Brazilian Piano Works
For most listeners Brazilian music begins and ends with Villa-Lobos but, as this varied selection reveals, there is much more to it than that. The creator of the Bachianas brasileiras is represented here by a movement from his distinctive Ciclo brasileira, plus the gentle diptych Saudades das selvas brasileiras (“Nostalgia for the Brazilian Jungle”), which so captivated Parisian audiences in the 1920s, and Hommage à Chopin, a Nocturne and Ballade composed in 1949 to mark the centenary of Chopin's death.
The real interest in this programme, however, lies in the couplings. Francisco Mignone's First Sonata (1941) is a compact and well argued piece in three movements. Oscar Fernandez is best remembered outside Brazil, perhaps, for his stirring orchestral Batuque which Bernstein recorded; his Three Studies make an effective set, with more character than the rather pallid and insubstantial preludes by Claudio Santoro or Leopold Miguez's admittedly charming Nocturno.
Monteiro also presents two very contrasted contemporary works. Marlos Nobre's exhilarating Tango is a vibrant, concise homage to Piazzolla while the first volume of Almeida Prado's Celestial Charts (1974) is an extended fantasy originally written to accompany a show at the São Paulo Planetarium. Arcing through 19 minutes from “Sunset” to “Morning” via evocations of Venus, the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies, meteors, constellations and a recurrent globular cluster (Messier 13, for those who like to know), Celestial Charts is closely argued and quietly compelling. Monteiro delivers it and the whole programme with finesse and Meridian's sound is vivid and clear.