To people living in Western Europe the tendency to
view music history from an exclusively Western European perspective
is all too easy to acquire. This disc really illustrates the error of
such a view. As the detailed booklet notes by Paul Myers point out,
Brasil "can probably boast more piano music over the past three
centuries than virtually any other nation in the world." Of course
it is an enormous country which has always been heavily populated and
has had strong European connections for many centuries. The list of
composers seen above gives some idea of the richness of music available.
There is clearly a great deal more to Brasilian music than Villa-Lobos,
who only appears on two tracks - although the Valsa da Dor is an extensive
and fine example of his massive talent.
Arnaldo Cohen’s playing is characterful and dynamic.
He wears his virtuosity with ease and the more technically brilliant
pieces positively sparkle. He does not seem to be quite so comfortable
with the earlier repertoire. The ‘lessons’ by Luiz Pinto come across
as rather dry pieces of academe and the Fantasia para Pianoforte of
José Garcia, while still showing the panache of right-hand fluency
suffers from a rather stolid balance between the hands.
It is where the music is at its most "Brazilian"
that the performances come across as most impressive. The opening track
by Cláudio Santoro bursts forth with all the colour and vigour
of the carnival, while the various tangos (although of course not properly
a ‘brazilian’ invention) come across with poise, flair and excitement.
The Tango Brasileiro by Ernesto Nazareth is a particularly fine example,
a rondo structure with carefully woven variations. Cohen’s performance
is wonderful and the recording is of exemplary clarity.
None of the tracks on this disc are much longer than
five minutes; most are only around two minutes, so this cannot be described
as heavyweight listening - definitely more in the ‘easy’ category, but
nonetheless effective for it. The lineage of European tradition is apparent,
but the flavour of South America which colours all the works, and permeates
the performances adds a distinctive character that is immediately enjoyable.
BIS once again demonstrates their commitment to recording music that
many of the larger labels would not. Thank goodness that somebody does.