He started his musical studies at the conservatory of Madrid, before moving to Vienna to study composition with Francis Burt at the Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst, Wien. He passed his diploma with distinction in 1987, and continued his postgraduate composition studies with Roman Haubenstock-Ramati and Luigi Nono.
Sotelo has ..
"a strong love of, and an affinity to, the cultural heritage of Spain. Sotelo’s music is shot through with the spirit, rhythm and even melody of flamenco. In some of his compositions, it is present as just a hint, ... in others it makes a concrete appearance through the deployment of a 'cantaor', that is, a flamenco singer."
A mix of cantaors and opera singers were used in his first opera, De Amore (On Love), a commission for the Munich Biennale, where it received its world premiere in April 1999. The text about a prototypical love story, with every stage from love at first sight to the bitter end, was by Peter Mussbach, after writings by the American poet Wallace Stevens. Sotelo conducted the premiere, in a production by Mussbach. It was an international co-production, and performances followed at the Teatro de la Zarzuela in Madrid, Muziektheater Transparant, the deSingel theatre in Antwerp (Belgium), and the Nationale Reisopera in the Netherlands.
His second opera, Dulcinea, subtitled A Children's Opera, was a commission of the Teatro Real in Madrid, in coproduction with the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, ABAO in Bilbao; Teatro de la Maestranza in Sevilla, the Opera de Oviedo, and the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia. A young boy falls asleep reading Don Quixote and meets the characters and the author in his dreams. The libretto was by Andrés Ibáñez.
He won an Ernst von Siemens Composers' Prize in 1997, and the Premio Nacional de Música for composition in 2001.
Sotelo's works have been published by Universal Edition since 1991.