Heloísa Fernandes 

Heloisa Fernandes’ conveys so much with musical notes alone

It’s surely a sign of an accomplished performer when she can kick off her shoes, share a warm, familiar laugh with an unfamiliar audience in a far-off place, and dazzle with every note all the while.

It was a wonderful North American debut for Brazilian pianist Heloísa Fernandes. She seemed to blush as she first walked out onto the stage and tears were in her eyes more than once through the performance, most notably near the end as she performed an original song inspired by her children.

That kind of honesty of emotion makes a performance something special. Fernandes played both her own take on works by Brazilians who inspired her and original compositions. It’s truly amazing to watch a musician who is utterly at ease with her instrument. Her hands danced along the length of the keyboard as a look of complete bliss washed over her face.

She apologized for her English early on in the performance and yet here she was communicating through the piano with profound fluency in a language almost anyone anywhere on the planet could understand.

Those acquainted with Fruto, her debut recording on the Brazilian label Maritaca, will find familiar ground in her Spoleto Wachovia Jazz performance.

Fernandes is able to convey so much of a storytelling sense with musical notes alone; universal tales of rising and falling, of the mix of carefree moments and somber thoughts that accompany any day.

She rose to national attention in her native country in 2001 when she became a finalist in the Prêmio Visa de Música Brasileira. Turning that attention to good use, she dug down deep into traditional Brazilian rhythms and folklore, researched the historic music of the people, and translated the passion she found there into new arrangements for the piano.

What that translates to on the stage is an exhilarating performance: there’s freedom and love and hope and joy and feeling far from home all falling out beneath her fingers in a rush. And it’s a pleasure indeed to listen to that.

Heloísa Fernandes • Spoleto Festival USA • $30 • 1 hour • May 27, 28 at 7 & 9 p.m. • Recital Hall, Simons Center College of Charleston • (843) 579-3100


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