Iara Behs

Ernesto Nazareth: Tangos, Waltzes and Polkas

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What is probably the easiest way to describe the music of Ernesto Nazareth, that is, as Latin ragtime, is also the crudest simplification of it and an actual misnomer. Nazareth was a Brazilian pianist who began composing in the 1870s, nearly two decades before ragtime developed. His musical education was informal more than formal, but he was familiar with European classical music and the works of Chopin, in particular. Although the influence of Chopin shows through once in a while in his work, the popular music of Brazil is what he based his compositions on and what his music became before his death in 1934. This disc by Iara Behs includes some of his most popular tangos and other dances, including Brejeiro, Odeon, and Sarambeque, all played skillfully. She understands the shifting rhythms and syncopations, making it easy to see why Nazareth is compared to Joplin. Espalhafatoso bounces with offbeat accents and ebullience, and Apanhei-te Cavaquinho bubbles at the top of the keyboard. On the other hand, she gives the slower waltzes, such as Confidências and Epônina, soft, flowing lines and sweet or wistful melodies. The gloom of Tenebroso is of the temporary sort that won't weigh down anyone's step. The selections here demonstrate Nazareth's natural ability to combine Brazilian dance rhythms in new ways, with original, pleasing melodies. Behs' performance demonstrates why the works became classics of Brazilian music.

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