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.