Piano Concerto No. 1; Aurora; Concerto Fribourgeois
Sonia Rubinsky (piano); Minas Gerais Philharmonic Orchestra/Fabio Mechetti
Naxos 8.574225 71:12 mins
Almeida Prado (1943–2010) remains one of Brazil’s most celebrated composers, justly acclaimed for the colour, drama and technical rigour of his music. This collection of works for piano and orchestra showcases the composer’s startling musical imagination and is performed with mastery and poise by Brazilian pianist Sonia Rubinsky and the Minas Gerais Philharmonic Orchestra (MGPO).
The free-form Aurora (1975) is the earliest piece included and perhaps the most radical, drawing on Prado’s technique of ‘transtonality’ – a free exploration of the overtone series, developed in response to the composer’s studies with Messiaen. By turns intricate and sweeping in its orchestral sonorities, the work is a powerful evocation of the force and mystery of the rising sun. Well matched by the excellent MGPO, Rubinsky’s vivid performance is rich in contrasts: she finds terrific clarity in the fragments of melody that shimmer in the keyboard’s upper reaches and brings ferocious energy to the work’s driving rhythms and thunderous cluster chords.
The two concertos featured are both in dialogue with more traditional forms, although no less dramatic for this. Concerto Fribourgeois (1985) was composed in homage to Bach on the 300th anniversary of his birth and transforms Baroque themes and idioms in its eight tightly-constructed sections, while the Piano Concerto No. 1 (1982-3) follows a loose theme and variations structure, exploring every inch of the theme with an almost destructive intensity.
One general quibble is the recording quality, which leaves the orchestra somewhat muffled in places, but the piano is crisply captured and this is otherwise a warmly recommended new disc.