Yuko Miyagawa & Aki Kuroda – Black Swan (2020)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:02:33 minutes | 1,03 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Odradek Records
Black Swan is a rich and vibrant collection of music for cello and piano by Heitor Villa-Lobos, the 20th century’s most significant Brazilian composer of art music, performed by cellist Yuko Miyagawa and pianist Aki Kuroda, artists who are widely-known and celebrated in Japan, with growing international reputations.
Villa-Lobos, who was a fine cellist as well as composer, combined European models with idiomatic Brazilian styles in a way that has shaped the course of Brazilian culture, and others besides, ever since. The works on this release span a fascinating period, from the 1910s to the 1940s, charting the trajectory of the composer’s development. The Pequena Suíte (“Little Suite”) of 1913 is Villa-Lobos’ earliest published work for cello and piano, and reflects his love of Bach, which developed at an early age.
This album’s title comes from the lyrical O canto do cisne negro (“The Song of the black swan”) of 1917, adapted from the composer’s tone poem of the previous year. Villa-Lobos’ Cello Sonata No. 2 dates from a similar time and blends romanticism and impressionism, with both instruments acting as equal protagonists.
The love of Baroque music, and of Bach in particular, that germinated in early works such as the Pequena Suite, came to fruition in Villa-Lobos’ series of nine Bachanias brasileiras. Bachianas brasileiras No. 2 dates from 1930; this album features the noble second movement aria and the glorious final movement, which vividly evokes the acceleration of a small locomotive in Caipira, São Paolo. There is an arrangement of one of the Ciclo brasileiro for piano from 1936, the shimmering Impressões seresteiras (“Evening impressions”), and a later work in the form of Divagação (“Wandering”), from 1946. This quirky piece includes ad lib percussive effects, and is remarkable for its jaunty rhythms, sparse allusions to tonality, and improvisatory, recitative-like cello writing.
Yuko Miyagawa is a household name in Japan; she has received widespread acclaim and numerous awards for her musicianship, with the Tokyo Mainichi newspaper praising her “heart-touching” performances. Besides performing as a soloist with orchestras and in solo and chamber recitals, she often appears in collaboration with artists from diverse genres, while also visiting juvenile re-education homes and hospices to give performances, which she feels is her life’s vocation. She hosts her own radio programme in Japan and is a regular guest on radio and television at the Japanese broadcasting company, NHK.
Aki Kuroda’s Odradek debut Firebird was praised as “wondrous” by The Arts Desk: “Kuroda’s fearless precision pays huge dividends in such mercurial music”.
01. O canto do cisne negro, W122 (2:52)
02. Divagação, W461 (3:07)
03. Cello Sonata No. 2, Op. 66, W103: I. Allegro moderato (7:34)
04. Cello Sonata No. 2, Op. 66, W103: II. Andante cantabile (6:48)
05. Cello Sonata No. 2, Op. 66, W103: III. Scherzo. Allegro scherzando (5:44)
06. Cello Sonata No. 2, Op. 66, W103: IV. Allegro vivace sostenuto (7:27)
07. Ciclo brasileiro, W374: II. Impressões seresteiras (6:26)
08. Pequena Suíte, W064: I. Romancette (2:36)
09. Pequena Suíte, W064: II. Legendária (0:57)
10. Pequena Suíte, W064: III. Harmonias soltas (2:37)
11. Pequena Suíte, W064: IV. Fugato (all’antica) (1:13)
12. Pequena Suíte, W064: V. Melodia (2:37)
13. Pequena Suíte, W064: VI. Gavotte-Scherzo (3:30)
14. Bachianas brasileiras No. 2, W250 & W254: II. Aria (O canto da nossa terra) (5:02)
15. Bachianas brasileiras No. 2, W250 & W254: IV. Toccata (O trenzinho do caipira) (4:09)