These young players have thoroughly assimilated the Brazilian style. This recording is a delight.

These young players have thoroughly assimilated the Brazilian style. This recording is a delight.

American Record Guide, Kenneth Keaton

The Aquarelle was formed by students of Craig Ogden at the Royal Northern College of Music at Manchester. The prospect of four Brits in a program of Brazilian music was not immediately appealing, but I must say these young players have thoroughly assimilated the Brazilian style. This recording is a delight.

I’ve reviewed several all-Brazilian programs (N/D 2008, for example), and most fall short by having no clear difference between the cultivated and the vernacular. If one wants to hear Brazilian popular music, there are plenty of Brazilian artists who can supply just that. This program does well in the higher level of the compositions. While still clearly nationalist music (or, in the case of Frenchman Dyens, exotic), the sophistication and expressiveness are higher, and the performance rises to that challenge.

What’s this, yet another Assad? Clarice Assad is Sergio’s daughter, and has become a fine composer as well. Her music is perhaps the most “popular” of the program, with infectious, boiling rhythms; but listen to the exquisite ‘Reflective Cançao’ in the Danças Nativas if you want to bear beautiful delicacy incarnate. Sergio Assad is represented in Uarakena, named for an Amazon tribe. It is an intense, fascinating work, with Assad’s expected invention and craftsmanship. The Gismonti compositions are soft, gentle, exquisite songs, performed to perfection. Dyens’s suite Bresilis is alternately wild and intimate, filled with special effects (including singing!). It’s wonderfully
entertaining.

Villa-Lobos is represented by a movement from his first string quartet called ‘Brincadeira’, and the haunting Bacarianas Brasileiras 5. The latter is adapted from the original for eight cellos and soprano, and has much more in common with that than with the composer’s own transcription for solo guitar and voice. But, please, don’t even try to play those long, gorgeous held tones for the soprano on guitar, where they just die. Good to get that one complaint aside. Otherwise, this is the best Brazilian program I’ve heard in quite a while.