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


The fabulous Corrêas

Trio Esperança is back with De Bach à Jobim.

Daniella Thompson

1 June 2010

Back in the prehistoric days of the mid-1990s, when you still had to visit a record store in order to acquire music, every significant discovery prompted intense excitement of the kind that has become so rare now, subjected as we are to a daily avalanche of digital media whether we want it or not.

In December 1996, while browsing at Rasputin Music in Berkeley, I came upon a CD with three young women on the cover, a mouth-watering repertoire, and a stellar guest list. It was Trio Esperança’s A Capela do Brasil (Philips 314 512 266-2), released in 1992.

At that time I was hunting down every available recording of “Aquarela do Brasil” for a discography I was planning to compile. As its title made clear, A Capela do Brasil contained what I was looking for.

I bought and was hooked. Here are excerpts from my fresh reactions, posted to a Brazilian music listserv two days after I bought the disc:

It’s fabulous. One of those all-too-rare albums where every single track is the cat’s meow. All 18 songs are simply wonderful, and Mariza, Eva, and Regina make them even better with their impeccable phrasing and perfect harmonizing.

Among the songs are two lovely nostalgic paens to growing up in the ’60s (“Casaco Marrom” and “Rua Ramalhete”). There are excellent and fresh covers of the ultimate chestnut, “O Pato,” and of the even more heavily trodden “Corcovado.” There’s a beautiful “Qualquer Coisa” with Caetano Veloso, where the trio out-caetanears the original. There’s a great “Aquele Um” with Djavan that demonstrates how good a songwriter he is. And a charming little Japanese ditty called “Watashi” (they do the accent just right) with a nice samba beat.

There’s also João Bosco’s “Coisa Feita” with his guitar and vocal. Again, the “girls” can scat just as well as he—in fact, they put his voice to shame. The “princesa do Dahomé” line in this song is so evocative, and those three quintessentially Brazilian female voices are the ideal vehicle for it. [...] I’ve been listening to this album non-stop, and it only gets better.

A Capela do Brasil was released in France, where the three Corrêa sisters—Eva, Regina, and Mariza—were living and enjoying great success. By the time I had discovered A Capela, their followup CD, Segundo (Philips 526577-2; 1995), had already been out for a year. Their third French album, Nosso Mundo (Universal 546 030-2; 1999) departed from the MPB mold, concentrating on standards from countries as far-flung as Senegal, Japan, Italy and Mexico.

Then the sisters stopped recording and returned to Brazil for half a dozen years. Luckily for us, they’re back in France, with a new album devoted to classics old and new, roaming from Bach to the Beatles.

While the concept isn’t startlingly original, the execution is unique enough to merit attention. The two Bach compositions (the Aria from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068, and the Chorale from Cantata BWV 147) are among the most frequently adapted for pop interpretations, but here they are sung in Portuguese and given uncommon arrangements.

The Aria (the famous “Air on the G String”) has been transformed into “Caminho da Razão,” with lyrics by Eva Corrêa (unfortunately, the liner notes include no lyrics). In an arrangement by Gérard Gambus, the voices, first a cappella, then accompanied by guitar and strings, inject a pop note while the strings keep to a rigorous classical basis.

The Chorale (better known as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”) received lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes, who turned it into “Rancho das Flores,” an ode to flowers, bearing an allusion to the old ranchos carnavalescos, which adopted floral names (e.g., Flor do Abacate, Recreio das Flores, Flor da Lira, Rosa de Ouro, Ameno Resedá, etc.) as vestiges of their African ancestors’ totemic traditions. Trio Esperança removed some of Vinicius’ lyrics and rearranged others, concentrating on a single flower. The voices—this time an accordion augments the guitar and strings—sing not only the well-known melody but also the organ refrain.

In a nod to Brazil’s “serious” composers, the trio performs Ernesto Nazareth’s best-known tango, “Odeon,” and a folk song quoted by Villa-Lobos as the third movement—Ária (Cantiga)—in Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4.

“Odeon” received several sets of lyrics after Nazareth’s death, and the nostalgic verses sung by the trio are the creation of Vinicius de Moraes, although the liner notes ascribe them to Ubaldo Sciangula Mangione, who happens to be the president of the music publishing firm Mangione, Filhos & Cia Ltda. (more on that in a separate article). Nazareth composed the tune for piano, but Vinicius’ lyrics describe the classic choro format of flauta, cavaquinho e violão, and the sisters’ voices execute the harmonies that the three instruments would produce in a traditional choro.

Another confusion as to authorship plagues the Cantiga. Brazil’s copyright law confers copyright protection on adaptations of public-domain themes. Thus a traditional nordestino folk song called “Ó mana, deixa eu ir” now bears the names of Heitor Villa-Lobos, Teca Calazans, and Milton Nascimento. Trio Esperança’s own adaptation is quite original, and one assumes that only the Corrêas’ modesty prevented them from registering yet another cumulative copyright upon this innocent folk song. The sisters’ interpretation is spare and heart rending, expressing all the longing implied in the lyrics.

Longing of a different sort can be found in the two Lennon/McCartney songs. “Penny Lane,” in an uncredited Portuguese version by Guttenberg Guarabyra, is a close kin of the trio’s 1991 recording of “Rua Ramalhete” in its ability to evoke nostalgic feelings for the neighborhood of one’s youth. The interesting arrangement for strings is original, referring only obliquely to George Martin’s work for the Beatles. “Blackbird,” sung a cappella in English, is a creatively fresh departure from the predictable cover and stands out as one of the better interpretations of this standard.

No Brazilian classics album would be complete without a tune by Tom Jobim, and here we have two: “Desafinado” and “Samba do Avião.” To the trio’s credit, there’s not a hint of warhorse in their delightful renditions, and that’s saying a lot.

Two distinguished songwriters of the post-Jobim generation, Edu Lobo and Chico Buarque, are represented with a song each. The percussive a cappella rendition of “Upa Neguinho” is one of the best I’ve heard. The same goes for their version of the mock-chanson “Joana Francesa,” which strikes the ideal balance between two cultures.

The penultimate song, “Uma Gota do Mar,” is a new afro-samba composed by the trio’s nephew, Beto Filho, in partnership with Carlos Colla.

The album ends with a double track: Renato Teixeira’s 1978 caipira song “Romaria,” included in so many Elis Regina compilations, receives as an unannounced bonus Luiz Carlos Sá’s “Zepelin,” which a previous formation of Trio Esperança recorded in 1974. In this new recording, the sisters reunite with their brother Mario, who sings the lead vocals.

Trio Esperança reminds us that there’s always new gold to be mined from familiar material. All one has to do is perfect one’s artistic skills over fifty years.

Trio Esperança: De Bach à Jobim
(Disques Dreyfus; 2010) 40:36 min.

Arrangements by Gérard Gambus

01. Caminho da Razão (Johann Sebastian Bach/Eva Corrêa)
02. Upa Neguinho (Edu Lobo/Gianfrancesco Guarnieri)
03. Desafinado (Antonio Carlos Jobim/Newton Mendonça)
04. A Rosa [Rancho das Flores] (J.S. Bach/Vinicius de Moraes)
05. Penny Lane (John Lennon/Paul McCartney/Portuguese vers. Guttenberg Guarabyra)
06. Blackbird (John Lennon/Paul McCartney)
07. Samba do Avião (Antonio Carlos Jobim)
08. Cantiga [Caicó] (Traditional/adap. Villa-Lobos, Teca Calazans, Milton Nascimento)
09. Odeon (Ernesto Nazareth/Vinicius de Moraes)
10. Joana Francesa (Chico Buarque)
11. Uma Gota do Mar (Roberto Corrêa Filho/Carlos Colla)
12. Romaria (Renato Teixeira); Zepelin (Luiz Carlos Sá)

Marcio Faraco, guitar
Silvano Michelino & Inor Sotolongo, percussions
Marc Barthoumieux, accordion
Gérard Gambus, piano
Budapest Symphonic Orchestra, strings


Copyright © 2010 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.