5 Stars for “Latin Soul”
Fabio Martino serves up a hot recital in every sense of the word.
With a sudden burst of hot weather comes an appropriate recital featuring 20th-century South American composers: Heitor Villa-Lobos and Carmago Guarnieri from Brazil; Alberto Ginastera and Carlos Guastavino from Argentina. The program is called “Latin Soul” for a reason: young Brazilian pianist Fabio Martino knows his way around this music, and has a specific idea of how he wants to play it. He creates a full sound, a great wash of warmth, right from the word go. In Plantio do Caboclo (the first movement of Villa-Lobos’s Ciclo Brasileiro), his repeated right-hand arpeggios are more a rich spray of colour than chiselled pseudo-Baroque figuration. In the languid pieces (notably Villa-Lobos’s ChôrosNo 5: Alma Brasileira, the second of Ginastera’s Danzas Argentinas, and Guastavino’s touching Bailecito), Martino caresses the melodic lines with… well, the word is soul! A recording of Bailecito by the Argentinian pianist Marcela Roggeri sounds comparatively prosaic.
The program contains familiar music. Aside from Chôros No 5 and the Danzas Argentinas, there are also Guarnieri’s Dança Negra and Dança Brasileira, both of which have been recorded in their orchestral guise. Martino also includes less well-known works. Guastavino’s three-movement Sonatina No 1 (1928) is a delightful little discovery, opening with a gentle allegretto movement that grows more romantic as it proceeds, an expressively lyrical slow movement, and a presto finale that suggests a neater Villa-Lobos. Appropriately, the pianist scales back his sound for this neoclassical work.
Martino’s individuality is clear when you compare him to the Brazilian master Nelson Freire, whose 2012 Decca disc Brasileiro remains available (and includes several of the same Villa-Lobos and Guarnieri selections). Freire’s technique and ability to clarify texture are astounding, even in his late 60s. With Freire you are amazed and impressed, but with Martino you are more likely to fall in love.