Excerpts from the Press

“From the Piano to Onex's Carousel” (Article in French,“Du piano au manège d'Onex”) Dare-Dare Show on Swiss French Radio, 17 September 2008:  Emission Dare-Dare, Espace 2, Radio Suisse Romande, 17 septembre 2008

A Review (in French) by Julian Sykes in the Swiss newspaper Le Temps, 2 June 2007:  2 juin 2007 

A Review (in French) by Mathias Heizmann in the selection of albums by Arte, 5 June 2007 

Crescendo, no 88, July 2007 (See the English translation below the article)
Translation of the Crescendo review:

The Bresilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos left us with an immense production: more than 2000 works, including 12 Symphonies, 17 String Quartets, and 12 Concertos, 5 of which are for the piano.  However, apart from his Choros and Bachianas Brasilerias (including the famous 5th for an octet of cellos and voices), his musical scores are nevertheless rarely played.  This is just another reason to appreciate the discovery of Villa-Lobos' music offered to us by the Polish pianist Joanna Brzezinska.  As an epigraph on the CD booklet, she gives us this surprising quotation from the composer: “My music is natural like a waterfall.  I want to do everything in music.  I want to write history in music, describe politics, philosophy, geography through music.  Form is of no interest to me.”  The Suite Floral op. 97 was written at the end of World War I; Brzezinska offers us three movements, “Idylle dans un hamac,” “Paysanne qui chante” and “Allégresse dans le jardin” which takes us from the sweet tranquility of the Brazilian sun to the madness of the Amazon jungle by way of a somewhat naïve pentatonic song.  The cycle A proie de Bebê (the family of the baby) includes three Suites; the first, Bonecas (the dolls) dates from 1918.  This suite alternates the contrasting characteristics of the dolls evoked: there are dolls made of porcelain, papier mâché, clay, rubber, and wood, as well as dolls dressed in rags or in wool.  We move from mockery (the papier mâché doll) to sadness (the doll in rags), to the witch's aggressive violence (the doll in wool).  The second Suite Os bichinhos (the little animals) is three years posterior to the first Suite and is technically more difficult.  This Suite also highlights contrasting elements, as evidenced by the amusing titles of the different pieces, which are frequently symmetric with the pieces from the first Suite: “the little paper cockroach,” “the little cardboard cat,” “the papier mâché mouse,” “the little rubber dog,” “the little wooden horse,” “the little lead cow,” “the little woolen bird,” “the little cotton bear,” and “the little glass wolf.” The pianist renders all of the warmth, the nostalgia and the luxuriousness of this music.  The third Suite has been lost.  Joanna Brzezinska concludes her recording by a transcription of the Choro n°1, “Tipico,” originally written for the guitar.  We have here nearly one hour and ten minutes of pure musical joy and new discoveries –as the interpreter herself says – one hour and ten minutes of the colors in the Amazon forest, of its luxuriance, of it's immensity and its diversity. 

“Ruch Muzyczny” 10 June 2007, Warsaw

“My music is natural like a waterfall […] the form is of no interest to me” - We can read this confession from the composer Villa-Lobos on the cover of the booklet from Joanna Brzezinska's new CD.  In fact, Villa-Lobos was self-taught: he listened to popular musicians playing in the streets, to the  indigenous Brazilians, to the rhythms of African workers laboring on plantations and to the nostalgic melodies of Portuguese immigrants.  Many of the pieces for the piano are intended for children or are written with a child-like spirit.  Some are easy and humorous, with the cries of children's games and the noises of children's parties.  Others are so difficult that the wife of the composer once said the following about the subject of “Prole do bébé”: “one would need not only the ten fingers of the pianist's two hands, but also ten toes, plus the nose, and even that wouldn't suffice.”  From the first part of this cycle comes the famous Polichinelle, the favorite encore of Arthur Rubinstein. 

Conscious of the complex form of  “Prole do bébé,”and of its technical, rhythmic and harmonic difficulties, Joanna  Brzezinska chose to place this Suite in the center of her CD.  The proof of her mastery is that she received the CHOC award from the French newspaper Le Monde de la Musique, an award given to the best CDs of the month.  On the one hand, the pianist owes her success to the extreme spontaneity of the music, and on the other hand, to her immense passion (she is the author of the booklet that accompanies the CD) and to her ironclad discipline in respecting the score's text.  Through her fingers, short childish anecdotes are brought into life by these miniature musicals.  She mesmerizes us by her sensitivity and by the quality of sound, in addition to her expertise in using a whole gamut of sounds, whether in the piece where the clay doll dances to the rhythm of the samba,  in the piece with the mean witch, or in the piece with the little mouse dashing around in all directions. 

The Brazilian jungle, dangerous with its burning sun, is omnipresent in the CD's opening piece, the  Suite Floral.  In this Suite, the listener first experiences the sensation of swaying in a hammock while listening to a peasant singing diatonically, and in the end finds himself immersed in a garden bursting with a multitude of colors, flowers and scents. 

The CD ends with the Choro Tipico, the piece most often played by orchestras, small ensembles, classic and non-classic guitarists.  This work could easily become a sentimental salon piece, but through the skillful fingers of Joanna Brzezinska, Choro Tipico is a true masterpiece filled with fantasy . . . it's an extremely beautiful disc . . .”

Bogdan M. Jankowski

June 2007

“The past few years have provided a bumper crop of excellent Villa-Lobos piano CDs.  The Polish-born, Swiss-resident pianist Joanna Brzezinska-Maurer weighs in with a very well-played and very well-recorded disc that includes both suites from A Prole do Bebè.  The disc also includes a nice relaxed performance of the early Suite Floral, and a novelty that's a real eye-opener; the Choros 1 for guitar arranged for piano. You can listen to a long sample from Brzezinska-Maurer's Choros on her website, along with portions of the pieces from the CD.”
Jonathan Woolfs, Musicweb International Review

“Polish pianist Joanna Brzezinska is a Chopin specialist who has made the reasonable leap to Villa-Lobos; she is not as oriental toward the Brazilian rhythms lurking in the composer's music as many other pianists, but she brings a dry energy to these pieces that's entirely appropriate.  Brzezinska's own notes are a bit confusing with random-sounding headings like “Arthur Rubinstein” (an early Villa-Lobos champion), “Rubber, Wood and Lead” and “Cloth, Cottons and Glass.” But the engineering as usual with the Swiss label Claves, is superbly intimate without being inappropriate. Recommended performances of works that will fill a hole in many collections of twentieth century piano music.”

James Manhein , All Music Guide, 2007

April 2007, Le Monde de la Musique, CHOC 
Up until now, for Villa-Lobos' piano music, the referential recording was the unabridged recording done in 1978 for Adès by Anna-Stella Schic.  This Brazilian pianist, a student of Marguerite Long, tempered the audacity of the composer by means of a French sensibility.  Her interpretations are simultaneously modeled on clarity and vigor, but also, when needed, on delicacy. 

The approach of the Polish pianist Joanna Brzezinska distinguishes itself from that of Long's by a vision that one could qualify as “tropical,” and that tends to take into account above all the warmth and luxuriance of the music.  We observe that even in her CD's introductory text (which is excellent overall), Joanna Brzezinska often makes allusions to the jungle.  In the Prole do bebe, she perceives “all the colors of the Amazon forest, its luxuriance, its immensity and its diversity.”

The feeling of happiness that reverberates in the Suite Floral (composed between 1916 and 1918), as well as the inventions (sometimes extremely virtuoso, sometimes infused with a penetrative poetry) that one meets in the two cycles dedicated to dolls and toys representing small animals (composed between 1918 and 1921), are fully rendered in luxurious colors that correspond to the nature of the works themselves.  In a similar way, the piece Choro nº1 “Tipico,” composed for the guitar and transcribed for the piano, exudes a spirit of improvisation and finds here its ideal interpretation.

In the presentation of her recording, Brzezinska quotes Villa-Lobos, who says, “My music is natural like a waterfall.”  She calls his music the most natural game possible, and it is this naturalness that  stands out in Brzezinska's recording. 

Diapason, May 2007
Joanna Brzezinska's new CD is a coherent disc, bringing together the Suite Floral (1917-1918) and the two suites from A Prole do Bebê (1918 and 1921).  Inspired by the discovery of Debussy's music –made possible through the intermediary of Milhaud –, Villa-Lobos displays here a richness of inspiration, a virtuosity (as found in the resplendent O Polichinelo in the first series of La Famille du Bébé) and an exploitation of the expressive potential of the piano that is far superior to his previous works.  The Polish pianist's devotion to the Brazilian composer's music is not new (two excerpts from A Prole already appear on a previous disc, alongside pieces from Liszt, recorded at the same time that she won first prize at the Slupsk competition in 1988) and the enthusiasm with which Brzezinska approaches Villa-Lobos' work is palpable.  Vitality and abundance, the layering of sound schemes and the marked play all contribute to the orchestral conception of the piano, as heard in “L'Indien Blanc.” Beyond these qualities, the poetic sensibility of Joanna Brzezinska is also deserving of recognition – a particularly good illustration of such sensibility can be found in O Gatinho de papelao in  A Prole, which blends mysteriousness, tenderness and oneiric impressions. 

The flip side of the extremely vivid conception that Joanna Brzezinska displays here is that in some instances, she lacks a touch of abandon or of indolence, as in the first piece from the Suite Floral: Idilia na Rede (“Idylle in the hammack”).  Nevertheless, we have here a good version for a first approach to these works.  Those who wish to deepen their knowledge can draw from the irreplaceable recording of Villa Lobos' complete works from Anna Stella Schic (Solstice, Diapason d'or).  Schic remains unsurpassed in her transcription by Gao of Choro nº1 for the guitar –a piece where Ernesto Nazareth's shadow hovers –, and where Brzezinska suffers from a certain preciosity. 

Alain Cochard

Express bydgoski

“...The pianist Joanna Brzezinska became well-known mainly for her interpretations of Chopin and of the Russians, as well as for her CD on Villa-Lobos.  Very detail-oriented and well balanced, her music is characterized by a happy alliance of solidarity and an interior momentum.  In Tchaikovsky's Concerto No.1 in B flat minor, Joanna Brzezinska demonstrates a flawless execution, with a probity that touches us through the sole evidence of the text.  She emphasizes well the strong lines of her writing and the music's dynamic contrasts, giving all of their weight to each moment, while at the same time constructing a beautiful architecture of the whole ensemble. . .”