At the heart of last night's concert by the pianist Arthur Lima was the sound of his native Brazil, filling the Coolidge Auditorium with very lovely music. "Three Brazilian Tangos" by Ernesto Nazareth were irresistible on a first hearing. The first, "Odeon," was a danceable whirlwind without rests or silence but with enough time to pause for a smile. "Sarambeque" was short on melody but rich in rhythm, and the Chopinesque flavor of "Batuque" recalled Ernesto Lecuona's better pages. All were surprisingly closer to ragtime than to tango, and all should be better known.
Then followed two short pieces by Heitor Villa-Lobos, Brazil's best known composer. "Impresso es Seresteiras" offered veil after dazzling veil of color sound, but its impressionism never completely covered its unmistakable Brazilian rhythm. "Festa no Sertao," the jazziest and best of the two had Lima soothing with his left hand the flurry of notes that his right hand kept producing. Both the Nazareth and the Villa-Lobos received committed, convincing performances.
The concert began with a generous portion of Chopin and closed with the Liszt B minor Sonata. Neither was very good, although just getting through the Liszt was an impressive feat. Lima exaggerated every surface accent but never explored the poetry of these scores, and the results were too slow or too fast and very often vulgar. The C minor Nocturne was lugubrious, the F minor Ballade fell apart, and the glorious Grande Valse Brillante in E-flat major was at once cold and messy.