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GP710 - PRADO, J.A.R. de A.: Cartas Celestes, Vol. 2 - Nos. 4-6 (Scopel)
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One of the most prolific composers to emerge from Brazil, José Antônio Rezende de Almeida Prado began as a cultivator of nationalism, studying with Camargo Guarnieri, but as a pupil of Boulanger and Messiaen in Paris was compelled to look for other means of self-expression, attaining a level of aesthetic freedom which encompassed atonalism, post-serialism, extended and free tonalism. Among his most important achievements, referred to by him as an “incredible adventure”, are his 18 Cartas Celestes (Celestial Charts), a set of works depicting the sky and constellations, in which he adopted a new harmonic language called “transtonality”. Of the 18 Cartas Celestes, 15 are written for solo piano, while the remaining three are scored for two pianos and symphonic band (No. 7), for violin and orchestra (No. 8) and for piano, marimba and vibraphone (No. 11).

Cartas Celestes Nos. 4, 5 and 6 were composed in 1981–82. They depict some of the celestial bodies that can be seen in the Brazilian sky during the months of February and March, April and May and, finally, June and July, respectively. Since Cartas Celestes Nos. 1–3 cover the other six months of the year, it is possible to conclude that the first six volumes should be heard as one colossal composition. That assumption is confirmed by the use, in the Constellations, of the same 24 atonal chords Prado had created for Cartas Celestes No. 1, named after the letters of the Greek alphabet and transposed into different intervals. Prado also completes his portrayal of the other planets of the solar system with Neptune and Pluto (before it was considered a dwarf planet) in No. 4, Jupiter and Saturn in No. 5, and the Earth in No. 6.

Cartas Celestes No. 4 opens with a poetic voyage to the stars of Galaxy NGC 5194/95=M51, a movement which clearly pulls the listener towards the tonality of D Major. Amidst celestial dust, this element is treated “transtonally” as colour.

Throughout the work, we also hear an Extragalactic Call three times, a “message of peace from other galaxies” in the words of the composer. This virtuosic piece, after plumbing the depths of Pluto, concludes serenely, evoking that which is beyond our visible universe, a meditation into the unknown.

Cartas Celestes No. 5 gravitates towards two gigantic planets. Jupiter, with a density of clusters and massive sonorities, is polyphonically structured, while Saturn illustrates the whirling rhythm of its rings. There are moments of exquisite contemplation such as in the depiction of the Silence of the Night as well as in a fragment quotation of a Gregorian chant in the Southern Cross Constellation.

Cartas Celestes No. 6 observes the Earth from its tragic depths to its majestic splendour. An appearance of the Moon (a recurring element in the third volume) as seen from the Earth precedes the Constellations. Fragments of all 9 planets are again heard as a “ciranda” around the Sun, a magical way the composer found to recapitulate earlier material, concluding the cycle with the transfiguration of Sky and Earth. Mysticism is touched upon as Prado finished composing it on March 10th, 1982, the same day the planets from our solar system swung into a rare grand alignment.

Aleyson Scopel

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