If, like me, your
knowledge of Brazil barely extends beyond nuts, Pelé and Villa-Lobos,
then the name Ernesto Nazareth will be unfamiliar. But I put
this disc on and immediately felt I knew the music. The Brazilian
pianist Iara Behs writes in the booklet that, until a few years
ago, no serious pianist would dare to include Nazareth in their
repertoire but that she never met anyone who did not like his
music. To me he sounds like a Brazilian Billy Mayerl and none
the worse for that - this disc could be just the thing to dispel
the January blues.
music frequently sounds carefree, this does not reflect his
troubled life. Born in Rio de Janeiro, he worked as a pianist
in cinemas and there was a storm of protest when his works were
included in a concert at the National School of Music. Eventually,
in 1933 he was committed to a psychiatric hospital but he subsequently
escaped and drowned himself. Most of his music was for the piano
and in the form of a dance with a particular fondness for the
tango. He used the rhythms of Brazilian popular music and was
an important inspiration to Villa-Lobos.
The seventeen pieces
on this disc cover a wide range of themes and emotions but even
the relatively serious Confidências is easy on the ear.
The Whirlwind of Kisses is another gem and Cavaquinho
wasn’t the only person “grabbed” by the last work (because I
certainly was). Odeon presumably derives from Nazareth’s
work in cinemas and in it the left hand imitates the guitar.
Perhaps best of all is Liquid Topaz (referring to the
colour of a local beer) which should certainly be accompanied
by something to quench thirst.
The playing of Iara
Behs is committed and colourful, and her notes on the music
are insightful. She is well recorded with impressive bass sonority
and an attractive ambience. This is my first disc of 2005 and
the year could hardly be off to a better start.