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Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Piano Music, Volume 4: Bachianas Brasilieras No. 4 (1930-41) [19’43]; Poema singelo (1938-42) [6’05]; Carnaval des Criançasa (1920) [15’24]; Prencette et Piá (1928) [15’32]; A Fiandiera (1921) [2’52]; Simples Coletânea (1917-19) [6’02]; Valsa romântica (1907) [3’44].
Sonia Rubinsky, aTatjana Rankovich (pianos).
Rec. Grace Church on the Hill, Toronto, Canada, on October 17th-20th, 2003. DDD
NAXOS 8.555717 [69’53]



This is the fourth in Sonia Rubinsky’s traversal of Villa-Lobos’s complete piano music for Naxos. It’s good to be reacquainted with her thoroughly idiomatic performances once more. Having heard, reviewed and admired the second volume it is equally satisfying to observe her versatility in the repertoire, her ability to command influences and inflect with apposite colour and gravity.

This is particularly true in the case of Brasilieras No. 4 heard here of course in its original guise for solo piano. She “places” that single bass note with deftness ensuring the Sarabande-like momentum is not derailed into sententious gravity (though there is plenty of nobility here). It’s no surprise, given her earlier recordings in the series, that she evokes texture so well, that the colour of the Coral is so winning – that the anvil evocation of bass pointing is so well and evenly hammered. Of particular merit is her control of tempo, the way in which, for example, in the Aria she starts slowly but integrates the quasi-syncopated writing with effortless élan. The Dansa finale is full of spice and colour.

Those who have followed Villa-Lobos’s excursions into the piano and quartet literature will know that he leaned toward impressionism; Children’s Carnival both reveals the debt and pursues where he took that inheritance. These pieces, separately tracked, are delightful vignettes, variously inspired by or intended for children and are models of vivacious wit. A Manha da Pierrete sports delicate chiaroscuro, Os Guizos do Dominozhino (The Little Domino’s Jingle Bells) is as winningly lively as you’d expect and in the concluding piece, A Folia de um Bloco Infantil the two piano duettists – where Rubinsky is joined by Tatjana Rankovich - display panache, unanimity of attacks, rippling passagework and fluidity in this little innocent mini-drama.

Francette et Piá was written in 1928 and commissioned for Marguerite Long’s piano class in Paris. Saucily, though technically and textually more difficult and demanding than the earlier suite, Villa-Lobos throws in a number of French quotations. These pieces aren’t separately tracked but the narrative merges nicely and in Love and in War Villa-Lobos has charm to spare. The smaller works here are saturated in his brand of lyricism; the second of Simples Coletânea (In An Enchanted Cradle) has a saturnine Debussian compression that works very well in conveying mysterious stasis - it was written in 1918.

Jonathan Woolf

See also reviews by Paul Shoemaker and Colin Clarke




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