Monday, June 10, 2019

Rudepoema for Orchestra

Here's a marvellous work: the orchestral arrangement Richard Rinjvos made in 2010/2011 of Villa-Lobos's great piano work from 1921/26, Rudepoema, which was dedicated to Arthur Rubinstein. The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by James Gaffigan, in a 2011 concert from the Concertgebouw.

Villa-Lobos made his own orchestral arrangement of the piece in 1932. It was published by Max Eschig, and performed a few times in the 1940s, including at this 1945 Boston Symphony Concert at Harvard.

In his book on Villa-Lobos, Prof. Eero Tarasti comments:
When one compares the piano version of Rudepoema to the orchestral arrangement made by the composer himself, one can only be amazed at how 'orchestral' the piano work already is.
Thanks again to Rodrigo Roderico for posting this. I remember listening to this on Radio Netherlands Worldwide, back in 2011; it's nice to have it back.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Amazonas from Chicago

An exceptional performance of Amazonas from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Juanjo Mena, from 2013. Thanks to Rodrigo Roderico for posting this.

The ballet Amazonas was written in Rio in 1917, (possibly a re-working of the earlier - now lost - score Myremis) but didn't receive its premiere until 1929 in Paris.  It's a work of real power and focus, one of the young composer's greatest early works. According to Eeero Tarasti, it's " almost avant-gardist work in relation to its time, a work comparable to Varèse's Ameriques."

Is this too good to be true, though? There's no mention in the Museu Villa-Lobos's Villa-Lobos: Sua Obra, 2009, of a manuscript score, so we only have the score published in 1929 by Max Eschig. I'm thinking at least some of this might have been written in 1929, around the peak of Villa-Lobos's modernist period. Or some super-charging, at the very least!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Bachianas Brasileiras no. 4 from São Paulo

A recent (2019) performance of the orchestral version of Villa-Lobos's Bachianas Brasileiras no. 4 from the São Paulo Symphony (OSESP), conducted by Wagner Polistchuk.

Thanks once again to Rodrigo Roderico for posting this.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Villa-Lobos and the City of Brotherly Love

This photograph from the De Agostini collection shows Heitor Villa-Lobos with the Philadelphia Orchestra's Eugene Ormandy; it's dated 1945. This is a standard trope for Villa-Lobos photos: the composer demonstrating Brazilian percussion instruments. I'm assuming that this was taken in Rio de Janeiro, from the instruments and the big map of Brazil on the wall behind the two musicians. They had recently been hanging out together in the States; Ormandy was one of the celebrities - along with Nelson Rockefeller, Leopold Stokowski, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, Arturo Toscanini and Yehudi Menuhin - at a Farewell Luncheon for Villa-Lobos in February, 1945.

The main later connection between Villa-Lobos and Ormandy came in 1952, when the Philadelphia Orchestra commissioned Villa's 9th Symphony. There's apparently a copy of the original score in the Eugene Ormandy Collection at the University of Pennsylvania, but I don't believe this work has ever been played in the City of Brotherly Love. The première of the Symphony had to wait until 1966, when Ormandy conducted the work in Caracas during a Latin American tour of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Philadelphia can also take credit for the 8th Symphony, from 1950; Villa-Lobos himself conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra in the première, though, oddly, this was in New York.

Ormandy made no commercial recordings of Villa-Lobos; however there is a Test Pressing disc in the Eugene Ormandy Collection of Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra in a suite from Descobrimento do Brasil, a recording from a October 10, 1941 concert. I'd love to hear that! The city of Philadelphia had special meaning for Villa-Lobos because of the connection with Leopold Stokowski, who conducted a number of Villa-Lobos American premières going back to the 1920s.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Ciclo Brasileiro from Brasília

It's so nice to hear Sonia Rubinsky play Villa-Lobos. Thanks to Rodrigo Roderico for posting this recent video of the Ciclo Brasileiro, from a 2018 concert at the Banquet Hall of Itamaraty Palace

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Choros no. 9 from Caracas

File this under "Great Villa-Lobos Works I've Never Heard Before". This is Choros no. 9, from 1942. It's played by the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra under Roberto Tibiriçá, in Simón Bolívar Hall, Caracas, 2010. I've heard it before, but of course never live! Another great video from Rodrigo Roderico!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Overture to Izaht

From a July 13, 2018 concert celebrating the Academia Brasileira de Música's 73rd anniversary, here is a rarity: the Overture to Villa-Lobos's 1912 opera Izaht. The Orquestra Sinfônica Nacional da UFF is conducted by Tobias Volkmann.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Bachianas Brasileiras no. 3 in Budapest

Bachianas Brasileiras no. 3 is one of Villa-Lobos's greatest concertante works, but it's not programmed as often as it should be. Here's a fine version from Budapest, with Jean Louis Steuerman and the Hungarian National Philharmonic under Zóltan Kocsis. This was recorded at Béla Bartok National Concert Hall in 2015. Thanks to Rodrigo Roderico for this.

Friday, January 4, 2019


Heitor Villa-Lobos wrote a ballet score Rudá in 1951, based on his own story about the various pre-Columbian Amerindian civilizations: Aztec, Inca, Mayan and others. The work was premiered at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées in 1954, with only an orchestral performance, I believe. Here are some costume designs by Iberê Camargo for a 1959 production that never came off.  Above is his design for the role of Conhori, while his backdrop design is below.

Here is a performance of Rudá by Orquestra do Teatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro under the direction of Mário Tavares.

A Brazilian composer you must know

The Ovalle Project: works for piano by Jayme Ovalle

The Brazilian composer Jayme Ovalle is a close contemporary of Heitor Villa-Lobos; he was born seven years after, and died four years before his much better-known compatriot. Like Villa-Lobos, Ovalle wrote a great deal of music for the piano throughout his career, and this splendid two-CD set by Andree-Ann Deschenes (whose Villa-Lobos I praised in 2017) shows Ovalle deserves a place amongst the great Brazilian composers for the piano, a group that also includes Camargo Guarnieri, Chiquinha Gonzaga and Ernesto Nazareth. But Ovalle is more like Chopin than the musical polymath Villa-Lobos; nearly everything he wrote was either a song or a piano piece.

But Ovalle's trajectory in music is similar to Villa-Lobos's in a number of other ways. Both melded erudite and popular styles, and combined Brazilian traditions of salon music with up-to-date European modernism, especially influenced by Debussy, Ravel and Satie. Like Villa-Lobos, Ovalle spent a good deal of his time outside of Brazil, in Europe and New York, and shared a cosmopolitan outlook that's often reflected in his music. Deschenes has chosen works that show the many facets of Ovalle's music, from Nazareth-style pieces in maxixe and choro styles, to characteristic, folk-like tunes reminiscent of Villa's Guia prático, and finally to more complex works like the splendid Third Lengenda. This collection has immediate appeal, with its lovely melodies and captivating rhythms, but it rewards close listening as well. Playing with intense virtuosity and cool control, Deschenes has done Ovalle and Brazilian music a great service with this project. Very highly recommended!

This review also appears at Music for Several Instruments.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Villa-Lobos at the piano

Villa-Lobos plays the Gaveau piano in the Paris apartment of Anna Stella Schic, his friend and eventual biographer. She also recorded the first more-or-less complete works for piano solo, available on 7 CDs. This photo (from the 1940s) is from the Museu Villa-Lobos; I found it at the Instituo Piano Brasileiro website.

In her 1987 book Souvenirs de l'indien blanc, Anna Stella Schic tells the story of the most important lost scores of Villa-Lobos: the Guitar Prelude #6, A Prole do Bebe suite #3, and the Choros #13 and 14 are possibly amongst the scores Villa-Lobos left for safe-keeping (!) with his Parisian concierge upon his return to Brazil in 1930.  The Prole do Bebe suite is a great loss for pianists!