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Listen to tuba virtuoso in a new work that sings for the ages

By Monday, Mar 11, 2019 Arts & Entertainment

Anne Victorino D’Almeida

Contos et Improvisos

Sérgio Carolino, tuba

Bernardo Pinhal, piano

I’m dazzled both by this brilliant composition for tuba and piano, which brings out the lyrical potential of the tuba in a contemporary frame, all the while resonating to late romantic compositions of the highest order.

Its performance by two accomplished virtuosos could not be more convincing. I confess to be a sucker for lambent appoggiatura, ineluctable step-by-step melodic ascents and descents, and witty conversations between piano and tuba, but I’ve never heard anything quite so engaging and affecting as this for this pair of instruments.

At several points, this piece brought tears to my eyes, summoning the experience of listening to inspired exertions of vast forces on Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder, or to exquisite and unadorned vocal performance of Strauss’s Four Last Songs.

Sérgio Carolino’s command of the tuba goes well beyond technical mastery. He pulls from his horn a pallet of colors that connect immediately to many musical sensibilities, from keening, mournful cries in its upper reaches, to guttural, frightening descents that challenge the lowest octaves of the piano, to wistful tickles and pokes in cutesy exchanges that are soon contradicted by profound reflections on the role of his instrument across the arc of musical history.

Victorino D’Almeida’s ineffable resonances to the iconic tuba solo masterpieces of Vaughn Williams and Hindemith aren’t sendups. They urge the artist to take the retrospectives a step further, to more subtly nuance half-familiar melodic lines, and to dance with the half-forgotten syncopations. Carolino’s emotional range is sui genesis. There’s no one on the contemporary scene like him.

Bernardo Pinhal’s technical mastery allows him to get his arms around the formidably pianistic score, which crosses registers and dynamics that suggest that four hands rather than two are at play. Beyond this perfection is a sense of friendship with the tuba, and a profound and apposite emotional sensibility, especially in arching ascents, carefully voiced repetitive rows, and devastating crescendos and diminuendos.

People are going to want to hear more from this composer, and her work here deserves wide acknowledgement.

Frankly, I cannot imagine a more satisfying performance than the one before you.

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