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Toquinho - Canto da sereia
rec. live, September 2016
Ophélie Gaillard (cello)
Sung texts (no translations) included.
APARTÉ AP182 [42:13]

If your acquaintance with the work of cellist Ophélie Gaillard is limited to her recordings or concert performances of works by composers such as Bach, Vivaldi, Fauré, Britten and Dutilleux, you should probably approach this recent release with a degree of caution. On the other hand, you may be better prepared, and perhaps better disposed towards Canto da Sereia, if you have heard and enjoyed her two-CD set Alvorada (Aparté AP104). Gaillard, with various collaborators, presented there a range of music, both ‘classical’ and ‘popular’, from Spain, Brazil, Argentina and Cuba. Even then there is a reservation to be made. David Barker in his review of Alvorada found more than a little to like but also wrote: “Two songs, including the title track, feature famous Brazilian singer/guitarist Toquinho. They didn’t appeal at all: too much like cocktail lounge background music.” That was a judgment with which I largely agreed.

Now here is a whole album recorded with Toquinho. Indeed, his name appears above (and in larger type than) Gaillard’s on the front of the disc’s packaging. This time there are more pieces composed by Toquinho. I am very much in favour of collaborations between musicians from different backgrounds and traditions, and I have enjoyed and admired a good number of such ventures (recorded or live). What is essential to the success of such collaborations is that the music produced should be something new, something different from the two (or occasionally more) musical traditions drawn on. Disappointment comes when the resulting music is essentially a dilution of one or both of the ‘original’ musics. And, sadly, that, largely, is what happens here. Toquinho has previously recorded, with groups of his own, most of the compositions of his which are recorded again on Canto da sereia (Song of the Siren). In every case where I have been able to make a comparison, the earlier recording has a vitality and bite largely absent from the new version.

When I have previously listened to recordings by Toquinho – and on the one occasion when I heard him live at a concert in Paris – I was struck by the adventure in his playing and singing, his search for fresh harmonies and sonorities. Here, on the other hand, he sounds rather inhibited, as if he is rather playing safe, making the result somewhat bland. On most of the tracks, Ms. Gaillard is heard only as part of the ensemble, where her full bowed sound certainly adds something of interest. But it is the characteristically whispering voice of Toqhuino which quietly dominates proceedings. All tracks are arranged by the French-Argentine pianist and composer Gabriel Sivak; his arrangements are unexceptionable but not especially exciting.

However, for all my reservations it would be wrong to be entirely negative about this disc. Toqhuino’s unflamboyant singing has an undeniable charm. The album, indeed, is far more his than Gaillard’s. Much of what she does could as readily have been done by a cellist of less ability. On many of these tracks the voice and guitar of Toquinho are foregrounded. Gaillard plays a more prominent role on a few tracks, notably Alvorada, the beautiful Bachianinha No. 1 by the late Paulinho Nogueira and Tarde em Itapoã. The last track on the album is a version of Aria-Cantilena, the first part of Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5. Sparely accompanied by a single guitar, Gaillard plays the familiar melody very beautifully and expressively. Without words, she still evokes powerfully the mood of the words, normally sung by a soprano, of course. (The text was written by Ruth Valdares Corrêa: “In the evening, a rosy cloud, slow and transparent, covers space in pink. On the horizon the moon rises sweetly, beautifying the evening, like a loving girl who prepares herself and dreamily makes the evening beautiful.”) This is the one track on Canto da sereia where one hears Ophélie Gaillard as the great soloist she is.

On balance then, this is an album which will please lovers of bossa nova in general, or fans of Toquinho in particular, a good deal more than it will delight admirers of Gaillard.

Glyn Pursglove
TOQUINHO (b. 1946)
Quem viver, verá [2:54]
Gabriel SIVAK (b. 1979) / TOQUINHO
Canto da sereia [2:26]
Baden POWELL (1937-2000) / Vinicius de MORAES (1913-1980) // TOQUINHO / Chico BUARQUE (b. 1944)
Samba da Bençao // Samba pra Vinicius [3:14]
Antonio Carlos JOBIM (1927-94) /Vinicius de MORAES
Eu sei que vou te amar [3:06]
CARTOLA (1908-1950) / H.B. de CARVALHO / CACHAÇA
Alvorada [3:49]
Paulhino NOGUEIRA (1929-2003)
Bachianinha No. 1 [2:40]
Tarde em itapoã [2:54]
Gabriel SIVAK /TOQUINHO /Paulo César PINHEIRO (b.1949)
Fariseus [2:40]
TOQUINHO / Maurizio FABRIZIO (b. 1952) / Guido MORRA (b. 1956) / Vinicius de MORAES
Acuarela [4:03]
PIXINGUINHA (1897-1973)
Carinhoso [3:33]
Escravo da Alegria [3:00]
NILTINHO (1936-2018)
Tristeza [3:23]
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Bachiana Brasileira No.5 [4:32]

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