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GP746 - PRADO, J.A.R. de A.: Cartas Celestes, Vol. 3 - Nos. 9, 10, 12, 14 (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, postserialism, 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 two pianos and symphonic band (No. 7), for violin and orchestra (No. 8) and for piano, marimba and vibraphone (No. 11).

Cartas Celestes No. 9 (1999) takes us on a voyage through some of the celestial bodies that can be seen in the Brazilian sky during the four seasons of the year. In the spring, it goes from the polyrhythmic calmness of the Veil Nebula to the luminous Cygnus (Swan) Constellation. The summer sky pays homage to Villa-Lobos’ piece “The Three Maries”, as Prado uses the same title to compose his own version of the three stars of the Orion Constellation: Mintaka, Almilan and Almitaka. An antithesis to the sparkling Maries, the Globular Cluster Messier that follows is lyric and serene. Multiple colours are called upon during the autumn sky, only to contrast with the raging rhythmic figures of the winter, in the Constellation of Ophiuchus.

Cartas Celestes No.10 (2000), “The Constellations of the Mystical Animals”, although not initially planned, was said by Prado to be poetically related to passages from the history of Jesus Christ. Tycho’s Supernova is a representation of the Star of Bethlehem, or Christmas Star, alluding to his birth. The Columba (Dove) Constellation suggests his baptism, while Pegasus, his preaching as the winged horse. Globular Cluster NGC=47 and Gegenschein, a celestial and muted vocalise, refer to Maundy Thursday. The Wolf Toccata brings out a torturous ferocity that paints the Passion and Death of Christ, and the final Phoenix Constellation, his resurrection.

Cartas Celestes No.12 (2000) is subtitled “The Sky of Nicholas Roerich”. It is a cosmic Diptych that draws inspiration from two hypnotic master paintings by the multi-faceted Russian artist and philosopher. The first is “Saint Sophia the Almighty Wisdom”, with its fiery orange sky represented by Prado as the resplendent Nebula NGC 7000. The second is “The Star of the Hero”, which illustrates a Tibetan watching a shooting star light across the sky, a cosmic phenomenon associated with the Shambhala. It is here rhapsodically portrayed as the Constellation of Cassiopeia and three open stellar clusters, closing the work with a silent, peaceful and transtonal E major chord.

Cartas Celestes No.14 (2001) depicts celestial bodies that can be seen in the Brazilian sky during the months of February and March. It basically employs the same idea of 20 years earlier used to compose Cartas Celestes No. 4, though now an even freer sound world is achieved. Four movements comprise this work: open clusters IC 2391 and NGC 2925, and the Constellations of Auriga and Carina. The open clusters serve respectively as prelude and interlude to the Constellations, which form the main body of the work. Auriga starts out heroically in the style of a toccata, with an ostinato played by the left-hand, and is later restrained by various contrasting sections. Carina Constellation is a buoyant “Waltz in Lights”, as indicated in the score. It is built on a variety of fragments, culminating in a coda that uses A major chord.

Aleyson Scopel

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