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Dean Frey
The Villa-Lobos Magazine, June 2010

The fourth volume was once again recorded at Grace Church on the Hill in Toronto, in the fall of 2003. I’ll have to drop in to this church when I’m in Toronto later this summer. Bonnie Silver and Norbert Kraft again were responsible for Production and Engineering.

For this disc, Rubinsky chose one of the central works from Villa’s piano repertoire: Bachianas Brasileiras #4. This work was put together from four pieces written over two decades: the fourth movement Dansa: Miudinho from 1930; the third movement Aria: Cantiga from 1935; and the first two movements Preludio and Coral: Canto do Sertao from 1941. Since this work is so popular, it’s easy to find other versions to compare with Rubinsky’s reading. I find Debora Halasz’s version on BIS elegant but a bit tentative; the repeated percussive notes of the Araponga in the 2nd movement are hard to hear at first. Valeria Zanini on Classico is more forthright, but there is less drama in that movement (which is one of my favourites). Alma Petchersky on ASV stresses the monumental feel of the Coral—think of Stokowski’s arrangements of Bach—at the expense of the forward movement of the piece. It’s instructive that Rubinsky’s version of this movement is fairly close in tempos, and that dramatic feeling I mentioned, to the orchestral version of BB#4 in which Villa-Lobos himself conducted the French National Radio Orchestra.

Also on this disc are some smaller pieces from various times in Villa’s career: Valsa Romantica from 1907 is one of his first published works. Simples Coletanea, three pieces written in the late teens, is translated as “Simple Collection”, though “Deceptively Simple Collection” might be closer to the mark. This is the time when Villa-Lobos’s own voice was really beginning to emerge under the twin influences of French modernism and Brazilian folklore. Two pieces on this disc include a second pianist, who is Tatjana Rankovich. Both Francette et Pia and the Carnaval das Criancas are about the world of children; the first is tender and touching, the second more lively.

Chang Tou Liang
The Flying Inkpot, January 2009

The strengths of Villa-Lobos lie in his simplicity and childlike music. No matter how complex and noisy the music or orchestration gets, the melodies within him never cease to flow…Naxos’ edition of Villa-Lobos’ piano music has reached its fourth volume. Thus far, Brazilian pianist Sonia Rubinsky has chosen to spread out the goodies so that major and minor works are heard alongside for contrast…Rubinsky is able to readily switch modes—from virtuoso, to minstrel, to child charmer. It is this versatility of composer (and pianist) that makes such complete volumes of music—however uneven or variable—such a joy to discover and behold. At Naxos super-bargain asking price, the pleasure is more than multiplied.

Gramophone, January 2005

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Calum MacDonald
BBC Music Magazine, December 2004

She [Rubinsky] creates a nice range of keyboard colour for these attractive works.

Calum MacDonald
BBC Music Magazine, October 2004

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Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, October 2004

This is the fourth in Sonia Rubinsky’s traversal of Villa-Lobos’s complete piano music for Naxos. It’s good to be reacquainted with her thoroughly idiomatic performances once more. Having heard, reviewed and admired the second volume it is equally satisfying to observe her versatility in the repertoire, her ability to command influences and inflect with apposite colour and gravity.

This is particularly true in the case of Brasilieras No. 4 heard here of course in its original guise for solo piano. She “places” that single bass note with deftness ensuring the Sarabande-like momentum is not derailed into sententious gravity (though there is plenty of nobility here). It’s no surprise, given her earlier recordings in the series, that she evokes texture so well, that the colour of the Coral is so winning—that the anvil evocation of bass pointing is so well and evenly hammered. Of particular merit is her control of tempo, the way in which, for example, in the Aria she starts slowly but integrates the quasi-syncopated writing with effortless élan. The Dansa finale is full of spice and colour.

Those who have followed Villa-Lobos’s excursions into the piano and quartet literature will know that he leaned toward impressionism; Children’s Carnival both reveals the debt and pursues where he took that inheritance. These pieces, separately tracked, are delightful vignettes, variously inspired by or intended for children and are models of vivacious wit. A Manha da Pierrete sports delicate chiaroscuro, Os Guizosdo Dominozhino (The Little Domino’s Jingle Bells) is as winningly lively as you’d expect and in the concluding piece, A Folia de um Bloco Infantil the two piano duettists—where Rubinsky is joined by Tatjana Rankovich—display panache, unanimity of attacks, rippling passagework and fluidity in this little innocent mini-drama.

Francette et Piá was written in 1928 and commissioned for Marguerite Long’s piano class in Paris. Saucily, though technically and textually more difficult and demanding than the earlier suite, Villa-Lobos throws in a number of French quotations. These pieces aren’t separately tracked but the narrative merges nicely and in Love and in War Villa-Lobos has charm to spare. The smaller works here are saturated in his brand of lyricism; the second of Simples Coletânea (In An Enchanted Cradle) has a saturnine Debussian compression that works very well in conveying mysterious stasis—it was written in 1918.

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