Monday, June 21, 2010

Sonia Rubinsky Contest, v.4 winner & v.5 review

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

Congratulations to Harold Lewis of the UK, the fourth winner of a CD from Sonia Rubinsky's complete set of Villa-Lobos's Piano Music on Naxos. Four 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 winner of Volume 5 will be drawn on Friday, June 25.

In 2006, the recording sessions for the fifth volume in the series moved from Toronto to the Township of King City, just north of Canada's biggest city.  Once again the technical side of things was in the more than capable hands of Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver.

For many this was the first chance to hear the entire cycle of Guia Pratico (though they'd have to wait for volume 8 of the series for Albums 10 and 11).  Anna Stella Schic had included the bulk of the Guia Pratico piano pieces in her complete Piano Music set of 7 LPs, released in the mid-70s in France.  Though this set was re-released on CD, it's never been easy to find.  Caio Pagano included Albums 1-6 in his 1999 album Music for Children.  Clara Sverner didn't release her complete series on the Brazilian Biscoito label until 2008; it's still available on

Many of the songs in the Guia Pratico were gathered by Villa-Lobos from folk-songs and children's round songs.  I wonder if Brazilian children in the 1930s skipped rope while they sang them?  Like other Villa-Lobos works from the world of children (Prole do Bebe, especially), the Guia Pratico includes many pieces and passages that would tax the most accomplished pianist.  So in spite of Villa-Lobos's didactic agenda in the choral versions of these songs, many of these pieces are written about children rather than for them to learn to play the piano.  As well, many of these songs were re-cycled by Villa-Lobos in a variety of works later in his career.

Two very positive components of the Naxos series continued with volume 5.  James Melo again provided excellent liner notes - you can read them here.  Furthermore, the notes included the original Portuguese texts of the songs, along with English translations.  And the cover once again featured a very relevant painting - this time a stage set design from Lasar Segall's 1938 Rio de Janeiro ballet of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

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