Portrait of Rio

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COMPOSERS: Ernesto Nazareth
LABELS: Lorelt
ALBUM TITLE: Portrait of Rio
WORKS: Works by Ernesto Nazareth
PERFORMER: Clélia Iruzun (piano)


Pianist-composer Ernesto Nazareth (1863-1934) was one of the founding fathers of the Brazilian classical tradition; he classified his pieces as ‘Brazilian tangos and polkas’ because the Argentinian versions of those dances were all the rage at the turn of the century, but his works are more accurately described as being in the Brazilian maxixe and choro styles. Taught the piano in infancy by his mother, he became a celebrated teacher and performer, and spent his later years playing for silent films and demonstrating his pieces in shops which were selling the sheet music; he made many commercially-successful arrangements of his solo works.


As played by his compatriot Clélia Iruzun, this music has enormous charm. A Polonaise and a ‘Valsa brilhante’ suggest Chopin as the most obvious influence, though gracefully absorbed into a Latin-American sound-world; on the other hand, Passaros em festa evokes the spirit of Tchaikovsky’s pièces d’occasion. There are some outright gems here – notably two tangos entitled Plangente and Escovado – but if the majority of these short pieces purvey gentle pleasure rather than aesthetic ravishment, that is in no way to belittle their musical achievement, because Nazareth’s nimble invention never flags. Michael Church