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Ignore the slightly unimaginative title of Brazilian pianist Fabio Martino’s engaging programme and look instead at Menelaw Sete’s cover painting O Músico, created specifically for this release. The Picasso-like, almost Janus-faced figure provides a better indication of the music’s originality and the vibrancy of the playing. This is the third solo album by Martino, a serial competition participant with over 20 first prizes to his name.

Most of the works given here have appeared on disc before, often in mixed- composer programmes such as this. The focus is primarily on music by Martino’s compatriots Villa-Lobos and Mozart Camargo Guarnieri, separated by pieces by the Argentinians Alberto Ginastera and Carlos Guastavino. The latter’s Bailecito (‘Little dance’, 1953) appears as an encore.

The largest item by far is Villa-Lobos’ marvellous Ciclo Brasileiro (1936-7), the slow movement of which is given a beautifully shaped and fluent reading. Even better known is the briefer Alma brasileira (Chôros No 5, 1925), which receives a nicely polished performance, a touch broader in tempi than, for example, Freire (RCA) or the excellent Guimarães (Pavane), though fleeter than either of Ortiz’s accounts.

Martino’s interpretations of Guarnieri’s Danzas Selvagem, Negra and Brasileira – three separate pieces composed between 1928 and 1946 but often grouped as a triptych – compete closely with other versions in the market, and Martino adds a fourth piece, the jaw-droppingly virtuosic Lundu, another vibrant dance of African origin not otherwise available and redolent of Ginastera’s final Dance of the Cowboy. Guastavino’s delightful G minor Sonatina (1945) provides nicely lyrical contrast though the pace here is perhaps too relaxed. That minor caveat aside, this is a self-recommending disc with bright, clear sound.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica


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