One of the best new CDs to cross my desk in a while is called Contatos, by French guitarist Christine Petit-D’Heilly. It’s an entirely South American program, with substantial works by Argentine composers Hector Ayala (1914–1990) and Astor Piazzolla (1921–1992), and two prolific contemporary Brazilians, Sérgio Assad (b.1952) and Paolo Bellinati (b.1950); a wonderful disc from beginning to end. You can hear it for yourself on YouTube (one section at a time; not ideal. The CD can be purchased here). Playing South American music is hardly a novelty for Petit-D’Heilly: Besides her solo work, she has also been a member of several ensembles dedicated to Latin music, including the Atahualpa Quartet, Quartet Barrios Magoré, and the tango quintet Musicas Recuperdas. (She also has spent time in Trio Gershwin, which is decidedly not Latin.)
So far there are no performance videos connected to the Contatos album, but digging around on YouTube, I did stumble across this video of Petit-D’Heilly playing Roland Dyens’ moving arrangement of the Edith Piaf classic, Hymne à l’amour, a tune I happen to love. The song, with music by longtime Piaf collaborator Marguerite Monnot and lyrics by the chanteuse herself, was written in 1949 after the death in a plane crash of her great love, French boxer Marcel Cerdan. She recorded it the following year and it was an instant success. It has been covered by dozens of singers, in French and English (and other languages). Dyens’ solo guitar arrangement has been popping up more and more, as well. I think you’ll agree that it’s lovely.
Christine Petit-D’Heilly lives in northeastern France, in the picrturesque town of Gérardmer, in the Vosges region, where she runs her own record label, Altaïs Music. —Blair Jackson