The composer, writer, thinker and music theorist Josep Soler (Vilafranca del Penedès, 1935) has died this Sunday morning at the age of 87, leaving as a legacy an enormous body of work that includes almost twenty operas. He had written a thousand pieces, although only a fifth of them were published. Considered one of the most important authors of contemporary music in Spain and a fundamental figure of the Generation of 51, Soler was an intemperate sage who pointed to mysticism and aesthetics in his creation, both in composition and in important production. of him as an essayist.
Until the year 2020, the last years of his life maintained an enviable intellectual activity. Studying and sitting down to listen to music and write it was the purpose of his existence. In the midst of the pandemic, the last CD with his work was recorded: two clarinet pieces-"spectacular, the best of how many he wrote for this instrument," says fellow musician Joan Pere Gil, his assistant and caretaker until the last moment-; a viola and cello duet; Quartet no. 10, and an organ work, an instrument that Soler was passionate about.
That 2020, at the age of 85, he was finishing the edition of his great opera Jesús de Nazaret: 300 minutes of music that took him three decades of work. The pandemic and the convenient social distance, however, prevented L'Auditori from carrying out its premiere, due to the volume of musicians it required on stage.
Austere, prolific and demanding, Soler conceived music as an "honest, never done for money" work. Although she was awarded with prizes, such as the Tomás Luis de Victoria de Música Iberoamericana, the most important for living composers in the Hispanic-American sphere.
"I am a scribe, like the one exhibited in the Cairo museum. 'Che cosa faccio? Scrivo', to quote Puccini. I sit on the chair, in front of the table and the paper... and it comes out. It had to be done and it is done", he explained with a halo of resignation. In his Barcelona home the trees of Turó Parc seemed to penetrate, and yet he remained in the shadows. "If I open the curtains the light dazzles me, and if I close them I don't see, I haven't been able to read La Vanguardia today", he commented.
He was a seeker of rarities, relics and medieval musical airs that imbued his pieces with invariable beauty. Ninety percent of his work - more than 200 scores that perhaps make him the author with the most music for piano and opera in Spain - he had composed on his own initiative, to the heat of the tick-tock of a wall clock that did not matter to mark the hours. Only a few works were the result of commissions.
His curiosity and erudition led him to deepen his knowledge of physics, quantum mechanics or cosmology and to publish his conclusions in books such as Música Enchiriadis. Or more recently, In the tree of the suffering God, with a prologue by Joan Pere Gil.
His working method was, according to him, somewhat irrational. "I am just a man who does what he is told, what he has to do, which is music. As if he felt a categorical imperative, which Kant said, although Kant is not my ideal, eh? Socrates would call him the demon, that voice that speaks to him and says: 'Socrates, make music'. Because music in Greek also means poetry, teaching, just as physike means knowledge of the world".
His compulsive creation and his memory problems in recent months made it impossible for En el corridor de la vida, with texts by Gil, to be catalogued. He had trouble concentrating and constantly wanted to add new parts, which made it impossible to finish the work. Among his operas, Soler himself recalled that El jardí de les delícies (2004) with texts by Verdaguer, "would be ideal to represent Catalonia around the world through its dances, choirs and soothing musical voice".
The musician and filmmaker Eva Vila had shot the documentary Josep Soler, L'espai d'un mesmo, to celebrate his biography - they filmed the Vilafranca cemetery where he will be buried alongside his mother - and to delve into contemporary music. This DVD was included in his book Compondre i viure.
Vila is also the author of the audiovisual part of In the corridor of life, Soler's last opera, with a libretto by Joan Pere Gil. A work that the pandemic prevented from being premiered at the Biblioteca de Catalunya, an institution to which Soler had donated his work and in which the Josep Soler Festival was being held.
Given the situation, Vila had the idea of taking the filming team to Soler's home and shooting it in various rooms. "We would make a documentary about what happens when there is no space to perform a contemporary opera. We had been shooting very interesting things for two years. He continued to give us a lot of knowledge and wisdom. But since we couldn't do the opera yet, we did a long two-hour interview, in his house. And I hope that everyone sees it one day. Regarding the documentary, it is only pending editing", says the filmmaker.