Gramophone; March 2009
Mostly Villa-Lobos; 20th-Century Piano Music from the Americas
“Splendid playing of a lively programme but don’t be misled by the disc’s name.”
Technically speaking the title is correct: there are more minutes of Heitor Villa-Lobos on this disc than any other composer, thanks to his Rudepoema clocking in at 20 minutes. But the Brazilian’s music really accounts for only three of 19 tracks. Better for pianist Sergio Gallo to have given this recital some independent name, lest the consumer feel a bit short-changed.
Especially since the most intriguing music on this lively disc is not by Villa-Lobos but his lesser known companions. Take for instance the Tides of Manaunaun by Henry Cowell, paired with his iconoclastic Aeolian Harp – both played with vigour and integrity by Gallo. Or the vivacity of Danzas by Ignacio Cervantes, or the rarely heard waltzes that open the disc, by Ernesto Nazareth (Eponina) and Souza Lima (Maria), both lent a lovely casual, almost decadent flavour by the pianist. Indeed, Gallo’s ability to play even fast passagework, such as Camargo Guarnieri’s Toccata, Barrozo netto’s Minha Terra and some of the preludes of Robert Muczynski’s Op. 6 set, with patience and deliberation, impresses. In the latter Gallo paces the music so well, holding back slightly in the early, quicker movements so as to build to the Allegretto fourth movement, then building again to the finale. His nuanced performance, with its eye to the large-scale structure, gives the impression of a much longer piece in a work where each movement is essentially a minute long.
Which brings us to the Villa-Lobos. Gallo deftly exhibits an alternately intimate and epic Impressões seresteiras and a bright A maré encheu, in both cases reveling in sprightly rhythms. The paean to Arthur Rubinstein, Rudepoema, seems out of place on an album of lighter works, but Gallo again takes a patient approach, allowing the portrait grow organically and climb to splendid climaxes. Questionable name and all, this is an enjoyable disc played with exceptional artistry.