Viola tonemaster Amaro Dubois teams with ultra-sensitive accompanist-pianist TingTing Yao for a intoxicating mélange of heady but balanced lyricism and folk-infused earthiness on the well paced and nuanced album Luz (Navona NV6491). The entire program revolves around a most dedicated kind of impassioned presence bristling with New World fountainheads of melodic brilliance.
We start in the mold with composer Edmundo Villani Cortes and the title piece "Luz" and move through a consistently invigorating cache of memorable presence and a totally refreshed familiarity as in the folk and spiritual heritage of the North American African diaspora with spiritual and folk vibrant mini-gems from Florent Price, William Grant Still, Michael Tippet and then too South American rejuvenations of the roots of an exuberant effusiveness via Dimitri Cervo, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Edmundo Villani-Cortes, Jose Elizondo, and Zequinha de Abreu.
As you listen to Luz ideally and gradually you enter into the musical representation and feeling of light coupled with a threesome presence of passion, love and peace--and in the process ideally feel a consistently ravishing burnishment of the rich viola tone in conjunction its counterpart in the steady, folk- driven energy and vivacity of TingTing Yao's supercharged accompaniment.
It is just enough folkishly over the top at times that it jumps out without pretense and always with an unabashedly human quality. It all lets in a nice helping of sunshine at a time when we all no doubt would like to respond and recharge through a healing experience, with a good deal of musical hope and reassured resolve that nowadays would be most welcome to many. Hear it by all means. Listen to the whole album on YouTube: https://www.navonarecords.com/catalog/nv6491/
Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical Reviews 2023
Luz means light, and light is what violist Amaro Dubois claims we are missing the most in this world of today. Dubois aims to change this with his debut Navona Records release, Luz, a collection of works highlighting the beauty of Latin American music for viola and piano. Joined by pianist Tingting Yao, the violist brings to life several newly-commissioned works, a beautiful collaboration between eight composers from five different countries. Above all, Dubois aims to share passion, love, and peace...
Luz collects together 12 works (18 tracks - 55 min, 14 sec) by a number of Latin American composers. Diversity is key here, and from track to track we are spoilt with a sounds that capture the imagination and touch the soul.
It's a collection that is so easy to dip in and out of. I found that I was constantly finding new segments that I'd missed on previous plays. It's timeless and engaging, and certainly worth investing time with.
This is an album of discovery that you'll be wanting to revisit for years to come.
Graveyard Classical Music Review - 2023
When determining programming for a recording, most viola-and-piano duos typically orient their selections around single themes or concepts. Deviating from that strategy, Brazilian violist Amaro Dubois and pianist Tingting Yao present two sets of music, Latin-American and African-American, on their debut Navona Records release. It's a rare album that combines Brazilian composers Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) and Edmundo Villani-Cortes (b. 1930) with Florence Price (1887-1953) and William Grant Still (1895-1978), but that's exactly what the duo does on Luz (“light”). Helping to blur the boundaries between the sets are two things in particular, melodic richness and emotion. While the works are formally classical, these lyrical settings register in their brevity and form as songs and as such use melody as the foundation.
Armed with an expressive, vocal-like tone, Dubois is well-suited to the material and repeatedly gives voice to the plaintive yearning that's so much a part of its contents. Yao shows herself to be a terrific partner when she sensitively attunes herself to his every move, be it a tempo adjustment or change in dynamics. Enhancing the appeal of the release, laid down in June 2022 at the University of Memphis's Harris Hall, some of its twelve pieces are recent commissions.
Whereas most classical violists regard flawless purity of tone as an ideal to which to aspire, there's a rawness to Dubois' playing that suggests he's equally focused on conveying emotion in its most direct form. That shouldn't be interpreted to mean his delivery lacks refinement but more to emphasize that his overriding concern is to communicate the spectrum of emotional experience through his instrument. The mournful settings in particular benefit from the vocal-like cry of his playing. Certainly the instrument on which he performs, a viola made in 1970 by the Hungarian luthier Otto Erdesz, also factors significantly into the sound produced.
The emotional dimension is apparent the moment the recording opens with Villani-Cortes's Luz and Dubois, after entering with the softest of breaths, sustains with his partner an almost unbearable degree of tension. Other pieces by Brazilian composers include Cantiga, a stirring exercise in dignified lyricism by Dimitri Cervo (b. 1968), and one of the album's most transporting pieces, Villa-Lobos's haunting O Canto do Cisne Negro (The Song of the Black Swan). Villani-Cortes's other setting, Interlúdio V, is memorable for preceding the duo's playing with the recitation of a poem by the composer.
Price is represented by two lovely pieces, the alternately joyful and wistful Elfentanz, and the mournful Deserted Garden; Luz also features a pair by Still, the poignant lament Here's One and the gently radiant Carmela. Credited to British composer Michael Tippett (1905-98) and arranged by Lawrence Brown, Five Negro Spirituals includes the doleful “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” and hymnal “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and amplifies the folk-gospel dimension of Luz in the duo's heartfelt renderings. Neither musician is from the American South, yet they convincingly express the respective heartache and joy of “Nobody Knows de Trouble I've Seen” and “Ev'ry Time I Feel de Spirit” in their playing.
Like Price, Still, and Villani-Cortes, Mexican composer José Elizondo (b. 1972) is featured twice, first a setting of dramatic lyricism called The Dawn of Hope and then Danzas Latinoamericanas, whose three parts extend from the Piazzolla-esque “Autumn in Buenos Aires” to the effervescent “Sunset in Guadalajara.” Dubois' goals for the release include bringing greater exposure to the viola repertoire and attention to the beauty of Latin American music. Both goals are met, with the violist also doing his part to perpetuate the resurgence of interest in Price and Still.
In his introductory comments to Adoration: Music of the Americas, violist Amaro Dubois explains the mission of his recording: “to encourage musicianship through the beautiful and awe-inspiring music of these composers, and to increase diversity in classical music by programming new and often overlooked compositions for the viola repertoire…I have focused on music of the Americas and music significantly tied to these lands, as the level of diversity in cultures and values is and has always been rich and ripe for exploration and finding connections.” The repertoire featured in Adoration includes works originally composed for viola and piano, and arrangements of compositions for that combination of instruments. Florence Price, Rebecca Clarke, and Fanny Mendelssohn all faced hurdles as female composers. Price, an African American, encountered additional challenges. The English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a descendent of African American slaves, took great interest in US music and culture. Astor Piazzolla (Argentina), Heitor Villa-Lobos and César Guerra-Peixe (Brazil) represent a trio of South American composers. The vast majority of the repertoire on this disc is in the spirit of “songs without words”, brief pieces that explore the viola’s lyrical, singing voice. By contrast, Piazzolla’s Libertango and Café 1930, and Guerra-Peixe’s Suíte Nordestina draw upon more earthy folk and popular sources. Dubois and pianist Tinting Yao play all of the works with the utmost commitment, and sensitivity to the composers’ diverse voices. All of the pieces are performed with style and without a trace of routine. The Piazzolla works, in particular, have an irrepressible swagger. This is a worthy recital both in concept and execution. The joy these artists find in the music and their interpretations is palpable, and it is all reproduced in lovely sound.
Fanfare Magazine 2021
The musicians are well-equipped for the project. Dubois's powerful, vibrato-rich viola sound has developed over many years and in many contexts. He's played with numerous orchestras and chamber groups, possesses broad teaching experience, and preceded Adoration with an album of preludes from Bach's cello suites. Yao has established herself as a collaborator and chamber musician with singers and instrumentalists all over the world and once worked at Lang Lang Music World, the popular pianist's first piano school in Shenzhen, China. Dubois and Tingting both excel at adapting their playing to the material at hand and can be as passionate and delicate as the music demands. While the performances on Adoration are polished, they breathe with humanity, that quality bolstered by the viola's capacity for raw, vocal-like expressiveness.
I cannot always tell day-to-day what new musical treasures will await my ears, but there are ever good things. Today there is a fine and adventurous album by violist Amaro Dubois with pianist Tingting Yao, entitled Adoration: Music of the Americas (Spice Classics SR-101-56).
The most apparent thing you notice is the very adventurous program of works, things that if you have not heard you are glad to or even if you have, it is a nice gathering of unexpected juxtapositions and very solid viola fare. It happens that I became quite enamored with the viola in my early listening years thanks to Walter Trampler. I still feel the same way so always glad to hear an excellent player unknown to me. Like you might come to expect from a violist of stature there is a woody, burnished deepness to Amaro's tone, and given the expressive qualities of much of the music there is an emotive sweetness that is not overblown but just right, a trim tautness coupled with a projective richness that makes the music sing out nicely.
Dubois and Yao give poetically focused attention to works that are neglected treasures, many of them, and/or illuminating to our understanding of composers, regions. periods.
We get to hear a couple of gems by the now emergent Afro-American woman composer Florence Price, plus worthy but neglected works by Rebecca Clarke, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Astor Piazzolla, Cesar Guerra-Piexe and Fanny Mendelssohn. And then to remind us that there is a treasure trove of possible rearrangements of other works and composers more well known, we hear a ravishing viola-piano version of Villa-Lobos's "Bachianas Brasileiras No. 6."
In the end it is a pleasure to hear the brilliant musicianship of Dubois and Yao, as much as it is heartening to hear some wonderful music we are fortunate to experience today. Bravo!
Grego Applegate Edward
“This is a fine achievement. Amaro’s passion and virtuosity shine through in this lovely collection of music from under-represented composers.”
“I am sure that this very talented young man will make a beautiful and meaningful impact for many musicians and especially violists. In addition, Amaro is a good reminder of all the wonderful talent Latin America has to offer the world.”
Principal Viola, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra - 2021
In Adoration - Music of the Americas, Amaro Dubois delivers soulful, passionate and richly spirited performances for each of the pieces therein. Accompanied by Tingting Yao on piano, these two dynamic artists present a beautiful set of pieces that pay homage to the rich musical landscape of the Americas, shining a spotlight on composers that have once been underserved in the repertoire, but here so joyously celebrated for the gems they truly are.
What an enormous gift Dubois has for lyricism as he presents various sound worlds and colors through the viola. There is a such a diverse range of interesting repertoire on this disc.
It opens with 2 colorful works by Florence Price, who’s rich, deeply emotional voice is carried out by the lush tones of Dubois and the gentle pulse of the piano accompaniment Tingting provides throughout first in the work Adoration, for which the disc is titled, and then in the stirring, grounded sound of Price’s Fantasy in Purple.
We then have Rebecca Clarke’s Shorter Pieces for viola and piano; an inter
esting, contrasting set of works. What particularly struck me was the work Chinese Puzzle, a study etude in which the viola and piano are in dialogue with biting timbral contrasts. Dubois and Tingting present a most playful rendition as the pointillistic pizzicato of the viola dances with the adamant, yet child-like passages of the piano accompaniment.
Next up are Samuel Coleridge Taylor’s spellbinding Songs of Sun and Shade in which the viola floats with a most exquisite cantabile over the accompaniment. This set of works has a controlled, regal quality to it. Dubois and Tingting elegantly showcase Coleridge-Taylor’s incredible gift of melodic writing throughout this colorful, pastoral musical journey.
Another poignant detail about the craft of this album is the pacing of the selections. After the rich sounds of Coleridge Taylor, it’s quite refreshing to hear the exciting, spirited, sprightly rhythms of Piazzolla’s classic Libertango and the wanderingly beautiful Cafe 1930. In Cafe 1930, time itself seems to stand still as Tingting’s delicate touch sets the tone before Dubois enters with a tone most sensitive. What an emotional rollercoaster these works are!
Rounding out the works on the album are Villa-Lobos’ Aria Cantilena from Bachianas Brasileiras No.5, Três Peças Nordestinas by Guerra-Peixe, and 6 Lieder, op. 7 by Fanny Mendelssohn. I find Dubois’ tone this latter third of the album so rich that one might mistake it for that of a cello!
This disc is a beautiful collaboration and fitting celebration of the music of the Americas. Dubois and Tingting have done a beautiful job in helping to further establish these wonderful works deep within the viola repertoire.
Brian Raphael Nabors
“Violist, Amaro Dubois’ new recording, Adoration- Music of the Americas is beautifully performed. Its representation of composers Prices, Clarke, Taylor, Piazzola, Villa-Lobos, Peixe, and Fanny Mendelssohn will hopefully catapult these composers and compositions into the mainstream of viola repertoire. Enjoy!”
Artistic Director & Conductor, Paducah Symphony Orchestra - 2021
Amaro Dubois has prepared a scrumptious smorgasbord of culture for us on his latest album, Adoration-Music of the Americas. A melting pot of lullabies, fantasies, tangos, and lieder, this album presents under-represented composers with a generous shaker full of Brazil and a sprinkle of China, as he brings awareness to the works of South American, Afro-American, and women composers. The tempos and textures and styles change, but one thing remains true of Dubois. He uses that big, fat tone of his to impart overwhelming passion while he paints the air with his skillful use of color.
Dubois and pianist Tingting Yao play as one. Yao in her own right is a masterful pianist, bold, sensitive, and delicate as needed — a rare combination of a superb soloist and servant wrapped in one.
Composer - 2021