On reading the CD title Brazilian Adventures I had some expectations of hearing a programme of exotic South American rhythms and instrumental scoring utilising local instruments. What we have instead is music that is almost entirely European in nature. The result of Jeffrey Skidmore’s research into Brazilian music has given us a really touching disc that inhabits a sound-world closer to that of Mozart and Haydn more than that usually associated with South America. Much of the music is crammed with melody and it is quite magical, often romantic and always meltingly beautiful.
The opening Matais de Incêndios owes much to the European baroque era and just for once there is the hint of South America with the use of percussion instruments. The Garcia Missa Pastoril para a noite de Natal that follows catches the ear with a fine opening melody, given to the clarinet, in the Kyrie Eleison. Indeed, the clarinet features strongly throughout the work. Soprano Katie Trethewey treats us to a sublime Laudamus as do alto Martha McLorrinan in the Qui tollis and soprano Elizabeth Drury in Que sedes. The winning clarinet melody from the very opening mass makes a reappearance in the Cum sancto spirito and the mass finishes with the same melody yet again in the Agnus Dei. This Haydnesque work with its intimate orchestral ensemble is a complete delight. What I don’t really understand is the artistic decision to place the three pieces by Mesquita and Souza’s Ascendit Deus in the middle of the Garcia Mass. Maybe the continual use of the clarinet melody by Garcia can become too much of a good thing after a time but at the end of the day, that’s what the composer wrote and in my view it should have been left alone. After the conclusion of the Garcia we then return to part two of Matais de Incêndios with more gentle percussion sounds in an attractive baroque setting.
Missa a 8 vozes e instrumentos by Gomes is also artistically interrupted by three pieces by Pinto, placed between the Agnus Dei and the Gloria. No matter, this is another very attractive setting of the Mass with a lively and high-spirited opening Kyrie Eleison complete with its bright trumpet sounds and an overtly extrovert manner. The Gloria also utilises the trumpets in a thrilling way. There isn’t quite the melodic charm of the Garcia here but it’s still very lively and uplifting music with many moments of superb ensemble vocal work from the vocalists.
Having singled out the vocal contributions of three of the lady soloists in the Garcia, there are many highly demanding solos throughout the disc and the singing is always of the highest quality. There are 12 singers in total and a supporting band of 10 musicians who underpin the music-making with some very stylish, committed support. The recording is suitably rich and detailed.