Friday, July 14, 2017

Naxos’ Second Project to Record the Keyboard Sonatas of Soler Advances to Volume 7

Today Naxos releases the seventh volume in its second project to record all of the keyboard sonatas of Antonio Soler. Regular readers know that I have been following this project in its inception, beginning on and then continuing on this site. The last dispatch came with the release of the sixth volume at the beginning of this past December. While the first project, whose CDs were released between 1996 and 2007, consisted entirely of harpsichord performances by Gilbert Rowland, this new project has been organized around the Maria Canals International Music Competition, held every year in Barcelona. Each CD presents a different pianist that won that competition, meaning that all performances are on piano, rather than harpsichord. The pianist on this new release is Regina Chernychko, winner of the first prize at the 60th competition, held in 2014:

Regina Chernychko (photograph by Oliver Röckle, courtesy of Naxos)

The releases have been strictly following the numbering system of Samuel Rubio. It was from the first of the seven volumes of transcriptions and scholarly revisions by Rubio, published in 1952, that I first became acquainted with Soler’s sonatas. Unless I am mistaken, I acquired that volume while on a business trip to Cambridge (England), although I had become aware of Soler through my piano teacher in Santa Barbara, who had already introduced me to the keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti.

At the time I wondered how long it would take me to get through the twenty sonatas in that first volume and how difficult it would be for me to get the remaining volumes, all published by the Union Musical Española in Madrid. Over the years, however, I have only managed to progress through the first sixteen sonatas in that volume. Now I no longer have to worry about what to do when I reach the end of the volume, because all of the Rubio versions have now been given digital typesetting by Steve Wiberg and are part of the Werner Icking Music Collection, available for download from IMSLP.

In writing about the sixth volume, I observed that it consisted of only four sonatas, numbered 63 through 66, all in three movements. I noted at the time how this was a departure from Scarlatti, all of whose sonatas consisted of single movements. (However, if we accept the booklet notes for Scott Ross’ recording of all of Scarlatti’s sonatas, there are several cases in which sonatas with consecutive Kirkpatrick numbers could be played convincingly as two-movement sonatas.) What was interesting about the those four Soler sonatas, however, was that each of them ended with a fugue (labeled as “Intento”).

The seventh volume begins with two more of those three-movement sonatas. There is a fair amount of contrapuntal inventiveness in these two sonatas, and the second concludes with another Intento movement in four voices. Soler then went back to single-movement sonatas for the remaining six selections on this album. This leaves the listener with the suggestion that Soler may have been taking stock of how he progressed. That suggestion is not strong enough to leave the listener in suspense over what (s)he will encounter in the eighth volume; but it at least hints that there may be something vaguely autobiographical in Rubio’s numbering of these sonatas.

As to Chernychko’s performance, her accounts are as consistently satisfying as those of her fellow prize-winners. If nothing else this new series, taken as a whole, it likely to leave the attentive listener with a high opinion of the Canals Competition. That is saying something, given how many competitions run the risk of turning out little more than “cookie-cutter accounts” of repertoire that is being played to death in both recital halls and recording studios!

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