A favorite meter over on Castro:


I am celebrating the New Year by playing for the first time a recent acquisition – the final volume of Gilbert Rowland’s recordings of the complete harpsichord sonatas of Antonio Soler.

Over and over.

In one of those undeserved turns of luck with which my life has been stricken, I read a glowing review of Mr. Rowland’s first volume when it was released in 1996. I ordered it, was enchanted, and began a twelve-year pilgrimage.

It was not an easy journey, as since the albums were released with maddening irregularity, I never knew when to expect the next, and there was an agonizing drought during 2004-5 when I feared that the collection might not be completed.

But now I have it all: 137 sonatas, sixteen glorious hours on thirteen disks.

Prancing in the footsteps of the late Fernando Valenti, Rowland is one of the modern generation of harpsichordists who can somehow force that fussy little beast into dynamic expression undreamt of by pioneers like Landowska, bless her heart, and Kirkpatrick, for all his scholarly contributions, neither of whom I can imagine laughing after their brief childhoods.

And Soler? Soler’s debt to Scarlatti is obvious, but Soler stands on Scarlatti’s shoulders, and his output, both in quantity and quality, is astonishing considering that he was a monk with a demanding religious routine to follow, not to mention his numerous secular duties at the Escorial like training and leading the choir and performing for the royal family during their extended residences. To think that the harpsichord sonatas represent less than a third of his works!

Rowland tells us that an anonymous obituary was written by a fellow monk the day Soler died and that “mention is … made of his religious devotion, compassionate nature, scholarly interests, and excessive candor.”

I’m going for all of that. Well, except for being fiercely secular.

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