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Heitor Villa-lobos: Complete Solo Piano Works, Vol. 1

Villa-lobos / Bratke
Release Date: 08/09/2011 
Label:  Quartz Records   Catalog #: 2074   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Heitor Villa-Lobos
Performer:  Marcelo Bratke
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 17 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

VILLA-LOBOS Complete Solo Piano Works, Vol. 1: Caixinha de Música Quebrada. Cirandinhas. Cirandas Marcelo Bratke (pn) QUARTZ 2074 (77:28)

Though he had none of his own, Heitor Villa-Lobos was fascinated by children. Indeed, he appeared to venerate them. I suspect it was because, all his life, he remained one at heart. Pianist, composer, and conductor Alfred Heller (who served as Villa-Lobos’s amanuensis during his last years in New York City, and later became the Read more president of the Villa-Lobos Music Society) once confided to me that Villa-Lobos simply never grew up. According to Heller, Villa-Lobos, who reigned supreme in his personal musical universe, had a devil of a time dealing with the normal demands and contingencies of adult life.

Villa-Lobos’s collections of Cirandas (children’s rounds) and Cirandinhas (little children’s rounds) are based on Brazilian folk tunes. Though never directly quoted, in these two collections they are transformed into miniatures of surpassing sophistication, both harmonically and rhythmically. In them the point of view is always that of a child—with all his or her hopes, fears, expectations, and delights writ large—communicated by sometimes the simplest, and others the most pianistically virtuosic, of means. The emotional range of this music is huge, and demands a great deal of probing insight (and hindsight) on the part of the pianist. In the right hands, these pieces become truly magical and self-revealing.

In the interest of full disclosure, it has been about 20 years since I last listened to and wrote about this music. Being by choice a general practitioner rather than a specialist, I have been preoccupied with other, far removed musical realms for some time. As such, I approached this assignment with trepidation. Digging back into my library (an exercise in excavation), I unearthed one of Alfred Heller’s Villa-Lobos discs (Et’Cetera KTC 1159, recorded in 1993), which I favorably reviewed in the days that are currently before the cutoff point of Fanfare’s website. I also found Roberto Szidon’s later recording of 16 Cirandas and 12 Cirandinhas (on Le Chant du Monde LDC 2781048, likewise favorably reviewed apparently before that same cutoff point). Revisiting that Heller disc, I was taken by his simple, self-effacing grace. Szidon, by comparison, plays up the more virtuosic elements of the collections, taking larger liberties in tempo and rubato than Heller. Both work for me. Whether I would choose to listen to one or the other would be dictated by my mood of the moment.

This release opens with the telling choice of Caixinha de Música Quebrada (Broken Music Box), a stage-setter that tells the listener that he or she is going to go back into personal reflections of childhood, and that those might, or might not, be distorted or “broken” by our defectively adult memories. That said, Brazilian pianist Marcelo Bratke beguiles the ear with his sensitively understated traversal of these childlike pieces. Unlike Szidon, he projects the music, not himself, and thus is closer to Heller in his approach. Bratke revels in their seeming simplicity, inviting, indeed cajoling, the listener to live fully in the moment, and thus nullifies the inexorable progress of both time and mortality. Here one encounters the purist distillate to date of the music.

The sound of this CD is as lucid as Bratke’s pianism.

FANFARE: William Zagorski
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Works on This Recording

Caixinha de música quebrada, W 256 by Heitor Villa-Lobos
Performer:  Marcelo Bratke (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1931; Brazil 
Length: 3 Minutes 13 Secs. 
Cirandinhas (12) for Piano, W 210 by Heitor Villa-Lobos
Performer:  Marcelo Bratke (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925; Paris, France 
Length: 25 Minutes 6 Secs. 
Cirandas (16) for Piano, W 220 by Heitor Villa-Lobos
Performer:  Marcelo Bratke (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926; Paris, France 
Length: 44 Minutes 14 Secs. 

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