If Padre Antonio Soler isn’t quite the household name Domenico Scarlatti is, it ought to be. His music displays the same sunny combination of Italian and Spanish idioms, as well as the same sparkling wit and vivacity combined with superb craftsmanship and an underlying seriousness—all of which is brilliantly captured by harpsichordist Gilbert Rowland on this latest instalment in his traversal of Soler’s complete harpsichord sonatas. As if Soler (1729-1783) wasn’t kept busy enough at the Spanish monastery of el Escorial, training the choir, composing and attending to his religious duties, he also has to cater for the more secular musical needs of Carlos III. It’s believed that many of Soler’s 150 keyboard sonatas were written for Carlos’s son, the infante Don Gabriel. Perhaps it’s a good thing Soler could get by on only four hours sleep a night. Rowland’s fluency in this music is by now self-evident. Listen to the relaxed leaps, overlapping scales and drawn-out trills in the opening C major sonata; or the elegant Cantabile of the F major, all aflutter with rich ornamentation; or the final Allegro of the F-sharp major with which the disc ends. Rowland’s agile bass octaves adding further impetus to a movement already bristling with joyful energy. Throughout the disc, Soler’s striking guitar-like strum effects are also vividly realized. This is keyboard playing of the highest order—at any price.
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