A new album by oboist Alexandre Ficarelli and cellist Raïff Dantas Barreto is out now: "Brazilian Music for Oboe & Cello". This album is the latest release from São Paulo (Brazil)-based record label Azul Music.
Alexandre Ficarelli and Raïff Dantas Barreto are colleagues in the Municipal Symphony Orchestra of São Paulo. As well as being an oboist, Alexandre is a university professor, with a special focus on Brazilian music. Following extensive research of Brazilian oboe and cello repertoire, he invited Raïff to begin working on this album project, which includes previously unpublished and newly commissioned works. Both artists brought repertoire options, new ideas, and new insights to the table, creating a collaboration which is a celebration of Brazilian classical music!
Read on for the interview!
How did you get started in classical music?
Alexandre: I come from a family of musicians: my father was a composer, pianist and even conducted a little, and my uncle (my father's brother) was a French horn player in the São Paulo Municipal Symphony Orchestra. I started studying music at the age of 6, beginning with the recorder. At the age of 10, I started learning the oboe. It took years of dedication, study, countless hours of practice, and a lot of love for music to get to where I am today.
Raïff: I started playing the violin when I was 12 years old. I discovered the cello at age 14 - thanks to my father, who always listened to classical music at home. I was also lucky to have a great teacher, Nelson Campos. After a few years, I went to Italy to study with Enrico Contini at the Conservatory of Parma.
Who are your favourite composers and why?
Raïff: Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Schubert, Shostakovich, and Villa-Lobos. They are wonderful.
Alexandre: It's very difficult to answer this question. I have always listened to music, ever since I was a kid. From Bach to Stravinsky, from Palestrina to Shostakovich, and from Villa-Lobos to Almeida Prado... there was nothing I didn't like. I learned to understand and enjoy contemporary music during my study in Germany. Each song or piece has its own peculiarity.
How would you describe the classical music of Brazil? What makes it unique?
Raïff: It's unique because it is a mix of popular music (folk music) and European traditions.
Alexandre: Complementing what Raïff said: The mix of cultures comes from European and Black music (from the arrival of African enslaved people in the 16th century) and the traditions of the indigenous people who already inhabited these lands. This brought an incredible diversity to Brazilian music. The universe of Brazilian music is much broader than just bossa nova (which I love) and samba; we are also discovering our music.
How did the idea for this album project come about?
Alexandre: In my academic career (as a professor at the University of São Paulo), I have always researched Brazilian music. Through this research, I came across some oboe and cello duos that I found very interesting. I invited my friend Raïff to play them, and that was the beginning of this project. We played chamber music together, but never before as a duo.
Raïff: It was an invitation from Alexandre that I accepted right away! We've played in the same orchestra for many years.
What was the process like for researching, developing, rehearsing, and recording your album?
Raïff: Alexandre brought some pieces, I showed him others, and we commissioned composers to create works for our duo.
Alexandre: It was an incredible process, where each of us brought new insights to the repertoire and solutions to the musical problems. Recording was a pleasant experience; issues were easily solved, and Adonijas Jr. from Arsis Studio was very competent.
Is there a particular work/movement on the album which has a special meaning to you?
Raiff: Two works: 1) the Sonatina for solo cello by Mário Ficarelli, which I had the opportunity to play in the composer's presence in a concert dedicated to his compositions, and 2) the Frevo Obooecélico by Villani-Cortês, who, in addition to being a magnificent composer, is a great friend.
Alexandre: Recording my father's (Mario Ficarelli) solo piece brought a mixture of feelings (he passed away 7 years ago). On one hand, I encouraged him to write a solo work for oboe, and it was dedicated to me. On the other hand, it is always a responsibility to record a piece for the first time.
What do you hope listeners will gain from listening to your album?
Raïff: Pleasant moments becoming familiar with a little Brazilian music and these two wonderful instruments.
Alexandre: I hope everyone has fun listening to Brazilian music, especially through the unusual combination that is oboe and cello. Furthermore, these songs are rarely performed, even in Brazil!
Do you have future projects planned together? Do you have future plans for continuing to advance and promote Brazilian music?
Raïff: We have many concerts ahead as colleagues of the Municipal Symphonic Orchestra of São Paulo and as members of our duo. I intend to record the complete work of Villani-Cortês for cello and piano soon.
Alexandre: As Raïff said, we have plans to record other duos. I also already have recording sessions scheduled for the next album, which will involve Brazilian Music for oboe and piano.
What would you say to someone who is not familiar with classical music but would like to get started?
Alexandre: Every human being has been exposed to classical music; they just don't know how to classify it. Whether in cartoons, movies, or television, classical music is always present. There is no right or wrong in classical music, just give it a chance and try it out!
Raïff: Get started, you won't regret it!
Sound Garden Products
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At Sound Garden, we currently offer the following products to help you to learn about and engage with classical music:
Classical Sessions for adults and teens
Classical Inspirations for ages 6-12
Composer Activity Guides for parents/carers of ages 0-6
Brazilian Music for Oboe & Cello: Track-by-track
The artists' thoughts on each of the works from the album:
José Guerra Vicente: Divertimento para Oboé e Violoncelo
Raïff: José Guerra Vicente was a great Brazilian composer, and it is unfortunate that the piece is not played more often.
Edmundo Villani-Côrtes: Frevo Oboecélico para Oboé e Violoncelo
Raïff: This work was composed especially for the duo. It is a short piece that requires a lot of skill.
Mario Ficarelli: Quatro Esboços para Oboé Solo
Alexandre: This piece explores different characteristics of the oboe sound covering the entire range of the instrument.
Liduino Pitombeira: Seresta No. 18 para Oboé e Violoncelo, Op. 226: Modinha
Alexandre: Modinha is a folk song originally from the 18th century. In this version, it receives a modern touch. This piece was dedicated to our duo.
Liduino Pitombeira: Seresta No. 18 para Oboé e Violoncelo, Op. 226: Baião
Alexandre: Baião is a North-eastern Brazilian style of music and dance with very unusual rhythms.
Mario Ficarelli: Sonatina para Violoncelo Solo
Raïff: This is a beautiful work that enriches the Brazilian solo cello repertoire.
José Vieira Brandão: Duo para Oboé e Violoncelo: I. Seresta
Alexandre: Seresta was a new name that emerged in 20th century Brazil for the oldest tradition of popular singing in cities: the serenade. This type of song is very melodious.
José Vieira Brandão: Duo para Oboé e Violoncelo: II. Desafio
Alexandre: This movement is based on a typical Brazilian singing improvisation by two alternating singers (repentistas).
The album is available on all major streaming platforms.