Georgina Rossi and Silvie Cheng: Searching for South American Sounds

Georgina Rossi is a violist and Silvie Cheng is a pianist. They have been working together for almost ten years. Their collaboration began when they were still in school and discovered their mutual love for performing music from South America. Their latest album, CHORINHO, showcases their passion for this style of music and features beautiful pieces by Brazilian composers, including world-premiere recordings of works by João de Souza Lima, Lindembergue Cardoso, and Ernani Aguiar. In this interview, Georgina and Silvie discuss their backgrounds and their creative process during the recording of the album.

João de Souza Lima: Chorinho for viola and piano (Georgina Isabel Rossi, viola; Silvie Cheng, piano)

Hello, Georgina and Silvie, can you tell us about yourself? How did you two meet and collaborate? How long have you two played together?

Georgina Rossi

Georgina Rossi

Osvaldo Lacerda: Appassionato, Cantilena, e Toccata for viola and piano – III. Toccata (Georgina Isabel Rossi, viola; Silvie Cheng, piano)

Georgina: Silvie and I met at the Manhattan School of Music—I was doing my Bachelor’s and Silvie her Master’s. We connected by chance and quickly discovered we made great musical partners—I invited Silvie to join me in performing a few of the beautiful arrangements of Guastavino songs by Kim Kashkashian and Robert Levin for my graduation recital. It was such a joy to share together on stage, and it felt natural to continue to focus on the music of South America together on future projects.

How long have we been playing together? It’ll be ten years in 2024! I can hardly believe it.

Your album Chorinho, includes 7 pieces written by Brazilian composers. What inspired you to come up with this album?

Juan Orrego-Salas: Mobili, Op. 63 – IV. Perpetuo (Georgina Isabel Rossi, viola; Silvie Cheng, piano)

Pianist Silvie Cheng

Silvie Cheng © Shervin Lainez

Georgina: After our debut album together, Mobili (New Focus Recordings, 2020), which was an homage to Juan Orrego-Salas and a determined effort to record previously unrecorded repertoire for viola and piano from Chile, we both decided we wanted to continue the mission of recording pieces from South America that were receiving too little air and deserved a chance to inspire, breathe, be shared on stage/through a proper recording.

I had several scores for viola from Brazil that I inherited from my mother’s library (she is also a professional violist!) and we chose a selection from the collection together. Funnily enough, our process of selection was intentionally private—we gave ourselves time to study the pieces separately, promising to come to an agreement once we had each privately selected our favorite works. No agreement was needed—we both selected exactly the same pieces!

What was the most challenging to you during the whole process of making this album?

Georgina: I needed a repair and an adjustment — badly—before going into the studio. In New York, in August, that was impossible. My trusted luthier was out; there was very limited time. There was something off about the response of my viola the entire time we were recording, so I had to press in a way to quicken the response on certain strings. That was brutal!

Silvie: During the making of Mobili, we lived within walking distance of each other in New York and had the luxury of time and space to rehearse essentially whenever and however much we wanted. Little did we know that by the time the making of Chorinho came around, Georgina would have one foot on another continent, as a newly-appointed professor in Santiago! This time, we had the chance to perform some of the works to be recorded on tour in Chile and had a quite condensed and intense rehearsal period in New York right before the recording sessions. Luckily, since we have collaborated with each other for years, although this new preparation process was challenging, our collective experience enabled us to adapt and ensure that it was still fruitful and enjoyable—if anything, we are more grateful than ever for the chance to make music together nowadays!

Brenno Blauth: Sonata para viola e piano

Do you have any upcoming performances that you would like to share with us?

Georgina: Yes! I’ll be performing a recital of mixed Brazilian and Chilean repertoire for viola for the 2024 International Viola Congress— fittingly, for the very first time, in South America. Even more fittingly, in Sao Paulo! Beyond excited about that.

And, in the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, where I work, I’m hoping to perform both Brahms Sonatas for the 2024 season with my phenomenal colleague, Luis Alberto Latorre. Next year’s season is not yet confirmed yet, so that’s still up in the air!

Silvie: In the coming months I’ll be performing chamber music and as the pianist of the Cheng² Duo in California, Germany, India, Ontario, Quebec, Romania, Switzerland, and the UK!

During the interview, Georgina and Silvie talked about their upcoming project which involves showcasing music composed by Argentinean living composers. As a fellow pianist who is also passionate about introducing lesser-known repertoire to audiences, I’m thrilled to have come across like-minded peers who share similar passions and missions.

Chorinho is available now on CD and digitally on the Navona Records.

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