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Latin Soul
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Ciclo Brasileiro [19:33]
Chôros No. 5 – Alma brasileira [4:53]
Alberto GINASTERA (1916-1983)
Danzas Argentinas [8:41]
Carlos GUASTAVINO (1912-2000)
Sonatina in G minor [9:33]
Camargo GUARNIERI (1907-1993)
Dança Selvagem [1:39]
Dança Negra [3:44]
Dança Brasileira [2:18]
Bailecito [3:39]
Fabio Martino (piano)
rec. 2018, Hans-Rosbaud-Studio, S
Südwestrundfunk, Baden-Baden, Germany

The main interest here for me lies in the repertoire, as many of these exciting and entertaining pieces are new to me. The concept is quite a simple one: collect an hour of twentieth century Brazilian and Argentinian piano pieces to create a unique and colourful program.

Beginning with the music I know best by Heitor Villa-Lobos, it is well-played but cannot compare with the recordings by Cristina Ortiz (BIS CD-1440 (Chôros)) and Débora Halász (BIS CD-812). Fabio Martino’s performance is passionate, but sometimes more than passion is needed; in Chôros No. 5 – Alma brasileira (Brazilian soul), Martino plays a little too quickly - only fifteen seconds or so, but Ortiz uses those extra few seconds well. He is better, however, in the Ciclo Brasileiro, where although he is a few seconds faster than Halász, here it makes less of a difference. What does make a difference, however, is the ordering of the movements: Martino performs the Festa no Sertao movement as the third piece here, which sits better than placing it fourth, as Halász does for Bis.

When it comes to the piano music of Alberto Ginastera, I admit to being something of a novice. I have some of the orchestral music, including Xiayin Wang’s recording of the piano concerto (CHAN 10949), but the smallest ensemble piece I have are the composer’s three string quartets. Martino gives a good performance to which he brings the “objective nationalism” - Ginastera’s own term - to illustrate the traditional rhythms well. The third dance, Danza del Gaucho Matrero, in particular, has all the flare and dynamism of Ginastera’s most popular work, the ballet Estancia.

When it comes to the music of the other two composers, Carlos Guastavino and Mozart Camargo Guarnieri, their music is fairly unknown to me. I have the odd piece on a compilation, but that is all, something that, on this evidence I should put right. I was impressed with the G minor Sonatina of Guastavino and wish it were a little longer. The booklet tells us that it is an “example of the Romantic Nationalism movement in Argentina,” of which he was the main instigator. The third movement Presto is very interesting in its use of rhythmic intensity, as is Camargo Guarnieri’s use of dissonance, especially in the Dança Selvagem and Lindo which employs Afro-Brazilian rhythms, and the Latin swing of the other two dances is infectious.

This is a welcome disc, therefore; while Fabio Martino might not be my first choice for the Heitor Villa-Lobos, there is enough here to make me want to explore these four composers further. The program is quite effective and interesting; there is plenty here to enjoy and make you smile. The recorded sound is good, as are the booklet notes in three languages. The only problem I can see is that of getting hold of this music; the best-known of the online sites is offering the single disc at over £30, which, good as it is, is not worth the outlay.

Stuart Sillitoe

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