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8.225235 - SOLER, J.: Nocturnes
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Josep Soler (1935- )

Josep Soler (1935- )

"So time journeys all night long": Nocturnes for piano

Josep Soler was born in Vilafranca del Penedès near Barcelona in 1935. He began his musical training there under Rosa Lara, and continued in Paris under René Leibowitz and then in Barcelona under Cristòfor Taltabull, a former pupil of Max Reger. He won the Montecarlo Opera Prize in 1964, the Barcelona City Prize in 1962, and in 1978 the 13th Oscar Esplà Prize. His opera Oedipus and Jocasta was first staged at the Liceu Theatre in Barcelona in 1986. Greatly influenced by the music of Schoenberg and Alban Berg, Soler generally employs dodecaphonic technique in his works in a style which is simultaneously impressionist and expressionist and which becomes progressively simpler and more austere. He is the author of numerous books and articles on a very wide range of musical matters. From 1977 to 1982, Soler taught history and aesthetics at the Barcelona Conservatory. He also taught composition there until 1985, being one of the most influential professors of the younger generation of Spanish composers. He is now Director of the Consevatory of Music in Badalona and a member of the Royal Catalonian Academy of Fine Arts in Barcelona.

The study of the representation, in words, paint or music, of the colours, sounds and inner rhythm of the night landscape is an aesthetic theme, the linear development of which, through different artistic disciplines, permits a new vision, an inverted or negative vision, of the historical evolution of these arts, particularly since Romanticism. In the case of Joseph von Eichendorff, the perception and poetic transcription of this "wonderful night song" is a major concern of his poetry, and what gives it its ultimate meaning. In his work the writer’s musical intuition succeeds in giving verbal form to his impressions on entering a dark wood full of latent life, a romantic image of the brevity of our existence. Similarly, the various nocturnal landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich, collectively so rich in symbolism, also draw on this reminder of death, and on the tension inherent in the opposition between a temporally finite life and the hope of an eternal one, an opposition represented pictorially by the workers on the shore gazing towards the illuminated horizon in his Mondnacht am Ostseestrand (Moonlit Night on the Baltic Shore) of 1816-1818, (Neue Pinakothek, Munich).

In the present works for piano by Josep Soler, we find, in the conscious homage-commemoration of his Nocturnos (Nos 1 to 6 written in 1985-1986, the following six between 1988 and 1992) and his Nocturne Poem (1998), the Chopin whose nocturnes enlarged the genre and gave it, through his very personal refinement of sketchy earlier forms, its own expressive character. Soler, with his deep knowledge of the history of artistic phenomena, which he incorporates into his private imagination in forms that are not always immediately recognisable, uses the nocturne to articulate a music that makes no concessions, and whose construction is largely based on the invariable harmonic reference to the Tristan chord and its transposition to the twelve notes of the chromatic scale. The tendency of the music to immobility — we could say its atemporality — thus corresponds to its internal structure. As in the night poems of Eichendorff or the desolate landscapes of Friedrich, the object of artistic experience is not the description of an action that can be defined in more or less concrete dramatic terms. On the contrary, in his personal journey through night the composer relegates the formal pulse of his music to the background, so that it requires as a necessary auxiliary element the notion of time, to become pure introspection, a descriptive representation of a frozen musical landscape in which allegorical elements, which in Soler’s peculiar aesthetic world require their own interpretative key, take predominance over structural contrasts. His musical and written works, in which music for the stage has a pre-eminent position, with important contributions to contemporary Spanish opera, do not, in consequence, pursue the artistic possession of any external concrete object. Instead it is the composer himself and his subjective world, dressed in a sound-costume of his own creation, that appear in the form of a fragmentary self-portrait. As Soler himself has pointed out, "despite the effort of giving it birth, of drawing from inside that which is concealed, and despite inevitable and uncontrollable precipitation, there

is always something hidden, consciously or subconsciously (…); at some moment, unexpectedly, without you being able to do anything to assist or hinder it, it comes into the light and the artist has to recognise it and accept it." Subject and object come together more intimately, more silently and furtively perhaps, in this night music, shielded by the inherent darkness which ultimately provides its raison d’être.

Agustí Bruach

Translation: Richard Cowper


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