Erika Ribeiro

“I think it´s important for my generation to reconsider the labels usually attached to ‘classical’ and ‘popular’ music in Brazil and to know music in its truest essence.”

The quote by Erika Ribeiro, interviewed by journalist Camila Fresca for the Concerto magazine, helps us understand her uniqueness in Brazil´s “classical” piano scenario today.

Winner of 10 national contests, including the 3rd Nelson Freire Contest, and shortlisted in more than 20, the pianist from São Paulo has performed in Brazil´s leading concert halls as well as in Germany, Austria, the United States, France, Poland, and Portugal as soloist, chamber pianist, or featured with such orchestras as the Brazilian Symphonic, Petrobras Symphonic, Minas Gerais Philharmonic, National Symphonic, Porto Alegre Symphonic, UFRJ Symphonic, Experimental Repertoire, Espírito Santo Symphonic, Gaia Philharmonic, and Kalisz Philharmonic.

However, different notes have been rippling off the keys of this concert pianist and professor at UNIRIO, and perhaps we should peek at her academic resumé to appreciate them. After graduating from the Piracicaba School of Music and earning a Master´s degree from the University of São Paulo under Eduardo Monteiro, two years of study at the traditional Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler in Berlin, and further study at the Écoles d’Art de Fontainebleau, the music scholar received her PhD with the dissertation “Pianism and its elements in the music of Egberto Gismonti”. A sign of her restlessness is the fact that she chose a composer who absolutely does not fit the “popular-classical” dichotomy as the subject of her dissertation.

Released by the label Naxos Latin Classics Series, Images of Brazil, the pianist´s first album, in a duet with American violinist Francesca Anderegg, was already a sign of such restlessness. In the repertoire, among composers we classify as “classical” (Guarnieri, Guerra-Peixe, Villa-Lobos), we find a “popular” composer, Léa Freire.

While music critics were showering her with praise for this album (for João Marcos Coelho, “one of the best of 2019”, for Irineu Franco Perpetuo “images of the best of Brazil”), Erika was preparing her first solo album here at Rocinante, produced by Bernardo Ramos and Sylvio Fraga.

Released in 2021, Erika Ribeiro (Igor Stravinsky, Sofia Gubaidulina, and Hermeto Pascoal), again draws two worlds together that have great affinity but rarely touch each other directly, namely “deep” Russia and “deep” Brazil. We can attest to this kinship when we listen consecutively to “A Russian Spiritual” from the erudite Russian world and “Série de Arco” from “intuitive” Brazil.

Except for “Musical Toys” by Sofia Gubaidulina, composed originally for solo piano, the rest of the album was transcribed by Erika based on other formations. As she says in the above-mentioned interview: “Transcriptions give back something authorial to the instrumentalist, providing a freedom of interpretation and drawing her nature to the surface, something that interests me greatly as an artist.”

This authorial work was shortlisted for the 2021 Concerto Award in the category “Best Album of the Year” and nominated for the Latin Grammy Award for Best Classical Album of 2022. After listening to it, guitarist Sérgio Assad proclaimed, “Erika Ribeiro, with great mastery and imagination, reveals to us the playful universe of Stravinsky and Gubaidulina, and as a treat, the always surprising Hermeto Pascoal, in a combination of 23 miniatures that are veritable gems.”

Music at its very essence.