I hadn´t come across Almeida Prado except as a footnote in some books, but I began to hear a few interesting fragments of his music on Brazil´s Rádio Cultura FM, so when I´ve come across LPs of his music, I buy 'em. He has an interesting biography, studying in Paris with Olivier Messiaen and Nadia Boulanger before returning to an academic life in Brazil.
Here is a substantial cycle of his piano music – Cartas Celestes – that is on the surface a description of the night sky. The percussive sections clearly owe a debt to Boulez, but the deeper and pervasive influence is Messiaen - there are direct quotations from the Catalogue d´Oiseaux and Vingt Regards throughout. Just as the Catalogue is less a literal transcription of birdsong, and more an evocation and transformation of landscape, so the Cartas Celestes moves from description in Book 1 - nightfall, the milky way tracking across the sky, and then dawn - to deeper themes in the later books. The close of Book 5 and the opening of Book 6 are connected and really about time, and perhaps the fabric of space-time itself. Other sections evoke pulsing light and darkness. Some of the themes are very well done – particularly the entry of Orion the hunter in Book 3.
I don´t know much about the pianist, Fernando Lopes, and am hoping that I´ll find more of his recordings, as he´s clearly very capable. The recording is full and luminescent, and I hope the vinyl rip is OK – any tips on how to improve this are gratefully received. With a bit of luck, we´ll see increased interest in Almeida Prado´s music, and some more recordings – there seems to be very little available. Apparently the Estudio Eldorado label was once the main presence for contemporary and improvised music in Brazil, but folded a few years back. I´m trying to find out what else was released on this label. There doesn´t seem to be anything similar operating now, but it would be great to see this recording reissued as it´s a major piece in contemporary piano music that deserves to be much better known.