Monday 9 June 2014

Songs by Argentinian and Brazilian composers show tenor, Luciano Botelho’s fine range of expression, depth and character on a new release from MMC Recordings, timed nicely around the World Cup 2014

Brazilian tenor, Luciano Botelho (tenor) , was born in Rio de Janeiro and received his degree in music from the University of Rio before completing a postgraduate diploma in vocal studies and the opera programme at the Guildhall School and Music and Drama in London. He later graduated from the Cardiff Academy of Voice and participated in the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.

His first professional appearance on the operatic stage took place in his home country, Brazil, in 2001 as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte in the Amazonas Opera Festival, going on to perform at the São Paulo Opera Theatre as well as at Rio de Janeiro Opera Theatre.

He made his Covent Garden debut as the Intendante in Donizetti’s Linda di Chamonix in performances recorded by Opera Rara. Now based in London, Botelho, he has made appearances with the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra and at the Teatro São Pedro. During the 2013/14 season he made his Sydney Opera House debut and sang at Opera de Rennes, and Oper Stuttgart. Other venues that he has appeared at include Stuttgart Statstheatre, Oper Koeln, Theater an der Wien, Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, Opéra Dijon, English National Opera and Tokyo’s New National Theatre as well as performing with Glyndebourne Touring Opera.

Elizabeth Marcus (piano) was born in Brighton and studied at the Guildhall School of Music where she now works as a vocal coach, staff accompanist and professor of harpsichord. While at college she won the Raymond Russell Competition for harpsichord, the Dove Memorial Prize for top Graduate of that year and the Carl Meyer Memorial Prize for outstanding service to the School.

She has performed at the Wigmore Hall, Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Floral Hall at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and St. John Smith Square, London and appeared in concert with Alastair Miles, Janice Watson, Sally Matthews, Robert Hayward and Claire Rutter. She has broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4, Classic FM, BBC 2 TV, Channel 4 and French National Radio.

Elizabeth Marcus has been official accompanist for the Peter Pears, the Richard Tauber and the Kathleen Ferrier competitions and for master classes with Ileana Kotrubas, Guisseppe di Stefano and Sherrill Milnes. She is much in demand as a vocal coach and works regularly with singers such as Sally Matthews, Patricia Bardon and Sir Willard White.

Elizabeth Marcus is a member of the Tzigane Piano Trio, which performs regularly in the UK and with whom she has released a disc of the complete music for Piano Trio by Cecile Chaminade.

Luciano Botelho and Elizabeth Marcus have come together to record a recital of songs by Brazilian and Argentinian composers entitled Sounds of Brazil and Argentina for MMC Recordings   With Brazil the focus of attention at the moment with the World Cup 2014, this new release couldn’t have come at a better time, celebrating all that is best in South American music. 


Carlos Guastavino (1912-2000) was prominent amongst 20th century Argentinian composers. His compositions, that number over 200, are mainly for piano or voice.

Luciano Botelho opens his recital with Guastavino’s 4 Canciones Argentinas (Argentinian Songs). Desde que te conoci (Since I met you) is a light and buoyant setting showing Botelho’s attractive vocal timbre and flexibility where he moulds this song so well.

With the slower and more flowing Viniendo del Chilecito (Coming from Chilecito), this singer carefully varies his vocal textures and dynamics to fine effect.

There is a piano introduction to the softer En los surcos del amor (In the furrows of love), full of Latin American flavour and affectingly done. When Botelho enters he shows what a naturally musical voice he has. There is a distinctive rhythmic piano opening to Mi garganta no es de palo (My throat is not made of wood) a robust song to which this tenor brings much strength.

Though there are some attractive aspects to these songs they do tend to be limited in expression.

With one of Argentina’s finest composers, Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983), we come to a much more distinctive voice. His 5 Caciones populares Argentinas (Five Argentinian Popular Songs) are full of interest and varying emotional content. In Chacarera there are lovely, distinctive dissonances and fine rhythms which Botelho handles superbly, showing again his fine flexibility and musicality.

Triste (Sad) has a delicate, limpid piano opening beautifully played by Elizabeth Marcus. When Botelho enters in the words Ah! Debajo de un limón verde (Ah! Beneath a lime tree) he finds much drama and pathos, bringing great character to the song in this beautifully controlled and emotionally charged performance.

The more upbeat yet sonorous Zamba receives an equally fine performance with Botelho drawing on all the emotional depth he can. In Arroró (Lullaby) a bell like toll is sounded by the piano as the song opens, finely realised by Marcus. Botelho provides a lovely rich tone with a lovely piano contribution. This is a distinctive song beautifully performed.

Gato Cat) has a frenetic piano opening brilliantly handled by Marcus with Botelho providing some terrific, fast and dynamic singing with the songs’ dissonant piano accompaniment. This tenor shows great flexibility of voice and, again, is so musical, his voice exuding melody.

Ginastera’s songs have a greater depth, individuality and variety to which these artists bring so much.

Francisco Mignoni (1897-1986) is considered the most significant Brazilian composers after Heitor Villa-Lobos. His 6 liricas para canto e piano (Six lyrics for voice and piano) certainly allow the performer many opportunities to show their versatility. Madrigal brings fine, rich tones from Botelho in this flowing yet intricately varied song. His control of breathing in the long held phrases is impressive and the rise to the passionate climax is beautifully done. The little song Amor (Love), less than a minute long, is brilliantly done by both these artists, bringing so much intensity. There is a rhythmic piano opening to Teu nome (Your name) leading, when Luciano Botelho enters, to a delightful setting with this tenor again showing fine control and feeling for the text.

Jury do coração (Jury of the Heart) is a lovely song with a dominant descending melody to which both artists bring a sultry Latin feel.

Musa que passa (The Passing Muse) is jollier and more light-hearted with Botelho bringing a natural, appealing directness.

Botelho displays many subtleties of expression in this dramatic, finely written Fim de romance (End of Romance) with a notable contribution from Elizabeth Marcus who brings such sensitive playing.

Camargo Guarnieri (1907-1993) another Brazilian composer is represented by his 5 Poemas de Alice (5 Poems by Alice Camargo). With Pedido (Request) there are some lovely harmonic dissonances in this fine song, with some excellent playing from Marcus and strong, controlled singing from Botelho.

E agora…so me resta a minha voz (And now…all I have is my voice) is another lovely, distinctive song with Botelho in fine, full voice, wholly appropriate given the title of the song.

Não posso mais seconder que te amo (I cannot hide that I love you) has some intricate piano writing in the opening in this more upbeat song with Elizabeth Marcus’ playing adding so much. Botelho again has a strong, full voice.

Guarnieri certainly brings a distinctive and varied voice to his songs such as in Recolhi no meu coração a tua voz (I gathered your voice in my heart) where Botelho is passionate in his singing with a lovely piano accompaniment.

Promessa has a jazz like rhythmic opening for piano before Botelho enters in this fast moving song, in which he again shows his considerable flexibility of voice.

Finally we come to a contemporary Brazilian composer, Joao Gilhereme Ripper (b. 1959) He is Director of Sala Cecilia Meireles in Rio de Janeiro where his repertoire ranges from jazz and bossa nova to Classical. His 3 poemas de Vinicius de Moraes (Three poems by Vinicius de Moraes) open with Uma música que seja (A song like…) that has a gentle little rhythm for piano so finely played by Marcus. Botelho brings an attractive, softer tone to this piece, engaging well with its more reflective passages, in this beautifully nuanced performance, perhaps the finest performance on this disc. Botelho rises to a fine strong voice in the concluding passage.

The lively O poeta aprendiz (The apprentice poet) to which both these performers bring spot on rhythmic accuracy again shows Botelho’s great flexibility of voice. Again Botelho brings lovely variation of tone and dynamics with some terrific moments where his strong, full voice is extremely fine.

Poema dos olhos da amada is a lovely, flowing, melodic song to which Botelho brings a lovely ebb and flow, with moments of fine poise and expression.

I am really glad to have made the acquaintance of these songs by a composer I had not come across before.

Despite my reservations concerning the lack of variety in the Guastavino songs, elsewhere Luciano Botelho is able to show his fine range of expression, depth and character.

These artists are nicely recorded with excellent detail and there are short composer biographies, artist information as well as full texts and English translations.

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