> Villa-Lobos Piano Music Volume 2 Rubinsky [JW]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Piano Music - Volume 2
A Lenda do Caboclo
Valsa da Dor
A Prole do Bebe No 2

Sonia Rubinsky (piano)
Recorded Grace Church on the Hill, Toronto April 2000
NAXOS 8.554827 [66.48]


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Sonia Rubinsky continues to make an excellent impression. Her earlier volume of Villa-Lobos’s piano music included the delightful – and less demanding – Book One of A Prole do Bebe as well as the 16 Cirandas. Here she brings her remarkably able pianism to bear on the far more complex Book Two as well as the Little Round Songs, the Cirandinhas, and other smaller pieces. The fault lines between nationalism and French Impressionist influence can be endlessly argued over in relation to Villa-Lobos’s music but what this disc forcefully reminds one is that his vibrancy, rhythmic brio, astringent modernism and flickering atonality are highly personalised gifts.

In the Second Book of A Prole do Bebe (The Baby’s Family) the Brazilian melodies are subjected to such transformative techniques as curious metres, affirmative rhythms and heady harmonic possibilities. The melodies emerge magically translated. Jazz elements are absorbed into the bloodstream of the work without either affectation or embarrassment and elements of atonality emerge from the texture entirely consistent with it. In O Ursozinho de algodao, for example, a moto perpetuo is activated by thumping accents and unstoppable rhythm. Elsewhere in the cycle the left hand will ignite an off the beat melody to galvanizing effect. None of this should blind one to the exceptional technical demands placed on the performer – this a suite of immense challenges requiring reserves of colouristic skill and imagination, both of which Rubinsky more than amply possesses.

The charming Cirandinhas are miniatures the majority of which last barely a minute and a half. In a reversal of programming Volume One presented us with the more significant Cirandas. Both sets are of interest and the Little Round Songs of Volume Two yield more peaceably to the children’s view of the world, albeit not without Villa-Lobos’s characteristically pungent turn of phrase – listen, for example, to Lindos olhos que ela tem. A Lenda do Caboclo, with which the disc starts, is a melancholy, hypnotic piece whereas Ondulando sits more comfortably in the salon tradition. In Valsa da Dor we can perhaps hear more clearly those French influences, tinged with that of Rachmaninov, in a piece which transforms itself from a waltz into a sorrowing song in the space of five minutes.

Notes are by James Melo and they are excellent; the sound is natural and sympathetic and Rubinsky’s playing is deeply impressive. Highly recommended.

Jonathan Woolf

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