SEPTEMBER 2016 | Ray's Round-Up: Brazilian ImpressionsSEPTEMBER 2016 | Ray's Round-Up: Brazilian Impressions
By RAY PICOT
Rio 2016 and the visit to The Proms by the Sao Paolo Symphony provides a timely reminder of the cornucopia of music that has poured from the pen of Brazilian composers since the end of the 19th century. It is fair to say that Brazil’s most prolific music ambassador in the last 100 years has been Heitor Villa-Lobos, and in that respect we have been very served with some excellent recordings. In recent years we have heard more from the next generation of composers including Francisco Mignone, Camargo Guarnieri and Marlos Nobre, though at a frustratingly slow pace. But what of other luminaries like Almeida Prado, Osvaldo Lacerda, Cesar Guerra-Peixe, Brenno Blauth, Claudio Santoro, Radames Gnattali and Edino Krieger, to name but a few, for whom you invariably have to delve into unofficial blog sites (with the risk of copyright infringement) and Youtube? There are also concert video recordings by some regional orchestras playing rare repertoire by Brazilain composers, though the recorded quality can be variable.
However, I am delighted to direct you to a genuine high-quality source from the country's foremost orchestra - none other than the Sao Paulo Symphony and their website: osesp.art.br. This is excellent and a great way to dip into less well-known repertoire through good quality recordings, supported by excellent documentation. When you log onto the website you can select an English option to read content, but select ‘media’ which takes you to a page of the recent recordings that the orchestra has made, from which you chose the recordings labelled ‘selo digital OSESP’ of which there are at present 13 available to stream or download, with the ability to select individual pieces. This generous collection is available at no charge, and I have to say, though they use the popular MP3 compression, the sound quality is consistently good. The composers include Alleida Prado (check out the excerpts from the gargantuan Dos Orixos Symphony, coupled with an orchestral suite and an inventive fantasia for violin and orchestra), Brenno Blauth (his winning Oboe Concertino), Giberto Mendes (choral and orchestral pieces), Ronaldo Miranda, Aurélio Edler-Copes, Paulo Costa Lima, Sergio Assad, Flo Menezes, Nailor Azevedo Proveta, Toninho Ferragutti and Vagner Cunha. A full programme of choral music by Aylton Escobar is very worthwhile, a delightful piano quartet and quintet from the romantic, Enrique Oswald and some interesting arrangements. This list is not exhaustive, but there is much to enjoy and whet one’s appetite for more music from some of these lesser-known composers.
I have noticed that iTunes have released many Latin American historical rarities of which you may find the following Brazilian titles of interest as they are otherwise unavailable. There is the richly romantic Symphony by Henrique Oswald, Alberto Nepomuceno's pioneering orchestral Serie brasiliera, and a nicely-contrasted collection of string quartets from Quarteto Camargo Guarnieri by Lacerda and Guarnieri. A more up-to-date recording of music by Guarnieri with an album titled Curumim features some delightful suites and miniatures all played with great verve by Orquestra de Camara Paulista under Branco Bernardes (also downloadable from Amazon). The CD can be obtained at a premium like other recordings from Brazilian labels, and though these are relatively few in number and hard to acquire, the recording quality is generally very good. However, I am able to recommend a couple of CDs which I’ve not included in past reviews which are more easily available and worthwhile investigating: Romaria: Choral music from Brazil sung by the Choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, directed by Geoffrey Webber on Delphian DCD34147 - mostly a capella sacred and secular music from the 1950s, performed with great style and enthusiasm. The pianist Antonio Vas Lemes presents a stylish and interesting programme entitled Sonata brasileira on Odradek ODRCD332. It is great to hear the range of styles of these sonatas, and you hear so little from the likes of Marcelo Amazonas, Andre Mehmari and Edmundo Villani Cortes, though it is Guarnieri’s harder-edged work that creates the greatest impact.
As a postscript it is interesting to note that from the 1950s to the early 1980s there was a steady stream of LPs from Brazil, often featuring the composer as conductor or soloist, in addition to some legendary performers. The likelihood of any of these ever being reissued is a forlorn hope but many do appear on the web, albeit of variable quality, and if anyone is interested in some particular pieces, please let me know as I may have stumbled across them!
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