Marlos Nobre Piano Music
Release Date 2012
Catalogue No. LNT136
Clélia Iruzun (piano)
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Bolivar Torres, STATE OF SAO PAULO
Sentimento Nobre - Rare on record, the pianistic work of Marlos Nobre is now on CD by Clélia Iruzun
“Sorry about the mess, but that's how a musician's house is”, says Marlos Nobre, as he opens the door of his apartment in Laranjeiras, Rio de Janeiro. Considered by many to be the greatest living Brazilian composer, the 73-year-old from Pernambuco is an accumulator of objects – some essential, others not so much. But the creative way in which the chaos ends up harmonizing the environment, with scores and precious documents of Brazilian music living peacefully with coins, batteries and other trinkets, is, in a way, the synthesis of Nobre's work. Scattered in every corner, pieces of art from the Northeast represent his love for folklore; filed in boxes and shelves, his correspondence with masters such as Arthur Rubinstein and Olivier Messiaen proves a privileged trajectory; Lastly,
On the piano, Marlos Nobre began his first improvisations, which would become the engine of his work. Strangely, his pianistic work is still rare on record today. Clélia Iruzun, from Rio de Janeiro, has just filled this gap with Marlos Nobre Piano Music . Recently released by the English label Lorelt, it brings some of its main songs to the instrument, such as the Ciclo Nordestino and the Toccatina, Ponteio e Final .
“The piano has played a central role since my childhood”, says Nobre. “There were almost no sheet music in Pernambuco, and I spent hours improvising frevos, maracatus, and other popular themes that I heard on the street. Of course, no one liked it, especially the conservatory professors. But whole parts of my future compositions emerged from this mental exercise I had been doing since I was a boy.”
Established for over 30 years in England, Clélia began her first contacts with Nobre in 2001, when her Sonata Breve debuted in London . Since then, contacts began for a record dedicated exclusively to his pianistic work – until today, only pianist Roberto Szidon had ventured into this endeavor, in a 1978 recording for Deutsche Grammophon.
Sitting on the sofa next to Nobre, Clélia recalls the difficulty in facing the 10 works selected for the collection: “It is modern music and difficult to perform. But despite being experimental, it communicates amazingly with the public”. The composer, known for his transition between the erudite and the popular, agrees: “I had many fights with Pierre Boulez and the serialists, who thought that being communicative was a defect. On the other hand, I remember Rubinstein once telling me: 'Your music is not a drawer. Your music has life'. For him, it was a song that the interpreter liked to interpret”.
As well as the objects scattered around the house, the disc is a summary of Nobre's work, covering different creative periods. Northeastern Cycles number 1 and 4, first and last in the series, are completely opposite in terms of technique. Written with didactic intentions, the first presents a limited degree of difficulty. The last one – composed 11 years later – demands absolute control from the performer by incorporating rhythms such as frevo and maracatu. “To achieve the impact of the effects, you have to be very sure”, recalls Clélia. “The music is all ornate, it jumps back and forth. The maracatu, for example, is difficult because of syncope, the left hand gives time and is also out of time. I remember I showed it to some pianist friends in London and they thought it was too complicated!”
For Nobre, the biggest challenge is to handle polyphony. “I mix different rhythms, each one with dislocated accents. Percussion does this with five musicians, but imagine when you switch to piano, where there's only one? It takes a lot of effort so that the strength of the rhythms is not lost.”
Before recording, Clélia and Nobre had long conversations about each track. Then, the composer helped the interpreter with images from his childhood. In Caboclinhos , from Ciclo no.4 , he recalled when he “heard the little Indians passing by in the street with a little bow”. “When you play, you have to enter the composer's world”, explains Clélia.
“But the music is so good it's beyond those descriptions.”
Also present on the disc, Homage to Rubinstein was composed in 1973, for the Arthur Rubinstein contest held in Israel. Nobre had the opportunity to play the composition for the Polish pianist shortly before his death. “We were at his house in Paris and he asked me to play it. I was nervous and the first time it was horrible. I asked for a glass of water and the second time it came out better. Rubinstein said my music came from the heart and it was a shame he wasn't ten years younger so he could play it.”
Michael Round, INTERNATIONAL PIANO
Last month’s IP brought us Brazilian composer Mozart Camargo Guarnieri, and now, thanks to enterprising Latin-American specialist label Lorelt and London-based compatriot pianist Clélia Iruzun, We have Marlos Nobre (born 1939 in Recife). He is reckoned to have successfully merged national and international styles, and his academic CV includes numerous composition prizes and the presidency of Unesco’s International Music Council.
On this evidence, Nobre’s default setting is machismo. His energy — Clélia Iruzun’s, too, over a mere two-day recording period — is unflagging, the music shot through with pounding ostinatos perhaps inescapably influenced by Villa-Lobos’ sterner pieces. Lyricism is in short supply, the second movement Cantilena of the fourth Ciclo Nordestino being the first calm piece on the disc. The first Ciclo is technically very easy; the others are all taxing, though the best ones — the nagging Tango Op 61, Frevo No 2 and the relatively well-known Toccata, Ponteio e Final Op 12 — are rewarding to study.
The booklet note mentions some self-borrowings we have to take on trust. Nazarethiana Op 2, incidentally, is a (not readily apparent) homage to Ernesto Nazareth, Brazil’s answer to Scott Joplin: my 1980s copy of it (published, like most of his other Works, by Irmãos Vitale) was already its fifth edition. I’d like to have heard the third Ciclo, with its heel-of-hand and fisted clusters and knocking on the piano frame. Maybe that will form part of a second volume.