Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sonia Rubinsky Contest, v.3 winner & v.4 review

The contest is now over; thanks, everyone, for participating!

Congratulations to Christian Sisson from Rio de Janeiro, the third winner of a CD from Sonia Rubinsky's complete set of Villa-Lobos's Piano Music on Naxos. Five more discs will be awarded, one each week until the entire set has been sent out. It's easy to enter: send an email to and tell me your favourite piano piece by Villa-Lobos. If you've already entered, your name stays in the pool.

The Disc 4 winner will be drawn on Friday, June 18.

The fourth volume was once again recorded at Grace Church on the Hill in Toronto, in the fall of 2003.  I'll have to drop in to this church when I'm in Toronto later this summer.  Bonnie Silver and Norbert Kraft again were responsible for Production and Engineering.

For this disc, Rubinsky chose one of the central works from Villa's piano repertoire: Bachianas Brasileiras #4.  This work was put together from four pieces written over two decades: the fourth movement Dansa: Miudinho from 1930; the third movement Aria: Cantiga from 1935; and the first two movements Preludio and Coral: Canto do Sertao from 1941.  Since this work is so popular, it's easy to find other versions to compare with Rubinsky's reading.  I find Debora Halasz's version on BIS elegant but a bit tentative; the repeated percussive notes of the Araponga in the 2nd movement are hard to hear at first.  Valeria Zanini on Classico is more forthright, but there is less drama in that movement (which is one of my favourites).  Alma Petchersky on ASV stresses the monumental feel of the Coral - think of Stokowski's arrangements of Bach - at the expense of the forward movement of the piece.  It's instructive that Rubinsky's version of this movement is fairly close in tempos, and that dramatic feeling I mentioned, to the orchestral version of BB#4 in which Villa-Lobos himself conducted the French National Radio Orchestra.

Also on this disc are some smaller pieces from various times in Villa's career: Valsa Romantica from 1907 is one of his first published works.  Simples Coletanea, three pieces written in the late teens, is translated as "Simple Collection", though "Deceptively Simple Collection" might be closer to the mark.  This is the time when Villa-Lobos's own voice was really beginning to emerge under the twin influences of French modernism and Brazilian folklore.  Two pieces on this disc include a second pianist, who is Tatjana Rankovich.  Both Francette et Pia and the Carnaval das Criancas are about the world of children; the first is tender and touching, the second more lively.

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