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Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Piano works

A Prole do Bebê
Branquinha – A Boneca de Louca
Moreninha – A Boneca de Massa
Caboclinha – A Boneca de Barro
Mulatinha – A Boneca de Borracha
Negrinha – A Boneca de Pão
Pobrezinha – A Boneca de Trapo
O Polichinelo
Bruxa – A Boneca de Pano
Bachianas Brasileiras No.4 (Preludio)
As Três Marias
Rudepoema

Nelson Freire (piano)
Warner Classics 2003, Teldec 1974
APEX 0927 40837 2 [40.12]


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Villa-Lobos’s piano pieces are less often heard than his orchestral and guitar works and, like them, they occasionally draw on the popular dances and folk music of his native Brazil. Though Villa-Lobos was not himself a brilliant pianist, these challenging keyboard essays demand a high level of technical virtuosity, and an inherent sympathy with their exotic flavours. He was an adventurous composer whose versatility led him to combine contemporary influences such as Ravel (evident in the delightful A Prole do Bebê) with sprightly rhythms and even, in his series of Bachianas Brasileiras, the spirit of J.S.Bach transported into an unlikely, but oddly convincing, South American setting.

In Nelson Freire’s sensitive playing of this synthesis is fully realised, and with remarkable technical aplomb; but there is more to this mercurial music than mere showmanship. The profound solemnity of Bachianas Brasileiras No.4 clearly shows that the composer’s intention was not to imitate the style and sound of Bach, but to project a deeper understanding of, and respect for, the form and expressive genius of the earlier composer. This is an important aspect of his highly individual style. Echoes of Poulenc can be found in the As Três Marias, three witty and melodious trifles that leave us unprepared for the sprawling complexity and high drama of Rudepoema, a vast concert study in the grand manner that explores the limits of the instrument in thundering bass passages and elaborate counterpoint interwoven with strange harmonic contrasts and seemingly fragmented ideas. Again one marvels at the technical assurance and sheer bravura of pianism that make this one of the most stimulating piano discs I have heard for a very long time. The piano sound is excellently recorded throughout. At just over 40 minutes, my only complaint is that this recital is somewhat short.

Roy Brewer



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