4 Albums of Brazilian Music: Carlos Barbosa-Lima, Daniel Murray, Andre Simão, and Marius Noss Gundersen!
Carlos Barbosa-Lima (L) and Larry del Casale take us on a musical tour of Rio.
Some weeks we take a peek at recent albums or sheet music releases. Here are four CDs I like that have come into the Classical Guitar office within the past several months.
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Some of the albums I write about online will be reviewed in the magazine, some not. But we want to at least mention most of them here. You can listen to some of these on various of streaming services, but we always encourage you to support the artists by actually buying anything you like! Obviously we cannot research and report every outlet or online business where these albums are sold (Amazon, for instance, has outlets in many different countries/regions, but we generally link to the U.S. version), so check your favorite places that sell CDs and downloads, as well as your favorite streaming sites!
To see links to all of our online album listings/reviews, click here.
Batuque Andre Simão
Ears Love Music
Brazil-born, Germany-based guitarist Andre Simão’s latest album is subtitled “A Panorama of the Modern Guitar Music from Brazil,” and it lives up to that description admirably, presenting a delightful cross-section of pieces written over the past 40 years by some of Brazil’s best-known contemporary guitar composers, including Paulo Bellinati, Sérgio Assad, Marco Pereira, and João Luiz (of the Brasil Guitar Duo). It’s a feast of sumptuous melodies and infectious rhythms. Bellinati and Pereira each have three pieces here: Predictably, perhaps, Bellinati’s ubiquitous (but always welcome) Jongo makes an appearance, but his other two are similarly engaging; among the Pereira works is the world premiere recording of Rapsódia dos Malacos, an eight-minute tour de force that has both marvelously lyrical and also exciting passages. I see the word “rapsódia” and it’s difficult not to think of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and indeed I do hear parallels in the more dramatic parts, intended or not. I predict this is a work we’re going to be hearing a lot.
Assad’s Seis Brevidades (six short pieces) pack an amazing amount of beauty, power, and invention into bite-size portions (the lovely Cantiga is the only one that is over two minutes), and require a virtuosity that the left-handed Simão achieves with seeming ease. And Luiz’s Batuque, another premiere, combines traditional Brazilian flavors with more modern leanings to very nice effect.
I was not familiar with two of the composers. Ronaldo Miranda appears to work mostly with other instruments in symphonic and chamber contexts, but has written a great, multilayered guitar work in Apassionata—another piece I can imagine catching on with guitarists worldwide; quite a revelation. And Alberto Mejia—a successful composer-arranger-performer of Brazilian and Colombian parentage, and great-grandson of Ernesto Nazareth—weighs in with Dois Lugares (Two Places), which moves into some darker and more modern-sounding spaces before lightening up in its final third; a fine piece also.
Worth your time!
Emboscada (Bellinati); O choro de Juliana (Pereira); Baião Cansado (Pereira); Rapsódia dos Malacos (Pereira); Dois Lugares (Mejia); Appassionada (Miranda); Batuque (Luiz); Seis Brevidades: Chuva, Tarde, Feliz, Ginga, Cantiga, Saltitante (Assad); Embaixador (Bellinati); Jongo (Bellinati)
The album can be purchased through the artist himself (firstname.lastname@example.org), bought and/or streamed through Amazon, or streamed at Spotify, Deezer, or YouTube.
Below, a glimpse of the range of the album, and then the world premiere recording of Marco Pereira’s wonderful Rapsódia dos Malacos:
Delicado Carlos Barbosa-Lima and Friends
This album is described in the liner notes as a “tribute to the music of [the] renowned and beloved city” of Rio de Janeiro, and who better to conduct this breezy musical tour than one of the Brazil’s favorite sons, Carlos Barbosa-Lima? “We wanted to honor the exuberant nature and welcoming spirit of the cariocas,” the guitarist says. The “we” in this case is two of his long-standing New York-based collaborators, guitarist Larry del Casale and master percussionist Duduka Da Fonseca, along with fellow Brazilians bassist Nilson Matta and pianist Helio Alves on close to half the pieces. The repertoire is practically a “Rio’s Greatest Hits” collection (OK, thankfully no “Girl from Ipanema”), with such requisite tunes as Tico Tico, Manhã de Carnval, Delicado, Sambolero, A Felicidade, and Samba de Orfeu, but also many tracks that are perhaps less-known (or maybe just to me!).
This is much more of a light jazz album than a “classical guitar” album, but if you’re primarily looking to hear Barbosa-Lima’s splendid guitar work, you will definitely not go away disappointed. He sounds fantastic throughout, and the communication he has with del Casale is clearly evident as they trade lines (with del Casale often taking the lead part) and weave sympathetically around each other’s musical thoughts. (In the stereo field, Carlos is on the left, Larry on the right.) There are also five exquisite solo performances from Barbosa-Lima, a lovely guitar duo version of Manhã de Carnaval, and a short all-percussion workout from Duduka Da Fonseca (on berimbau?), which leads to a spellbinding version of Baden Powell’s Afro-Brazilian Canto de Ossanha (an instrumental version of which appeared on Powell’s 1968 album O Som de Baden; the original sung version with lyrics by Vincius de Moraes came out in 1966).
A great album, and classical guitar lovers will want to check out Barbosa-Lima’s arrangement of A Felicidade, quite different than the Roland Dyens’ arrangement more common in today’s CG world.
Tico Tico (Olivera, de Abreau); Delicado (Azevedao), Samba de Orfeu (Bonfá); A Felicidade (Jobim, de Moraes), Odeon (Nazareth); Manhã de Carnaval (Bonfá); Interrogando (Pernambuco); Feitiço da Vila (Rosa); Samba do Avião (Jobim); Sambolero (Bonfá); Chovendo na Roseira (Jobim, Lees); Prelude to Canto de Ossanha (da Fonseca); Canto de Ossanha (Powell, de Moraes); Eu Não Existo Sem Você (Jobim, de Moraes); Tristeza (Lobo, Gimbel, Niltinho)
14–37: Brazilian Music for Solo Guitar Daniel Murray
Though possessing one of the most Anglo names imaginable, Daniel Murray appears to be Brazilian through and through, and has spent most of his life and career in Brazil and completely immersed in Brazilian music: playing it, teaching it, arranging it, and composing it. He has played solo and in various chamber settings with other players, and he has mastered both the six-string and 10-string guitar. The 11 albums listed on his website include ones devoted to Radamés Gnattali and Antônio Carlos Jobim, and spread out across the others are pieces by an enormous cross-section of Brazilian composers, past and present.
The title of the album refers to the span of Murray’s life as a guitarist, from age 14—when he was introduced to a piece that Paulo Bellinati had sent to Daniel’s musician uncle, José Murray (Daniel subsequently met Beliinati and has had a long association with him since)—to 37, presumably his age as of 2018 when the album was recorded. In the Portuguese (and German) liner notes, he mentions a number of key influences and artists he has admired along the way; so, for this deeply personal selection of pieces, many of the great names of Brazilian music from the past century are represented on this varied and stimulating album: Villa-Lobos, Garoto, Jobim, Pernambuco, Powell, Guinga, Gismonti. To his credit, Murray has not surrendered completely to the most popular and melodic choices from those composers… except, of course, for Bellinati’s Jongo—which he plays fantastically well! Instead, there’s a terrific range of moods and feelings throughout: sunshine and darkness, optimistic grooves and mysterious shadows; sometimes within the same piece. I love the way the clangorous opening of Jobim’s Ohla Maria rolls into a heavenly, lilting melody, for instance. Or how Murray’s own Canção e Dança neatly juxtaposes a plaintive ballad vibe with a light rhythmic excursion. For me, the most surprising piece is the album-closing Infância, Egberto Gismonti’s dazzling piano workout brought down to a single guitar here with fascinating results. I can’t honestly say that Murray’s arrangement is completely successful—like the Assad Duo’s is, in my view; nice to have four hands on that!—but you have admire the ambition of Murray’s attempt, and it’s compelling enough that I’ve gone back and listened to it several times, marveling at (and puzzled by) some of his arrangement choices. My only disappointment with the album is Murray’s choice of Villa-Lobos’ grating Estudio No. 4—just not a piece I ever enjoy hearing. But that in no way diminishes my hearty recommendation of this fine disc, and now I’m going to go back and listen to some of his earlier albums as well!
Naqueles Velhos Tempos (Sardinha aka ‘Garoto’); Olha Maria (Jobim/Buarque); Tenebroso (Nazareth); Preludio (V. Brasil); Grauna (Pernambuco); Perto do Coração (Ayres); Lapinha (Powell, Pinheiro); Valsa Brasileira (Lobo, Buarque); Estudio No. 4 (Villa-Lobos); Jongo (Bellinati); Canção e Dança (Murray); Noturno Leopoldina (Guinga); Pro Chico Improvisor (Murray); Infância (Gismonti)
Brazilian Guitar Music by Marco Pereira Marius Noss Gundersen
Marius Noss Gundersen is definitely not Brazilian—he’s Norwegian—but that should not dissuade anyone from checking out this fine album devoted entirely to compositions by Marco Pereira; the first of its kind and completely endorsed by Pereira, who wrote in March of 2019: “Marius Gundersen comprehends in a particular and profound way the essence of Brazilian music that is embedded in the repertoire he has chosen. It is quite difficult to remain faithful to the cultural aspects of another country, from another continent, far from our own musical universe. I am very impressed with the way Marius approaches these nuances, magnifying the value of the work through his interpretation. Undoubtedly this album will be a reference for any guitarist, from any part of the world, who might want to record these pieces. Thank you, Marius, for this excellent performance!” One of Gundersen’s previous three releases was the more pan-Brazilian Retrato Brasiliero, so clearly this music is deep in his bloodstream.
I have only a passing familiarity with Pereira’s music—really, not much beyond his catchy and propulsive Bate-Coxa and the two Pereira pieces mentioned above in the review of Andre Samão’s album (which I’ve had considerably longer than this new release from Gundersen). But if this album is any indication, I find his work extremely attractive and easy to listen to. His melodies are sonorous and almost instantly hummable; rarely do they take unpredictable turns (which, frankly, could be a turn-off to some listeners, but not me). In fact, from a compositional standpoint, Rapsódia dos Malacos (see the Samão review, and the attached recording) is probably the most adventurous and tonally varied work on the album (I like both versions!). Both of the two multi-part works—O Choro de Juliana and Perequetés—mix different rhythms and tempos among each’s four sections, like dance suites (which the latter explicitly is), and really had me tapping my toe or swaying… and smiling.
What a lovely, lively, and fun album!
Estela de Manhã; Bate-Coxa; Sambadalu; Irene; O Choro de Juliana: Micuim, Chamego, Pixula, Sarará; Rapsódia dos Malacos; Perequetés: Toada, Maxixe, Chula, Valsa; Baião Cansado