes been compared not only to Scarlatti but also to C.P.E. Bach. Soler liked Spanish dance rhythms and imitations of guitars, as did Scarlatti. Italian music of the time was definitely an influence, but also the change at the time in musical taste to a more galant and Classical style – hence the comparison to C.P.E. Bach.
Not only does Belder’s playing make these sonatas stand out as most worthwhile musical works, but the set benefits from his use of different instruments which seems to fit some of the sonatas. Two of the nine CDs are performed by Belder on a recently-built fortepiano copy, and the last CD contains the six concertos for two organs. Organists Croci and Van Dijk spent some time finding exactly the right setup for this recording, finding two smaller organs in Imola Italy, which make an excellent acoustical setting for Soler’s music.
The sonatas tend to jump around and are not arranged chronologicially. The very first track is Soler’s fairly well-known Fandango of 12 minutes – a most amazing work for its time. The sonatas heard on the two fortepiano CDs really do seem to sound better than if they were performed on the harpsichord, and the organ concertos are a delight even if you are not a pipe organ fan.
CD 1 Sonatas for harpsichord I 56:35
CD 2 Sonatas II 75:49
CD 3 Sonatas III 67:46
CD 4 Sonatas IV 60:52
CD 5 Sonatas V 59:01
CD 6 Sonatas VI 77:20
CD 7 Sonatas on fortepiano I 75:51
CD 8 Sonatas on fortepiano II 70:21
CD 9 Concertos 1 thru 6 for Two Organs 71:20