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Bob McQ, May 2005

"If you like the piano music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk and Scott Joplin, you’re going to love this by a late romantic, Brazilian composer. The specter of Frederic Chopin is here, particularly in the waltzes, which figures considering Ernesto Nazareth studied his scores extensively. The main ingredient, though, is Brazilian folk music, which down through the years has made these pieces not only tremendously appealing to audiences but other composers as well. In fact, does “Brejeiro” sound familiar? Well, it should because Darius Milhaud uses a variation of the same melody in his ever popular “Le boeuf sur le toit.” Heitor Villa-Lobos considered Nazareth’s music the embodiment of the Brazilian soul and when you hear these wonderfully robust performances on this great sounding disc you’ll agree!"

Zane Turner
MusicWeb International, February 2005

"Along the journey of musical discovery our preoccupations centre not on the well-trodden tourist retreats but on those digressions less known, unspoiled and far from the madding crowd. The music of Ernesto Nazareth represents one such destination bestowing new and undiscovered delights.

Born in 1863, Nazareth was profoundly affected by two key cultural influences.

During his lifetime Brazilian musical and cultural tastes were based on those prevalent in Europe. This subordination did not, for a long period, allow genuinely Brazilian classical music to blossom. Prejudice by the “establishment” inhibited the development of indigenous classical music and excluded it from current programmes of institutions such as the National School of Music in Rio de Janeiro. On one occasion an attempt to include four original compositions by Nazareth in the current programme of the School initiated such violent reaction that police intervention was necessary. Even until a few years ago very few pianists of serious intention dared to include the music of Nazareth in their repertoire, since he was not reputed to be a ”classical” composer.

Nazareth was not alone in having been strongly influenced by the folk music of his native country. This had in common with fellow countryman Heitor Villa-Lobos who on hearing the original compositions of Nazareth pronounced them to be the very embodiment of the soul of Brazil. Nazareth’s composition “Tenebroso”(Gloomy) is accompanied by instructions for the player to imitate the guitar in the lower register. This instruction recurs in one of his most famous compositions “Odeon.” In the composition “Plangente”(Lamenting) one hears echoes of the saudade found in the fado. This form of music, imported to Portugal from Brazil in the 19th century by members of the king’s consort in exile there, ironically became the national Portuguese music. (To explore the incredibly beautiful fado listen to Post-Scriptum, Cristina Branco - Empreinte digitale ED 13121).

In his youth, Nazareth was commissioned to promote the music of publishers, including his own, by playing in their establishments. With the invention of the cinema arose the need to accompany silent movies. Nazareth was given a contract by the Odeon Theatre. Here his accompaniment with original compositions, including “Odeon,” attracted many musicians who came just to hear him play.

Nazareth’s output comprises predominantly Brazilian tangos and waltzes of which he wrote more than eighty, and forty respectively. The titles of his work are often humorous and refer to everyday situations in Brazil, especially to the life of the cariocas or inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro. The influence of Chopin is particularly evident in the waltzes eg. Turbilhão de Beijos [track 7] brings to mind Op.69/1 “L’adieu” (Naxos 8.554539 - Idil Biret). He studied the composer’s scores in order to teach himself improved methods of composition, and often performed the works of Chopin on piano.

Nazareth died in 1934, during his lifetime having witnessed the emancipation of the slaves, and establishment of the republic. His charming music remains more powerful than any past debate on to which particular genre it belongs.

As one of Brazil’s most successful concert pianists, Iara Behs is particularly well qualified to perform the music of Nazareth. She is a fine player with excellent empathy for the rhythms and nuances of her country’s indigenous classical music. In addition she engenders audience interest and curiosity in the works she is about to play through informative introduction aided by knowledge of five languages in addition to her native Portuguese.

It may be more than co-incidental that some musicians appear to excel particularly in interpretation of music composed by fellow countrymen. If indeed such a relationship exists, no greater validation could be provided than that of Nazareth/Behs.

In a “perfect world” of classical music, new releases would contain all new and relatively unknown music; comprise a balanced and enjoyable programme; be exceptionally well performed and exhibit high levels of technical and sonic excellence. This new recording by Iara Behs fulfils all these criteria. An added bonus is the erudite and unusually informative accompanying notes presented by the performer. This is a recording that will bring joy to disciples of fine music."

Patrick C Waller
MusicWeb International, February 2005

"If, like me, your knowledge of Brazil barely extends beyond nuts, Pelé and Villa-Lobos, then the name Ernesto Nazareth will be unfamiliar. But I put this disc on and immediately felt I knew the music. The Brazilian pianist Iara Behs writes in the booklet that, until a few years ago, no serious pianist would dare to include Nazareth in their repertoire but that she never met anyone who did not like his music. To me he sounds like a Brazilian Billy Mayerl and none the worse for that - this disc could be just the thing to dispel the January blues.,

Although Nazareth’s music frequently sounds carefree, this does not reflect his troubled life. Born in Rio de Janeiro, he worked as a pianist in cinemas and there was a storm of protest when his works were included in a concert at the National School of Music. Eventually, in 1933 he was committed to a psychiatric hospital but he subsequently escaped and drowned himself. Most of his music was for the piano and in the form of a dance with a particular fondness for the tango. He used the rhythms of Brazilian popular music and was an important inspiration to Villa-Lobos.

The seventeen pieces on this disc cover a wide range of themes and emotions but even the relatively serious Confidências is easy on the ear. The Whirlwind of Kisses is another gem and Cavaquinho wasn’t the only person “grabbed” by the last work (because I certainly was). Odeon presumably derives from Nazareth’s work in cinemas and in it the left hand imitates the guitar. Perhaps best of all is Liquid Topaz (referring to the colour of a local beer) which should certainly be accompanied by something to quench thirst.

The playing of Iara Behs is committed and colourful, and her notes on the music are insightful. She is well recorded with impressive bass sonority and an attractive ambience. This is my first disc of 2005 and the year could hardly be off to a better start."

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