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Sarah Beth Briggs
|Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Piano Music - Volume 7
Amazonas (Ballado Indígena Brasileiro) (Brazilian Indian
ballet) (1917, 1932) [14:22]
Prelúdios para Guitarra (Guitar preludes) (1940) (transcr.
José Vieira Brandaõ) [22:14]
Lembranças do Sertaõ (Memories of Sertaõ) :
Bachianas Brasileiras No.2 – Dansa (1930) [5:27]
Valsa Scherzo (Waltz-scherzo) (1907) [7:13]
Bailado Infernal (Infernal ballet) (1920) [1:57]
Feijoada Sem Perigo ... (Bean-stew without danger)
Histórias da Carochinha (Stories from Carochinha)
Cançoes de Cordialidade (Songs of cordiality)*
Cortejo Nupcial (Wedding procession) (1949)* [4:33]
Valsa Lenta (Slow waltz) (1911)* [2:40]
* World première recordings.
Rec. at L’Église Évangélique Saint-Michel, Paris, 21st and 22nd February, 2007. DDD.
NAXOS 8.570503 [69:11]
This is Volume 7 in Naxos’s
well-received series of Villa-Lobos’s piano music played
by the composer’s fellow Brazilian, Sonia Rubinsky. There’s
also a parallel Naxos series of his string quartets. The
music here may not be as well known as that on earlier volumes – it’s
probably best to start, not here but with the first volume,
8.554489, which contains Prole do Bebê (The Child’s
Doll) Book 1.
The composer’s own 1932
transcription of Amazonas, subtitled ‘Brazilian Indian
ballet’, is more attractive in its original 1917 orchestral
guise and some the Prelúdios sit less well on the
piano than on the guitar for which they were written. Together,
these constitute about half of the CD, but if you forget
the originals, all the music is attractive; the performances
are first-rate and the recording a good deal more than adequate.
I couldn’t put it better
than my colleague Glyn Pursglove in his summing up of Volume
It would be
wrong to make excessive claims for the importance of this
music – but it is a treasure house of minor pleasures and
also of interest for the light it throws on some of Villa-Lobos’ more ‘serious’ compositions.
GPu’s review also
contains useful links to reviews of three earlier volumes
in the series.
Nor can I improve on Paul
Shoemaker’s judgement that Rubinsky ‘has the perfect touch
and style for Villa Lobos’ (review of
Volume 4 on 8.555717).
The colourful ballet Amazonas really
needs to be heard in its original orchestral form. The blurb
on the back of the CD refers to the ‘multilayered’ nature
of Villia-Lobos’s music, an epithet which applies more to
his orchestral pieces, but Rubinsky makes as good and colourful
a case for the piano version of Amazonas as I can
imagine. Inevitably, the sound of the piano makes the music
seem closer to the European tradition and less original,
but it still emerges as a ground-breaking work – as important
in its own way as Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring had
been four years earlier.
I’ve already indicated
that the transcriptions of the guitar pieces on tracks 2-6
don’t efface memories of the guitar originals, especially
as performed by John Williams on Sony SBK62425 or SBK46347
(both at budget price, with different couplings). Nevertheless,
Rubinsky’s performances of them are persuasive; if you don’t
know the originals, you’ll probably be more than happy.
Lembranças is also a
transcription, this time from part of Bachianas Brasileiras No.2. Perhaps
because this is not one of the Bachianas that I know
well, I was more impressed by the music, which seems well
suited to the piano.
The short pieces, some
of them recorded here for the first time are hardly vital
listening – I’m not sure that I concur with the note which
describes the oddly-named Feijoada sem perigo as a ‘condensed
gem’, though the adjective is apposite enough for a piece
of less than a minute’s duration – but they add to the value
of this CD, especially when they are as well played as they
The notes, by James Melo,
are informative, though not all the Portuguese titles are
translated – I’ve added translations in the headnote.
With the sole proviso
that you may find Villa-Lobos’s chamber music more varied
and attractive than his piano works – have a look at Jonathan
Woolf’s review of
8.557765 – and that one of the earlier piano volumes may
be a better starting point than this, the Naxos series of
recordings of his piano music is rapidly assuming an authoritative
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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