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Having recorded all the Soler sonatas on harpsichord with Gilbert Rowland, Naxos seems to be re-recording the music on the piano, but now using the same enlightened policy as with its ongoing series of Scarlatti sonatas: using each CD in the series as the platform for prize-winners in the more important international piano competitions.

Perhaps I’m getting carried away, since only two CDs have been issued so far, covering the 27 sonatas preserved in the Fitzwilliam manuscript – ‘the only works by Soler that survive in a manuscript written in his lifetime’, as the brief but helpful note by Laura Pallàs i Mariani points out. The first 15 sonatas appeared in 2011; the pianist was Martina Filjak, who won first prize in the 54th Maria Canals competition in Barcelona. Nos 16-27 bring us the winner of the 55th competition, in 2009, the Latvian pianist Vestard Shimkus, born in 1984 – and he is plainly the business.

With the sonatas arranged, as with Scarlatti, in slow-fast pairings, there is no middle ground: the music either shows exquisite poise or it bounds forward in the highest of high spirits. Shimkus comes out of it with a series of gold stars: in the slow sonatas he has just the right degree of Mozartian elegance and restraint (I know the adjective is anachronistic, but it fits) and in the faster ones he combines a thrilling élan and command of pace with complete clarity. He evidently has an alert ear for colour, too, as the beautifully rounded piano tone in this recording makes clear.

MARTIN ANDERSON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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