CDE84551 Piano Music from Brazil - Eduardo Monteiro

Piano Music of Brazil - Eduardo Monteiro

Piano Music of Brazil - Eduardo Monteiro

Product Description

Francisco Mignone (1897-1986)
Sonata No. 1

Heitor Villa-Lobos  (1887-1959)
Impresses Seresteiras
Saudades das selvas brasileiras
Hommage Chopin

Oscar Lorenzo Fernandez (1897-1948)
Trs Estudos em forma de sonatina op. 62

Leopoldo Miguz (1850-1902)
Nocturno op.10 

Marlos Nobre (b.1939)

Cludio Santoro (1919-1989)
Preldio No.1 Lento Expressivo
Preldio No.2 Andante (cantabile)
Preldio No.3 Lento Expressivo
Preldio No.12 Andante Expressivo

Almeida Prado (b.1943)
Cartas Celestes, Vol. 1

Sound Sample

Eduardo Monteiro has rapidly established himself as the one of the outstanding Brazilian pianists of his generation, and has performed at prestigious venues throughout his native Brazil, the USA and Europe. This recording, recently released to critical acclaim at London's premier chamber music venue, the Wigmore Hall, features music from the rich yet under-explored seam of Brazilian piano repertoire. From the famed early-twentieth century composer Heitor Villa-Lobos through to Almeida Prado student of Ligeti and Messiaen and one of the most significant figures in contemporary Brazilian music this recording uncovers the history and depth of twentieth-century piano music from Brazil. Monteiro plays throughout with skill, passion, and flair, creating a recording that simply must be heard by anyone wishing to discover a new and exciting repertoire for the piano.

Officially, Europeans first set foot in Brazil only in 1500. During the succeeding process of colonization by the Portuguese crown the indigenous peoples were decimated, while many thousands of Africans were brought to the continent as slaves and put to work on mining and on the land. From the very beginning, the European tradition brought by the Portuguese colonizers took on its own colours, moulded by the constraints and difficulties imposed by the cultural surroundings and by the indigenous and African peoples that vastly outnumbered the European population. This infusion of native expression into a long European tradition would give Brazilian music its special inheritance. Add to this the fact that Brazil is a country of continental proportions and great cultural diversity, and we can grasp the distinctiveness and variety of its music.

The arrival of the Portuguese royal family in Rio de Janeiro in 1808, during the Napoleonic wars, brought about a social and cultural shock which transformed the modest colonial town into the seat of a European court. It was only then that the outlines of instrumental music were first drawn in Brazil; until that date, art music had been largely liturgical.

A significant Brazilian piano repertoire emerges only with the generation of composers born in the second half of the nineteenth century: Leopoldo Miguez (1850-1902), Henrique Oswald (1852-1931), Alexander Levy (1864-1892), Alberto Nepomuceno (1864-1920) and Francisco Braga (1868-1945). All had lived and studied in Europe and, on their return to Brazil, had brought some innovative ideas, but overall they brought the aesthetic of early European romanticism. Thus, what we call Brazilian romanticism was created some 50 years later than its counterpart on the old continent.

The history of Brazilian music at this period is closely related to that of the Imperial Conservatory, founded in 1841. Leopoldo Miguez was its director from 1890 until his death in 1902. His Nocturne Op. 10 was probably written during the 1890s. A composition of elevated inspiration, it is deeply romantic and reveals a strong influence of Chopin.

If some nationalist sentiment, a typical manifestation of romanticism, can be found throughout the nineteenth century, it was in the 1920s that it intensified, with the advent of a modernist movement which had as its banner the nationalisation of the arts. Although its focus was on the renewal of the language - in the wake of the nationalist movements that arose in other parts of the world - Brazilian modernists concentrated on using popular and folkloric elements within a quite traditional syntax. Villa-Lobos was without doubt its most brilliant representative, regardless of the difficulty of assigning this eclectic composer to any particular school.

Francisco Mignone (1897-1986) born in São Paulo of Italian background, followed many stylistic movements throughout his life, yet produced much of his work under the aegis of nationalism. His first Sonata was composed in 1941 and dedicated to the famous Brazilian pianist Magda Tagliaferro. The first movement, Moderato, alternates between a solemn initial theme on the piano's bass notes and a second element beginning with impressive sequences of repeated notes. The second movement, Andantino, quasi allegretto, the longest, has a rhapsodic character that develops through a series of contrasting sections. The third, Moderato, shows humour, a characteristic of the composer, and also uses a typical popular rhythm.

Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) is the best known Brazilian composer internationally, widely acknowledged as a great 20th century musician. His Impressões Seresteiras (Serenade Impressions), composed in 1936 in Rio de Janeiro, overflows with unabashed romanticism allied to exuberant virtuosity. In the initial section, the imaginative listener can hear the serenader, accompanied on the guitar, singing out his loves. It belongs to a set of four pieces called “Brazilian Cycle”. Saudades das Selvas Brasileiras (Nostalgia for the Brazilian jungle) was written in Paris in 1927. In the title, Villa-Lobos exploits the image of the composer from the tropics which so fascinated the Parisian public, yet the work has very little of the savage. The first part, where rhythm dominates, is presented with much swing and mischief. In the second part, the Saudade of the title comes to the fore in dreamy melodies in the left hand.

Villa-Lobos composed his final work for piano in 1949 at the request of UNESCO to celebrate the centenary of Chopin's death. The commission resulted in two pieces, a Nocturne and a Ballade, under the title Hommage à Chopin. Besides the specific character of the two parts (melancholy and heroic), and some pianistic figurations, little of Chopin is to be found: this is the essence of Villa-Lobos.

Oscar Lorenzo Fernandez (1897-1948) born in Rio of Spanish background, was another champion of nationalism. The Três Estudos em Forma de Sonatina op. 62 (Three Etudes in the form of a Sonatina), composed in 1929 is possibly his most admired piano work. Structured like a short sonata in three movements (Allegro con brio, Moderato and Allegro scherzoso), each one deals with specific aspects of pianistic technique, the first, for instance, with double notes, while the second is a study of sonority and the third explores the technique of chords. Bitonality, traditional characteristic rhythms, magic sonority are all to be found here.

Nationalism was a hegemonic movement. Although contested since the mid-twentieth century, it made a profound impression on the early careers of the majority of composers active today in Brazil, despite the fact that almost all have abandoned the nationalist trend and write today in a universal language.

Marlos Nobre (born in 1939 in Recife) is a prominent Brazilian composer very actively at work. He was president of the International Council of Music of UNESCO (1985-87) and director of the Fundação Cultural de Brasília (1988). His Tango op. 61 is a brilliant piece, inspired by the Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), where the dynamic range of the piano is fully explored, and the same theme, with its characteristic rhythm, evolves between lyrical pianissimo and wild passages in fortissimo.

Cláudio Santoro (1919-1989) born in Manaus, a convinced leftist, was a composer whose intellectual curiosity led him to follow most of the aesthetic schools of the twentieth century, from twelve-tone to electronic music, even including the nationalist movement. His 12 Prelúdios (second series, first book 1957-1962) are written with the feel of jazz improvisation, closely related to the style of Bossa Nova. The first and the second Preludes were transformed into the Canções de Amor (Songs of Love) numbers eight and nine for piano and voice, set to poems written for them by Vinícius de Moraes, one of the icons of Bossa Nova and partner of the great Tom Jobim.

Almeida Prado (born in Santos in 1943), one of the most important figures in Brazilian contemporary music, is highly prolific, writing with consummate skill in many different genres. His output for piano merits particular attention, because of both the great number of works (he is probably, with Villa-Lobos, the most prolific Brazilian composer for the instrument) and the brilliant pianism that produces virtuoso pieces of great difficulty and refinement. From 1969 to 1973 he studied in Europe, first in Darmstadt with Ligeti (1923-2006) and Lukas Foss (b. 1922), then in Paris, with Messiaen (1908-1992) and Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979). Returning from Europe in 1973 aged 30, Prado had already laid extensive foundations for his expressive potential.

Cartas Celestes (Celestial Charts) was commissioned in 1974 by the authorities of São Paulo to accompany the show at the Municipal Planetarium. Once performed as a concert piece it drew appreciation for its original sounds, virtuosity and power of suggestion. The beginning and end of the work are written in mirror image corresponding to dusk and dawn. Sunset is portrayed by a long diminuendo that leads to the darkness of night. Venus is the first glistening light in the sky and it is followed by the Milky Way, a section with a tremolo of perfect fifths maintained throughout. In the central section, galaxies, constellations (Hercules, Lyra and Scorpio), stars and nebulae succeed each other, interspersed by showers of meteors and by a mysterious strolling theme of just a few seconds (Globular Cluster Messier 13). Hercules is angular and powerful, in Lyra we hear a harp delicately strummed and Scorpio introduces a fast repetition of fortissimo chords, catatonic and threatening. Nebula Andromeda is a passage of great virtuosity while Nebula 6960/95 is diaphanous and ethereal. The work concludes by revisiting the Milky Way; Venus starts to fade and Morning appears, giving way to the blinding glare of the tropical sun. This work invites us to give free rein to our imagination and to recall the fascination that we all feel on contemplating the universe.

Notes © Eduardo Monteiro 2007Piano Music of Brazil - Eduardo Monteiro