Guiomar Novaes: The complete published 78-rpm recordings
‘Guiomar Novaes: The Complete Published 78rpm Recordings’ consists largely of those short-but-sweet encore pieces that had her adoring audiences (notably in America) eating out of her hand. For one critic these discs ‘are among the supreme treasures of piano discography’, the playing that of ‘a musician by the grace of God’. All this is complemented by memories of Novaes’s first New York recital, which ‘threw the critics into a tizzy’. Novaes was to Brazil as, say, Annie Fisher was to Hungary, held in awe and affection by her musical compatriots. Her technique, ‘extraordinary in its suppleness’, supported a musical personality of a beguiling charm, a quality rarely encountered in today’s more severe musical climate; a climate associated with an absence of joi de vivre long lamented by Arthur Rubinstein. You are reminded, too, of a naturalness and insouciance far removed from so many of today’s recordings, where over-editing can suck the very lifeblood out of a performance.
Novaes opens and closes with two performances of Gottschalk’s Grande fantaisie triomphale sur l’hymne national brésilien, a sort of Alkan-goes-to-Brazil oddity that, understandably, she made her own. At the other end of the spectrum, what poise and lucidity in Bach’s D major Toccata before she wings us away to the music of her native land, to Villa-Lobos and Guarnieri (the latter’s Toccata too easily carried away in its own busy small-talks). Novaes can be brisk, even brusque in Mozart’s A minor Rondo, as if to avoid a bittersweet prophecy of Chopin, while two items from Albéniz’s Iberia find her turning their languor and ferocity into comfortable salon proportions. But elsewhere there is vertiginous Scarlatti and a delightful tribute to Novaes’s husband, Octávio Pinto, who takes his line very much from Mompou and Villa-Lobos.
Playing then of another age and time, a sheer magic beautifully presented and with outstanding transfers.