"Roland Dyens is a true artist. I will explain what I mean because in this time of self-proclaimed "artistes" where a smattering of talent is mixed with a huge dollop of hype the concept of an artist gets diluted, if not downright lost. What I mean is that Mr. Dyens is one of the finest guitarists active in any field of music, but beyond that he is one of the finest musicians we have today. Roland Dyens plays with an amazingly sensitive touch that you have to hear to understand. There is no doubt that he is one of the most expressive classical guitarists of the modern era, and he carries this deep expression into all of the styles that he has mastered.
It is important to note that Pixinguinha (real name Alfredo da Rocha Vianna, Jr.) played flute and saxophone, so for this CD Roland Dyens arranged each piece for guitar. I stress this point because they sound so natural under Mr. Dyens' fingers that you would likely think they were originally written for the guitar.
So what is the music like? Beautiful tuneful melodies with gliding Brazilian rhythms over interesting chord progressions. The CD starts off with Proezas de Solon, a lightly tripping melody over harmonies that are familiar yet have enough spice to keep you interested after several listenings. Things get livelier as the accompaniment enters into a dialogue with the melody in playful counterpoint that is dexterous but never "busy". A really fun tune.
Desprezado begins with a slower tempo and some mild dissonances that enhance its slightly mysterious, exotic aura. It soon reveals a lovely sliding melody that is joined by voices in all registers of the guitar, now in harmony, now counterpointing in inventive ways. A beautiful song and equally superb arrangement. And that ending!
Rosa begins with a soft melody in harmonics that leads into a slow ballad. Having demonstrated his prowess in counterpoint, Mr. Dyens here sets the melody with a few well-placed chords, clear harmonics, and a wonderfully sonorous lowered sixth string that gives a great anchor to the whole edifice. By now you will be extremely happy that you bought this CD!
Attencioso is a sort of choro-influenced scherzo that just flies along effortlessly. There is so much to hear - and admire - here that the song seems over far too soon. You may well be tempted to play this one again immediately.
Ingenuo begins with a simple bass melody under alternating chords. The melody moves to a higher register as the chords give way to arpeggios and counter-melodies. Roland Dyens creates yet another magic atmosphere that quite frankly is beyond words. You really have to hear this CD! I could tell you about the muffled bass counterpoint to the singing melody in the middle, but you would be better served by a single hearing.
Gargalhada begins with a "snare drum" leading into the march-like tune. (On a formal note, you might be tempted to consider this a rondo as the march theme returns between sections, but I hear it more as a "March with Trio" - if you care about this kind of thing!) The march soon gives way to a more frenetic melody that features much flashy fingerwork. The march then returns before we head into a mellower middle section. I find it incredible that such a contrast can be contained in this piece and yet it moves so logically that it is utterly convincing. The march then returns and the snare once again enters, this time to drum us out. And as with pretty much every piece, the ending is just the "pièce de résistance".
Oscarina presents us with a quieter, more pensive mood. The gentle, questioning melody is presented over a fairly simple accompaniment. Soon it is answered by the bass, before resuming control of the song. There is a quality here that I find reminiscent of Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words. With a melody this lovely it is best to provide the minimal required harmony and then stay out its way, as Mr. Dyens clearly understands. It shines through the entire piece, at first fending off an "attempted tremolando" and then subsuming it into its own motion. I was quite surprised to see that this was the longest piece on the album. I found it so engrossing that time just slipped by.
Lamentos begins with an earnest melody that is mildly meditative but certainly not a lament in any overt sense. If this is a moan it is certainly a dignified one, more an acceptance than a rebellion against fate. Or you can just enjoy it as a fine piece of music.
The title piece Naquele Tempo can be heard as the heart of this whole project. Roland Dyens begins with a deeply introspective theme in an unaccompanied single line. If my limited Portuguese is correct the title means something like "in that time", and the tune definitely has a not of nostalgia to it. A simple accompaniment is added as the theme becomes more expansive. Things slowly heat up as the theme becomes more active and the accompaniment joins in with its own motion. It gradually builds to a passionate yet restrained climax, during which the theme manages to maintain its melodic integrity and even brings a measure of calm to the more driven accompaniment. Just as it seems that serenity has been attained the theme rises up to its own shattering apex which takes us to the close. What a wonderfully subtle use of form!
Things calm down again with the start of Carinhoso. This gentle melody blends with its straightforward accompaniment. I understand that Carinhoso can be translated as "loving" and this is certainly a finely crafted love song. If so, this love is not all smooth sailing, but one that manages to keep its inner beauty even in "trying" circumstances. And of course, all resolves in the end.
At first I was quite sad coming to the last song Um a Zero. However, the infectious good humor that permeates the entire piece brought me back into its irrepressible sphere of optimism. This one really motors along, and yet Mr. Dyens never loses his fine melodic sense. The accompaniment gets so complex at times that we can only marvel at his incredible sense of timing as well as his magnificent technical finesse. At the end, though, we are most struck at this gentleman's incredible musicality and we are grateful for having been given such a collection of wonderful music!
Roland Dyens is a consummate master. I would recommend any CD by him, but this one in particular has music that is fresh, different, very enjoyable, and extremely well played.
VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! DO NOT MISS THIS CD!" - David Walker, www.davewalkermusic.com
"Dyens has arranged and performed these Pixinguinha classics with a master musician’s deep insight and skill. There is passion on every track, particularly on the lovely "Rosa" and the haunting "Carinhosa," as well as on the more up-tempo "Desprezado." There is sheer joy and humor in "Gargalhada" which begins with Dyens's utterly convincing guitar mimicry of a snare drum. But most of all there is love. An incredibly artistic and dynamic player, Dyens caresses and shapes. He paints with subtle brush strokes and again with broad swaths of color. It is difficult to believe one is listening to the music of a single guitar and a single composer, which together transcend categorization and label." - Chip O'Brien, Minor 7th.com
"Roland Dyens is an unusual performer; he doesn't cross over between popular and classical traditions—he has mastered both.
The music has lots of variety. Gentle, nostalgic works alternate with raucous dances and virtuoso celebrations. The performances are authentic, loving, sincere—and somewhat rough. That is appropriate for this music. It doesn't need pure, genteel finish; it's music of the streets, though it can be quite complex, especially rhythmically. The roughness is another thing that makes me suspect that Dyens is improvising quite a bit—and always effectively." - Keaton, American Record Guide
"Naquele Tempo is a little masterpiece. The whole thing is, as usual, perfectly recorded by Dean Kamei. Dyens confirms he is definitely one of the most refined and technically outstanding guitarists of our times." - Riccardo Rocchi, Chitarre Magazine
"A new release from Maestro Roland Dyens is always a special occasion. although dedicated and focusing on one composer this collection of pieces could arguably be a succession to Dyens's earlier landmark recordings of his arrangements of French Chanson, which have to be in the top ten guitar recordings of all time for both arranging brilliance and guitar performance.
What is fascinating is how he has put muscle and flesh to Pixinguinha's sublime music. Each piece is a foray into an exotic world of delightful modulations and swooping melodies...
One could write an essay on each piece to convey their beauty, suffice to say that Dyens has yet again raised the heights of solo guitar arrangements to skyscraper levels.
Dyens's sound has been captured beautifully on this recording. Thanks must go to producer Dean Kamei, whose projects are consistently excellent. I may sound biased but I don't think I've heard a better recording this year. An essential purchase." - Tim Panting, Classical Guitar Magazine