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Heloísa Fernandes: Faces

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Heloísa Fernandes: Faces “Dar uma emoção a cada personagem, a cada estado de alma uma alma.” (“Give to each emotion a personality, to each state of mind a soul”). The quote, from Fernando Pessoa (Bernard Soares) Livro do Desassossego (Book of Disquiet) can found on the inner side of Faces the recording that features a solo piano recital by Heloísa Fernandes. Indeed Miss Fernandes has lived by that belief and it has informed all three of her recordings. However, it is the phantom that shadows all of the eight pieces on Faces, the proverbial mask worn by Miss Fernandes as she plumbs the depths of the piano, seeking to uncover the secrets of its curves, its opera, its theatre; the melodic and harmonic language that echoes in the rhythm of her own palpitating heart.

The music of Faces needs just a handful of stern octaves in the bass clef – the ones played by Heloísa Fernandes in the darkness of its opening – to establish it as a work of exceeding genius and power, virtually forcing the genre of solo piano performance into the most heroic of forms. Next, with a few notes played with her right hand, to announce the melody of first song “Colheita e Caicó” she lets loose a flood of sound that washes over the instrument before attacking a cadenza of great difficulty which, eventually, allows Miss Fernandes the space to pursue a long exposition of all the movements contained in the main themes in the subsequent pieces. Their names echo with grandeur even before their music is approached.

Each piece of group os pieces are long and exploratory. Ideas, emerging seemingly from thin air illuminate each of the works that are played after the radically inventive study of “Colheita e Caicó”, a wonderful, radical and inventive interpretation of the Brasilian folk song. This music is perfectly placed at the beginning of the disc. It chills the spine and sends a hush through the mind’s ear, and it prepares one for the decorative sallies of “As Três Graçes”, a marvellous suite in which each movement glimmers in the rippling cascades which rush from the fingertips of the magical fingers of Heloísa Fernandes. This fabulous set of pieces is dedicated to the beautiful supernatural nymphs, daughters of Zeus and the Oceanid called Eurynome and personified as beauty, charm, and grace.

The three movements have specific stated personalities: “Aglaia, c claridade” is intended to describe “the celestial advent of “Clarity”; “Thalia, a que faz brotar flores” resurrects “Thalia” and is swathed in a melodic fragrance fit for one “brings forth flowers”; finally “Euphrosyne, o sentido da alegria” explodes in transcendent effervescence perfectly describing the highly evocative Brasilian “alegria”. Throughout the suite we also hear something infinitely more profound. Whether directly intended or not, the music resurrects another myth: the one that suggests the Three Graces were also intended to be the essence of beauty, charm, and grace and were closely associated with the Nine Muses who presided and inspired song, dance, music, poetry and the sciences.

The watery themes continue through the plunging rhythmic extravagances of “Mergulho”. This piece consists of some of the most extraordinarily exciting moments on the disc. In the hands of Heloísa Fernandes the crystalline purity of the piano’s tone conveys both the confidence and frailty of human emotions. Its twelve minutes of pure beauty contains no show-stopping virtuosity, but a pianist with a deep affinity with music. Eschewing the overblown gestures that some pianists resort to in their performances, Heloísa Fernandes is strong without being overassertive in her imagery and, in performing just so, she achieves a pure liquid sonority that is almost too precious to behold.

Following her deep dive, as it were into the piano which is now alive and in the throes of torrential music, Heloísa Fernandes begins her ascent back into the rarefied realm from whence the music began. Three short sketches of “Rios” “become” almost hymn-like melodies, each establishing a mood of supreme tranquility. Strategic silences almost overpower the sound of the piano in each of the sections. However, as in the music elsewhere on the disc, Heloísa Fernandes manages to animate the music – melodically, harmonically and rhythmically – infusing it with such magic that by the end of “Abraços” everything seems to rise and swathe the pianist like the wings of a proverbial Phoenix risings as it wraps itself around the pianist in a final, celestial embrace.

Track list – 1: Colheita e Caicó (Harvest and Caicó). As Três Graçes (The Three Graces) – 2: Aglaia, a claridade (Aglaia, the clarity); 3: Thalia, a que faz brotar flores (Thalia, who brings forth flowers); 4: Euphrosyne, o sentido da alegria (Euphrosyne, the sense of joy). 5: Mergulho (Diving). Rios (Rivers) – 6: Reflexos (Reflections); 7: Correntes (Currents); 8: Abraços (Embraces)

Personnel: Heloísa Fernandes: piano, voice and compositions

Released – 2017
Label – Independent
Runtime – 47:21

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