Thursday, March 9, 2017

A letter to Paris

Henry Prunières in 1935

Henry Prunières is an important figure in the arts in Paris between the wars. He created La Revue musicale in 1920, running it until 1939. This periodical documented Villa-Lobos's exploits in Paris in the 1920s. Here is a letter Villa-Lobos wrote to Prunières in 1929, from the French National Library's Gallica portal.



Friday, February 10, 2017

Villa-Lobos Harp Concerto from Russia


I noticed the remastered disc of Vera Dulova's 1976 Melodiya recording of the Villa-Lobos Harp Concerto up on the Naxos Music Library today. Here's the original LP:


The Harp Concerto should be much better known than it is. It was written in 1953 on commission from harpist Nicanor Zabaleta.

This is the same disc in a 2015 remastering:

Monday, January 30, 2017

A late interview with Villa-Lobos



This is a really interesting interview that Villa-Lobos gave at the Empire State Music Festival in Harriman State Park (Bear Mountain) in New York, on July 12, 1959. This was the composer's last concert before his death. Though he couldn't have been in the best of health, he sounds his usual self. His wife Mindinha chimes in at the end.

Unfortunately my Portuguese is less than basic, but this Google translation of the YouTube poster's summary give the gist of what Villa said:
Villa-Lobos comments on the issues of the time, welcomes the Brazilian people, declares his love for the homeland - Rio de Janeiro - and talks to the journalist while the orchestra rehearses the presentation of more. In the audio that is now part of the MEC FM radio collection, Villa-Lobos demystifies the creation process. "This business of coming inspiration does not exist in me. I was born inspired already. Either I do a good thing, or I do crap. But this business of me looking for inspiration, letting hair grow to have inspiration, drink, it does not exist in me. I write when I need to. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Uirapuru danced in Madrid



The Argentine choreographer Dani Pannullo and his dance company present Uirapuru, based on Villa-Lobos' great early orchestral masterpiece. The music is played by JORCAM, conducted by Jordi Frances-Sanjuan. This is from 2011.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Merry Christmas from The Villa-Lobos Magazine



Here's a Christmas staple for the Villa-Lobos lover: the beautiful Praesepe, a choral work written in 1952 for alto soloist and mixed chorus, #21 in the collection Musica Sacra, vol. 1.

Villa-Lobos set the words of Padre Jose de Anchieta, a Portuguese missionary to Brazil, written in 1563.

Text and translation are from the liner notes to the Corydon Singers/Matthew Best Villa Lobos sacred music CD on the Hyperion label (CDA6638, 1992/93.) Used with permission of Hyperion Records.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The great beasts of Villa-Lobos

In his liner essay for the third volume of The Guitar Manuscripts on Naxos, guitarist Andrea Bissoli quotes from the memoirs of the Spanish pianist Tomás Terán:
That year [1928] we spent the summer together in Lussac-les-Châteaux. We found a place to stay above a kind of pâtisserie that only opened on high days and holidays. Our rooms looked out over the garden at the back and were divided by a wooden panel that was so insubstantial we could chat to one another through the wall till the early hours. Villa planned to amuse himself by constructing a fleet of kites, so we’d arrived laden down with enormous lengths of bamboo, rope and sheets of paper: the lady who owned the shop below thought we must have been members of a circus ... The day he flew the first kite (designed in the shape of a huge fish), it was caught by a sudden gust of wind just as he was launching it, and went up like a rocket; it dragged Villa along for several metres before I managed to cut its ropes. The kite came down three or four kilometres away: after that experience his “great beasts” frightened me. I suggested to him that in future he should tie them to a tree, for safety’s sake, and he agreed. Those kites were great fun for the people of Lussac. Some days, Villa would play the guitar late into the night (I should point out we were the only people staying at the pâtisserie); that was when he had the idea of composing his studies for the instrument.
This is how Villa-Lobos came to write one of his most important creations: the 12 Etudes for guitar.



Naxos has just released a box set of the three volumes of The Guitar Manuscripts. I'll be writing a review Real Soon Now. In the meantime, here's a picture (from the Museu Villa-Lobos) of Villa-Lobos and Terán with one of Villa's Great Beasts; and via Spotify, the  “symphonic episode” O papagaio do moleque (The little boy’s kite), from the same disc. It's played by the Minas Gerais Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Fabio Mechetti.

I think that's Villa on the left, Terán in the middle, and I assume Lucilla on the right.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Festival Música Nova 'Gilberto Mendes'


The 50th annual Festival Música Nova 'Gilberto Mendes' takes place in Ribeirão Preto during November 2016. This year's festival is in memory of Mendes, who died January 1, 2016, and Pierre Boulez, who died four days later.

There's more information on the Festival concerts here. And here's the superb OSESP Choir conducted by Naomi Munakata, singing one of Mendes' great avant garde works, Beba Coca-Cola. This clip is from the documentary film A Odisseia Musical de Gilberto Mendes, directed by Carlos de Moura Ribeiro Mendes.

Monday, October 31, 2016

RIP Roland Dyens

It was a sad day last Saturday when I heard of the death at the age of 61 of the great Tunisien/French guitarist and composer Roland Dyens. The main Villa-Lobos/Dyens connection is one of the best known of his compositionsHommage à Villa-Lobos. Here it is, played by Elena Papandreou (tracks 6-9).



There are a few Villa-Lobos pieces included amongst Dyens' large discography. I haven't heard this 1987 Valois CD; unfortunately it seems to be quite rare and expensive. Besides the Villa-Lobos Concerto it includes Dyens' own Hommage recording as well as the Choros no. 1 and the Suite populaire bresilienne. And I've never seen even a cover picture of the 1990 Arc en Ciel CD that includes the 5 Preludes.