Villa-Lobos: Piano Music Vol.5; Guia Prático I-IX Piano Music Vol.6: Rudepoêma; Petizada; As Três Marias etc.

COMPOSERS: Villa-Lobos
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Villa-Lobos
WORKS: Piano Music Vol.5; Guia Prático I-IX Piano Music Vol.6: Rudepoêma; Petizada; As Três Marias etc.
PERFORMER: Sonia Rubinsky (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557735
So much of Villa-Lobos’s output remains little known, and so many gems consort with so many routine gems consort with so many routine productions that it’s difficult to take his real measure. These two volumes of Sonia Rubinsky’s ongoing complete piano music for Naxos are a case in point. They contain enough to qualify Villa-Lobos as one of the great piano masters of the 20th century, yet it’s only a fraction of the whole and most of these works are never encountered on recital programmes. Volume 5 contains the first ever complete recording of the first 9 books, 48 pieces in all, of Guia Practico a huge educational cycle for young players based on Brazilian children’s songs (the remaining books will follow on a later release). None of these miniatures is ‘merely’ a teaching piece and many are virtuoso conceptions requiring advanced technique: they’re unfailingly charming, enlivened by harmonic and rhythmic subtleties. One wouldn’t listen to the disc in one sitting but you can dip in anywhere and come out feeling the world is a better place. Several or more works for or about children are on Volume 6, some of them very early, as well as obscure items (one of them a delicious waltz) that have turned up in manuscript in recent decades. But the main work here is the baleful Rudepoêma composed for Rubenstein, still probably Villa-lobos’s keyboard masterpiece. Its huge chords and pulverising rhythms are a standing temptation for the performer to go OTT and give a splashy, frenetic approximation of its carefully delineated barbarity, but Rubinsky, who never overpedals, is most impressive in maintaining clarity of texture and rhythmic precision despite the daunting textural density.

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