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Although Novaes’ career blossomed with the advent of the LP, it is good to hear this treasure trove of early recordings. The first disc presents recordings made in 1919-1927 for Victor, while the second features footage captured in 1940-1947 for Columbia. The collection confirms her affinity with Chopin, including a rollicking Mazurka Op 33 No 2 and the A flat Ballade.

The first disc kicks off with Gottschalk’s Grande fantaisie triomphale sur l’hymne national brésilien, its imitation of the side drum magnificently managed. Surface noise is kept to a blissful minimum, enabling one to actually hear Novaes’ quality of tone, fluency and legerdemain. She also delivers the music of Moszkowski and Paderewski with insouciant ease, and the inclusion of a piece by her teacher in Paris, Isidor Philipp (Feux follets, Op 24 No 3), adds to the fascination.

Her way with transcriptions is inspired: the Gluck/Friedeman Dance of the Blessed Spirits is disarmingly simple, while the Strauss/Godowsky Ständchen is delivered with real panache. Any doubts of Novaes’ technical prowess are blown away by her glittering Liszt Gnomenreigen. Excellent programming to include MacDowell’s Hexentanz: the pieces are intimately related in spirit, if not in harmonic vocabulary.

The recording and transfer quality of the second disc are even better. The spirit of the two Scarlatti Sonatas (KK450 and 125) delivers unalloyed joy and introduces the twofer’s Baroque segment: Couperin, Daquin and Bach before the limpid strains of Mozart’s A minor Rondo move us forward in time. Novaes’ native Brazil features here, including her own charming arrangements of Villa-Lobos’ Brazilian children’s songs and the magical As três Marias. Recommended.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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