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Keys to Rio
Ernesto NAZARETH (1863-1934)
Odeón [2:54]
Brejeiro (1893) [2:28]
Faceira [5:05]
Coração que sente [7:51]
Apanhei-te, Cavaquinho (I've Got You, Cavaquinho) (1914) [2:26]
Chiquinha GONZAGA (1847-1935)
Gaúcho (1895) [2:00]
Suspiro (1881) [3:34]
Atraente (1877) [3:09]
Marlos NOBRE (b.1939)
Ciclo nordestino No. 1, Cantiga, Op. 5 (1960) [1:40]
Ciclo nordestino No. 4, Frevo, Op. 43 (1983) [1:55]
Oriano de ALMEIDA (1921-2004)
Valsa de Paris (1958) [2:26]
Prelu´dios potiguares: No. 11, Polytheama (1950) [1:37]
Prelu´dios potiguares: No. 1, No caminho do sertão (1982) [1:43]
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Valsa da dor, W. 316 (1932) [5:52]
Ciclo Brasileiro No. 2, Impressões serest (1936) [6:11]
Prole do bebê No. 1, W. 140: No. 1, Branquinha [2:25]: No. 2, Morenhina [1:55]: No. 6, A pobrezinha [2:13]: No. 7, O Polichinello [1:51]
Grace Alves (piano)
rec. 2014/15, Patrych Sound Studios, New York City

Brazilian pianist Grace Alves has constructed a tempting-looking programme that stretches chronologically from Gonzaga to Nobre. That it also takes in Nazareth, Almeida and Villa-Lobos is equally to the good. The hour-long recital is presented in composer groups, the better to concentrate on the particular stylistic imperatives of each of the five.

The selection is necessarily focused. She plays five pieces by Nazareth, including the Brazilian Tango of Odeon and Brejeiro, with its teasing rhythms. The Chopinesque refinement of Faceira and the yearning lyric melancholy of Coração que sente are contrasted with the extrovert qualities of Apanhei-te, Cavaquinho. Gonzaga and Nazareth died a year apart but the former was older and also explored tango and popular song in her oeuvre; Alves has chosen three works dating from 1877-1895 and the engaging Gaúcho, a lively maxixe – which she termed a Brazilian tango – shows that Francisca Edwiges Neves (her given name) had her finger on the popular pulse. She was widely recognised as the first female conductor in Brazil, as well as the first nationally recognised female composer. This piece reminds me of Tango à la Caprice, so maybe its composer, the great Harlem Stride master Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith, had absorbed its potent message.

Brazil’s contemporary scene is represented by Marlos Nobre whose two pieces have been well selected to show variety. The first is a villanelle with two-part counterpoint, evoking rich solitude whilst the helter-skelter rhythmic accelerations of Frevo are truly exciting. There is a charmingly suave Valsa de Paris from Oriano de Almeida, composed in 1958 and a Ragtime-leaning Polytheama, but the most intriguing of the trio by him is surely the 1982 No caminho do sertão where the dotted rhythms possibly incarnate horses’ hooves. Four of the six Villa-Lobos pieces come from Prole do bebê No. 1 and are warmly done. Valsa da Dor is famously dramatic and full of a swaying tristesse whilst Impressões serest evokes a fusion of guitar impressions, Rachmaninov, limpid sensuality and florid declamation – heady stuff, as ever.

Brazilian piano discs are not that rare these days. Gabriela Montero has recorded two of the Nazareth pieces here on her Solatino CD, and Arnaldo Cohen’s Brasiliana album on BIS has some overlap with Alves’ as well. Sonia Rubinsky’s excellent exploration of Villa-Lobos on Naxos should also not be overlooked. For a single disc survey though, Grace Alves’ well-recorded disc, with her own notes, is an attractive proposition.

Jonathan Woolf

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