Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Popular and modernist songs from Brazil

I somehow missed this superb CD of Brazilian songs by Cristiane Roncaglio when it was released a couple of years ago. It includes outstanding interpretations of some of Tom Jobim's best songs, and a fine version of Ary Barrosso's sui generis Aquarela do Brasil. On the Villa-Lobos side, it's nice to hear three songs from Villa's late work Floresta do Amazonas. Veleiro, Cair de Tarde and especially Cancao do Amor are so popular in Brazil, but aren't heard here as often as they should be. But it's three songs from around 1920 that really stand out for me. Solidão (Solitude) and Novelozinho de linha, from the song collection Historietas, and Epigramma, from the collection Epigrammas Ironicas E Sentimentais, are completely in the modernist style of Satie, Debussy and Ravel, though they were all written before Villa's first trip to Paris later that decade. Villa-Lobos felt strongly enough about Solidão to include it in the program for 1922's famous Semana de Arte Moderna in Sao Paulo, the showcase for avant garde Brazilian art that focussed, on the music side, almost exclusively on Villa-Lobos. The shocked response from the audience, so similar to the near riots modernist composers were encountering in Europe, must have demonstrated to Villa-Lobos that he was on the right track!

Songs by Waldemar Henrique, Baden Powell, Miranda, Santoro and Belchior round out a fabulous collection with plenty of variety in style, rhythm and texture (with excellent guitar and piano accompaniment by Andre Bayer and Cristian Peix). Cristiane Roncaglio's very strong voice fits both the popular and more erudite music perfectly; there's no "slumming" here, or awkwardness, as there sometime is when the operatic voice leaves the formal stage in favour of the smoke-filled nightclub. To be fair, it's easier to do this in Brazilian music, where the lines between the two styles are so blurred. In this album Cristiane Roncaglio and her colleagues hit the mark perfectly everytime.

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