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Ithamara Koorax: Opus Classico

Chris M. Slawecki By

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Throughout her career, Ithamara Koorax has consistently exercised a singing voice that approaches the eternal; Ira Gitler once famously described Koorax's singing as "celestial elegance." On Opus Clássico, that amazing voice finds material to match: Vocal and vocalized melodies written by such master composers as Frederic Chopin, Claude Debussy, Sergie Rachmaninoff and Heitor Villa-Lobos, lovingly and gorgeously rendered by Koorax's astounding voice in tandem with pianist Filipe Bernardo and guitarist Rodrigo Lima (who worked with Koorax on Arirang [2010, EMI]).

Koorax explores the feathered fringes of her ballad style in the breathless "Iluminada/Balada en Sol Menor No. 1," a medley which Bernardo's piano weaves together so seamlessly that it sounds like he's been playing, and Koorax has been singing, it forever. Lima strews guitar notes into a pathway of miniature golden petals that reaches up to guide her vocal through "Prelúdio de Solidão/ Prelúdio No. 3."

Piano and guitar jointly paint the soft opening shades of "Adagio do 'Concierto de Aranjuez'" and then shift to drive through a more exciting and brilliant, faster tempo, with (almost flamenco) solos and flourishes from Lima's guitar which sound just as dazzling as the voice and song they support. Bernardo's piano introduction lays down a gorgeous, cushioned framework for Koorax's vocal to recline under "The Lamp is Low/Pavane"; the phrase "The lamp is low" flows so thickly and lushly from her lips and mouth, the last "s" of "is" melting into the opening "l" of "low," that it pours into your ear like a thick, heady burgundy.

But the principals save the best for last, an eight-minute medley that opens with "Stranger in Paradise," features a solo verse by trombonist Raul DeSouza, and concludes with Debussy's "My Reverie." Koorax's tone and enunciation in the opening line, "Take my hand, I'm a stranger in paradise," overflows with magic and wonder, and she progresses through a performance that's as full of stardust and moonbeams as that brilliant lyric.

In smaller hands or vision, Opus Classico might have sounded like a recital program, an academic exercise in good taste. But Arnaldo DeSouteiro's pristine (not sterile) production helps each piano key and guitar string ring out in a timeless, beautiful musical procession with each performer's passion animating this classic material with blood, sweat and tears. You will wish you could remain lost in some of these songs forever.

Track Listing: Vocalise; Iluminada/Balada en Sol Menor No. 1; O Trenzinho do Caipira; Ária das Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5; Prelúdio de Solidão/ Prelúdio No. 3; Corpo e Luz/ Ária de ópera Tristão e Isolda; Adagio do 'Concierto de Aranjuez'; Pavane; The Lamp is Low/Pavane; As Pombas; Coração Triste; Modinha; O Canto do Pajé; Stranger in Paradise/Danças Polovtzianas/My Reverie.

Personnel: Ithamara Koorax: vocals; Rodrigo Lima: guitar; Filipe Bernardo: piano; Raul de Souza: trombone.

Title: Opus Classico | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Petrobras

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