:: These reviews were originally published
:: in Daniella Thompson on Brazil.


Clarinet Time, part 1

Wilfried Berk and Daniel Wolff bridge the gap
between erudite and popular.

Daniella Thompson

21 September 2007

Wilfried Berk

Daniel Wolff

Gaudencio Thiago de Mello

Wilfried Berk is a Brazilian classical clarinetist. One of the original members of Quinteto Villa-Lobos, Berk lives in Germany. Collaborating with Brazilian guitarist and arranger Daniel Wolff and Amazonian composer-percussionist Gaudencio Thiago de Mello on the recently released album Coisas da Vida, Berk adroitly steps beyond the bounds of his usual turf to explore the ground that straddles “serious” and “light” music.

The album includes new and old choro, contemporary popular tunes, and short erudite pieces. Two tunes by Gaudencio Thiago de Mello open the disc—both arranged by Wolff. The delightful “Samba Chorado” is, melodically speaking, more choro sambado; but the faint apito in the background introduces a hint of old-time samba school parades. “Cavaleiro sem Armadura” (Knight Withought Armor) is a meditative piece written for the composer’s brother, famed poet Amadeu Thiago de Mello, in tribute to his suffering as a political exile in Chile and Germany.

Celso Machado composed the string of six Músicas Populares Brasileiras for flute and guitar. Rearranged here for clarinet, they include two choros (“Paçoca” and “Quebra Queixo,”); two sambas (“Pé de Moleque” and “Algodão Doce”)—all named after candies; a bossa nova (“Sambossa”); and a choro maxixe, (“Piazza Vittorio,” named after the Roman square).

In 2002, Daniel Wolff was commissioned by the classical guitarist and lawyer Steven Dimmick to write a solo guitar piece to commemorate his tenth wedding anniversary. The resulting Offerenda Nuptialis comprises two movements. The leisurely, intimate “Sinus Firmus” is followed by the livelier waltz “Love Dance.” Both incorporate the melody from Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. “Love Dance” is divided into two themes, one representing the bridegroom, the other, the bride. It is probably not by happenstance that these nuptial compositions are positioned cheek-by-jowl next to Ernesto Nazareth’s waltz “Turbilhão de Beijos,” (1908), although one normally would expect the whirlwind of kisses to occur before the wedding.

Wolff’s Três Pequenos Estudos para Clarinete (2001), ranging in length between 45 seconds and 1:35 min., are moden pieces written for José Botelho, first clarinet of the Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira. The first two are delivered in staccato fashion: one in choro rhythm, the other less regular and utilizing tremolos and repeating notes. The third, more legato, launches into what might be Gershwin before turning into a baião, quoting Luiz Gonzaga in a playful way.

Nestor de Hollanda Cavalcanti’s four songs are spare yet offer considerable variety. The first three, Três Cancões Populares, Quase Eruditas (1997), were originally written for voice and guitar and comprise “Simples Balada,” evocative of timeless folk songs; “Vida a Dois,” a modulated meditation for solo clarinet, fragmented and briefly punctuated by guitar interventions; and “Pensando Nela,”a bluesy melody hewing to a 2/4 bossa nova beat. The fourth piece, “Coisas da Vida,” which gave the album its name, is a joyful choro composed as one of the movements in Suíte Aberta em Forma de Coisas (1997) for flute and piano.

New gives way to old in Freire Júnior’s celebrated waltz “Revendo o Passado,” (Recordar é viver, diz um velho ditado; recordar é sofrer saudades do passado). First recorded in the mid-1920s by the Casa Edison Orchestra, it was consecrated as a seresta, first in Augusto Calheiros’ 1933 vocal rendition, then in Jacob do Bandolim’s 1956 recording. The version we hear in Coisas da Vida was transcribed by Augusto Duarte from a bandolim-and-guitar recording by Joel Nascimento and Luiz Otávio Braga.

Jayoleno dos Santos, co-founder and original first-clarinet of the Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira, is represented by “Prelúdios de Ensaio” (1943), a demanding choro for solo clarinet. The disc closes with “Internautas” (2005) by Wilfried Berk, a three-part composition whose first two parts are in choro style, while the third is a festive samba.

Listen to four of the tunes from Coisas da Vida and to several choros played by Berk.

Wilfried Berk, Daniel Wolff & Gaudencio Thiago de Mello:
Coisas da Vida

(Karmim KPCD050; 2006) 60 min.

01. Samba Chorado (Gaudencio Thiago de Mello)
02. Cavaleiro sem Armadura (Gaudencio Thiago de Mello)
Músicas Populares Brasileiras (Celso Machado)
03. Paçoca
04. Algodão Doce
05. Quebra Queixo
06. Sambossa
07. Piazza Vittorio
08. Pé de Moleque
Offerenda Nuptialis (Daniel Wolff)
09. Sinus Firmus
10. Love Dance
11. Turbilhão de Beijos (Ernesto Nazareth)
Três Pequenos Estudos para Clarinete (Daniel Wolff)
12. Estudo 1
13. Estudo 2
14. Estudo 3
Três Cancões Populares, Quase Eruditas (Nestor de Hollanda Cavalcanti)
15. Simples Balada
16. Vida a Dois
17. Pensando Nela
From Suíte Aberta em Forma de Coisas
18. Coisas da Vida (Nestor de Hollanda Cavalcanti)
19. Revendo o Passado (Francisco José Freire Júnior)
20. Prelúdios de Ensaio (Jayoleno dos Santos)
21. Internautas (Wilfried Berk)


Copyright © 2007–2008 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.