SOLER: Una Cosa Rara; Divertimentos Nos. 2, 3, 4 – Moonwinds/ Joan Enric Lluna, director – Harmonia mundi

SOLER: Una Cosa Rara; Divertimentos Nos. 2, 3, 4 – Moonwinds/ Joan Enric Lluna, director – Harmonia mundi HMC 902010, 57:46 ****:

This delightful disc explores some of the music of Martin y Soler (1754-1806), a Valencian composer who could even boast of achieving a “da Ponte” trilogy of operas a full three years before Mozart! Of course, his three really can’t compete with those three, but nonetheless it does demonstrate that such a luminary thought Soler’s music worthy enough of his efforts, and indeed, the reviews at the time show that critics and public alike were in one accord in regard to the worthiness of Soler’s efforts.

Here we have a harmoniemusik arrangement of one of those operas, Una Cosa Rara – an opera that appeared the same year as Figaro, and brought fame and fortune to both composer and librettist, the tunes hummed all over Europe, and even quoted by Mozart in his Don Giovanni. The plot of The Rare Thing involves a peasant girl and all sorts of goings-on and other pastoral amorous confusions. The composer Johann Nepomuk Wendt, an oboist in Mannheim, arranged this popular opera for wind band, easily helping to spread these tunes across the continent. They are fun-filled and cheery, and quite lyrical in nature, making it easy to understand Soler’s popularity.

The three Divertimenti are all standard examples of the octet form (two each of oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and horns, sometimes supplemented with string bass or contrabassoon) in use throughout Europe at this time, the foundational wind band of the modern symphony orchestra, and each in four movements – also predicting the modern symphony. Moonwinds – headed by the tremendously talented Joan Enric Lluna on clarinet and basset horn – plays these with zest and spirit, and Harmonia mundi has provided them with outstandingly deep and resonant sound, perfectly capturing the warm and gracious tones provided by these players. Enthusiastically recommended!

— Steven Ritter

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