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Guitar Music from Brazil
Marco PEREIRA (b. 1956): Pixaim; João PERNAMBUCO (1883 – 1947): Sons de carilhões (Sounds of Bells); Graúna (Blackbird); Marco PEREIRA: Plainte (Lament); Num pagoda en Planaltina (Gathering in Planaltina); Antonio Carlos JOBIM (1927 – 1994): Luiza; Garota de Ipanema (Girl from Ipanema); Luiz BONFÁ (1922 – 2001): Manhã de Carnaval (Morning of the Carnival); Sergio ASSAD (b. 1952): Aquarelle: Divertimento – Valseana – Preludio e Toccatina; Rafael RABELLO (1962 – 1995): Sete Cordas (Seven Strings); Marco PEREIRA: O Chôro de Juliana (Juliana’s Chôro); Egberto GISMONTI (b. 1947): Agua e Vinho (Water and Wine); João PERNAMBUCO: Pó de Mico (Itching Powder); Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887 – 1959): Sentimental Melody; Ronaldo MIRANDA (b. 1948): Appassionata
Graham Anthony Devine (guitar)
Recorded at St John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, 26-30 Jan 2003
NAXOS 8.557295 [68:36]

Of the many glories in the Naxos catalogue their "Guitar Collection" possibly shines the brightest and is also one of the most important. The whole concept which mixes composer portraits and thematic compilations is excellent. Moreover the quality, technically and artistically, is top-drawer. I own a number of these and there is not one weak specimen among them. The one under consideration is no exception.

Even if the cover doesn’t say so, this could be termed Volume Two, since there is a much earlier issue, actually one of the earliest, entitled "Brazilian Portrait – Villa-Lobos and the Guitar Music of Brazil" (Naxos 8.550 226) played by Gerald Garcia. That disc can be wholeheartedly recommended alongside the present one, since there is practically no over- lapping of titles.

In his booklet note Graham Anthony Devine stresses the importance of the guitar in Brazilian music and names several present-day singers/songwriters who use the guitar, among them Gilberto Gil, who recently (Autumn 2004) was awarded the Swedish Polar Music Prize, which he shared with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Even if the record doesn’t contain any music by Gil nor by any of the others mentioned, I still think it’s correct to say that there are no strict border-lines between the popular and classical music in Brazil or even in Latin America at large. Many of these compositions use the rhythms of popular dances: samba, bossa nova etc. There is also a popular feeling about the melodic material and, taken as a whole, this recital should find a place in many a collection of popular music as well as on many "serious" collectors’ shelves.

The recital gets off to a riveting start with Marco Pereira’s Pixaim, which is a "frevo", a fast and rhythmic dance from the North-East of Brazil. His Plainte, on the other hand is a beautiful waltz, while Num pagoda em Planaltina is a homage to João Bosco, the singer and guitarist, whose playing style Pereira imitates. O Chôro de Juliana is a nice singing little piece.

There are two composers from an earlier generation: Heitor Villa-Lobos and João Pernambuco. The Villa-Lobos piece, Sentimental melody was originally written for the film "Green Mansions" in 1957 but is here played in a fine arrangement for guitar by Carlos Barbosa-Lima. If you want more, "real" guitar music by Villa-Lobos, get the Garcia disc mentioned earlier. Pernambuco is a fine melodist (listen to Sons de Carilhóes) but he also writes virtuosic and humoristic music: Pó de Mico is a gem, which fully lives up to its title (Itching Powder), constantly on the move, scratching. This piece is also on the Garcia disc and it is well worth owning in two versions.

The two great names from the 1960s bossa nova movement are also represented on this disc. Antonio Carlos Jobim worked with among others Stan Getz and Frank Sinatra and The Girl from Ipanema was a real hit. Devine plays it as to the manner born. There is also a little song, Luiza, which Marco Pereira has arranged for the guitar. Luiz Bonfá’s haunting melody Manhã de Carneval, becoming a world hit through the film "Orfeu Negro" (Black Orpheus), is played in an improvisatory manner with delicious embellishments to the melody. I am not sure what the original was like in the film, and my wife who has seen it numerous times couldn’t recall it either, but, as she said: He is sitting there with the guitar ... Anyway, Garcia also plays it, again with a lot of embellishments, but it isn’t the same version as Devine’s, even if they are similar. Garcia states in his notes that it "is an improvisation based on the playing of Bonfá himself".

In Sergio Assad’s three-movement Aquarelle we are transported to a completely different sound world. The first movement, Divertimento, is based on a three-note motif, that he develops during the course of the movement and he doesn’t avoid some harsh harmonies, while the second movement, Valseana, brings us back to the more conventional harmonic language that dominates this recital. The final movement juxtaposes a withdrawn Preludio with a fast, agitated and technically complicated Toccata. Devine has placed this composition roughly in the middle of the recital, so it could be regarded as a spicy main course squeezed in between a lush starter and a sweet dessert. On the dessert trolley we also find, besides a couple of dishes already mentioned, Sete Cordas by guitarist Rafael Rabello, (who died at only 33). It is a homage to the seven-string Brazilian guitar. Very beautiful it is and exquisitely played. Beautiful indeed in a meditative vein, is Egberto Gismonti’s Agua e Vinho (Water and Wine). I really love this piece, which ends with a question mark, so maybe the title could be read "Water or Wine"?

The recital is rounded off with Ronaldo Miranda’s Appassionata. If there are any references to Beethoven they elude me, but it is passionate music and very virtuosic. Still it is not just a show-piece; it also has its reflective moments.

Looking back at the review I notice that I have written more about the music than the performance. So let me make it clear that Graham Anthony Devine is a masterly guitarist, playing this attractive, varied and thrilling programme to perfection. Are you a guitarist or a guitar music lover: buy it! Are you a general music lover: buy it! Just curious about what classical guitar music might be: buy it!

Göran Forsling

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