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Henrique OSWALD (1852-1931)
Six Morceaux, op.4 (c.1887) [19:33]
Trois Romances, op.7 [9:27]
Il Neige (1902) [3:13]
Six Pièces, op.14 [21:09]
Feuilles d'Album, op.20 [8:03]
Braz Velloso (piano)
rec. Eglise Evangélique, Saint Marcel, Paris, 11-12 June 2012. NAXOS 9.70200 Download [61:51]
Naxos release such vast quantities of high-quality recordings that it is the easiest thing for relatively low-key CDs like this pair to come and go all but unnoticed, especially when, as here, they are issued purely as downloads or for streaming purposes. Even the work titles suggest a strong element of take-it-or-leave-it: who really needs more morceaux, feuilles or souvenirs?
What a pity, though, to miss these two albums of bewitching lyrical gems performed so ambrosially by Braz Velloso, a pianist whose very name suggests smooth satin textures.
Beside the fact that Oswald and Miguéz were almost exact contemporaries, there are other similarities that tie these two discs together into a kind of super-recital. Both composers originate from Rio de Janeiro, with either one parent or both a European immigrant. Both spent many years in Europe where they absorbed the musical influences that minimise the Brazilian colour in their piano works. Above all, both wrote music that can be placed in a cosmopolitan triangle whose corners are Schumann, Chopin and Saint-Saëns, with Miguéz more romantically, Oswald more impressionistically, inclined.
In other words, Oswald and Miguéz are likely to have wide appeal. Theirs are works of a highly melodic, generally mellow nature, short character pieces of varied mood and colour - humorous, nostalgic, bold, relaxed - threaded into longer suites to create satisfying wholes. In the sensitive hands of their compatriot Velloso they have a worthy champion - he is sunny, subtle and sympathetic.
Sound quality is the same for both discs, good, without being spectacular: a trifle close and not entirely without background noise. Velloso can sometimes be heard exhaling, sighing or fidgeting, chiefly at either end of a work, but also in quieter passages. Whether or not the producer noticed this, track-ends are sharply faded to digital silence in a hardly subtle way. However, these distractions are fairly minimal and unlikely to spoil anyone's enjoyment of the music. The booklet notes in both cases are by the evocatively named Sergio Bittencourt Sampaio, highly informative and well translated.