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ClassicsOnline Home » SOLER, A.: Keyboard Sonatas Nos. 16-27 (Shimkus)
This collection completes the 27 sonatas by Padre Antonio Soler which make up his contribution to the Fitzwilliam manuscript. Nos 1–15 are available on Naxos 8.572515. These bipartite sonatas contain prime examples of Soler’s theories of modulation, from elegant “slow” passing between notes to “agitated” extremes of contrast. The result is constant surprise, both in spectacular technique and expressive depth. Award-winning pianist Vestard Shimkus has been described as “a phenomenon” (conductor Paavo Järvi), “superb” (American Record Guide) and “inspired” (BBC.co.uk website).
By Benjamin Katz
American Record Guide
Antonio Soler (1729–1783)
Keyboard Sonatas Nos. 16–27
The first volume of the present collection of Keyboard Sonatas by Padre Antonio Soler comprises the first fifteen sonatas of the Fitzwilliam manuscript. On this second volume we have the remainder, taking us up to Sonata No. 27. These 27 sonatas are the only works by Soler that survive in a manuscript written in his lifetime. In 1772 he gave them to an English amateur, Lord Fitzwilliam, and they were printed by Robert Birchall in 1796 (XXVII Sonatas for harpsichord by Father Antonio Soler. Robert Birchall, 133 New Benet Street, London). The original is preserved in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. This is the only surviving source for these sonatas, with some exceptions that affect only four of the sonatas of the series. Of those in this second volume, only Sonata No. 16 is also found in other manuscripts, Ms. Guinard (sheets 27v–29r), a copy from 1786 that belongs to the private library of Paul Guinard, and Ms. Escorial (p. 51–56).
It was with these 27 sonatas that Rubio began his listing of the sonatas in his catalogue of Soler’s work (Rubio, S., Antonio Soler, catálogo crítico, Cuenca, 1980) and, according to the musicologist Rafael Mitjana, it is only with these pieces that one can get an idea of the expertise of Father Soler in this type of composition. Within the catalogue, these 27 sonatas make up the numbers from 336 (1) to 362 (27). Parallel to this, Rubio himself published them in UME in seven volumes (Soler, Father Antonio: Sonatas para instrumentos de tecla. Revision, transcription and study: Father Samuel Rubio). Rubio wanted to publish an eighth volume but this was never realised. The sonatas included here are published in part in the first and second volumes. Apart from this edition, there are others that also contain some of the recorded sonatas: F. Marvin in Henle Verlag (Sonatas Nos. 19, 21, 24, 25 and 26) and Antonio Soler, Sonatas for piano, Volumes I–VI, Contino Press Music, Inc., New York, 1976/82 (Sonatas Nos. 17, 18, 22 and 27); K. Gilbert in Antonio Soler, 14 Sonatas for Keyboard from the Fitzwilliam Collection, Faber Music Limited, London, 1987 (Sonatas Nos. 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 26 and 27); J. Nin in Classiques espagnols du piano: Sonates anciennes d’auteurs espagnols, Paris, 1925 (Sonatas Nos. 19, 21 and 24) and L. Duck in Six Sonatas for Pianoforte (Vols. 1–2), Mills Music, New York, 1950 (Sonatas Nos. 20, 25 and 27).
Like the other sonatas from the Fitzwilliam manuscript, these sonatas are written in two sections that are typically repeated in the bipartite sonata. Except in two cases, these sections are not symmetrical but do have approximately the same length. They do not appear to follow any pre-established pattern, but in these sonatas there is a predominance of a slightly longer first section compared to the second, although there are in fact cases of the reverse being true. Within each section there are often internal sections, marked in the score with a double bar, which show a change of tonality. Sonata No. 16, in fact, is a good example of the application of the theories Soler explains in his La Llave de la Modulación (1762), especially that of the “slow” mode, or passing from one note to another, not directly but rather changing through other notes, in a way that is pleasant to the ear. Nevertheless, at some points he also makes use of the “agitated” mode, or the sudden change of tonality. In any case, in this sonata there are examples of surprising and original modes that we also find in other pieces. Other compositional devices include popular melodic elements (for example, in Sonata No. 24), imitative texture, the repetition of small fragments, the juxtaposition of short rhythms, broken chords, a clear rococo ornamentation, especially in the slow movements, and a wide range of technical demands. The latter include didactic elements found in the ornamentation (for example, trills, mordents…), scales and arpeggios at high speed, great leaps in rapid movements, passages of broken octaves at high speed, repeated notes, held notes, and frequent crossings of hands (of these sonatas, only No. 27 provides us with an example). It should also be pointed out that the same technical demand exists for the hands and that often there is a combination of different technical difficulties in the same passage.
According to the practice of the time, perhaps some of these sonatas were written to be played in groups of two or three. Normally they are sonatas that are in the same key and comparable tempo. In those of this recording, it seems that all of them should be paired, forming the following groups: 16–17, 18–19, 20–21, 22–23, 24–25 and 26–27.
Laura Pallàs I Mariani
Maria Canals International Music Competition
The Maria Canals International Music Competition of Barcelona (www.mariacanals.cat) is the most senior music competition in Spain and one of the leading events in the world following its recognition by the World Federation of International Music Competitions in 1958. It was founded in 1954 by the leading pianist and pedagogue Maria Canals, and her husband Rossend Llates. With Her Majesty Queen Sofia as President of Honour, since 1954 the competition association has organised 110 competitions in the branches of piano, singing, violin, cello, guitar, flute, percussion and chamber music. During these years more than 7,000 entrants have taken part from a hundred countries from the five continents, and there have been more than 180 jurors from around the world. The competition holds its auditions in the Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona, and offers the prizewinners important financial rewards, a tour of recitals and concerts with the orchestra around the world and a recording for the Naxos label. Its winners have developed important professional careers in both performance and teaching in leading centres throughout the world.
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SOLER, A.: Keyboard Sonatas Nos. 16-27 (Shimkus)