Thursday, March 26, 2020

Villa-Lobos in the National Emergency Library


One of the best of the scholarly works that were published in the wake of Villa-Lobos's Centennial in 1987 was Gerard Behague's Heitor Villa-Lobos: The Search for Brazil's Musical Soul, which was published in 1994 by the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. You can borrow this book for free online, from the Open Library project of the Internet Archive. And now, thanks to their National Emergency Library project, the limit on the number of people who can borrow each book has been removed until June 30, 2020. This very fine publication is only one of an amazing 14 million titles in the project! Go to www.archive.org/NEL to learn more.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Villa-Lobos is, I think, tops

Photo: Instituto Moreira Salles, which holds the Eric Verissimo archives
Villa-Lobos & Erico Verissimo in California, 1944. The Brazilian novelist Verissimo acted as translator for Villa-Lobos during this trip, which the composer made to present his music in Los Angeles, & to accept an honorary degree from Occidental College. Belying their apparent friendship here, the two clashed. This report details some of the issues involved:


Director Zelito Viana begins his 2000 biopic Villa-Lobos: Uma Vida da Paixão, with a very funny series of scenes between Verissimo & Villa-Lobos. Watch here, beginning around 2:30 (then watch this very fine film all the way through!)


Friday, March 6, 2020

Trivia

OK, this might be an indication that my Villa-Lobos obsession has crossed some sort of line. This is a Maguey for cigar belonging to Heitor Villa-Lobos, from the collection of the Municipal Theatre of Rio de Janeiro. Maguey is Agave americana, the century plant. It's a source of fibre, so perhaps this is what Villa's cigar holder is made of. It's pretty rare to see a picture of Villa-Lobos without his faithful cigar.

Photo: João Lima

You can see Villa-Lobos is using a cigar holder in this marvellous portrait by Sabine Weiss.



From the same collection: a gold-plated cufflink which belonged to Francisco Mignone.

Photo: João Lima

You can now go about your regular business...

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Great Villa-Lobos Portraits by Arnold Newman

On September 15, 1951 Heitor Villa-Lobos spent the day with photographer Arnold Newman at the New Weston Hotel in New York. Villa-Lobos is one of the most photogenic of composers, but these shots are among the most impressive ever taken of him.


My favourite Newman portrait is this one of the composer at rest. Villa is in charge here, and Newman gives him his own space.



Then the great portrait photographer takes over, and does some serious psychological searching with this close-up.


It's a tribute to Villa's worldwide fame that he attracted so many fine portrait photographers. Among my favourites: Erich Auerbach; Genevieve Naylor; Roger Viollet; Constantin Joffe & Luis Lemus from Vogue; and Thomas D. Mcavoy, J. Siegelman & most especially W. Eugene Smith from Life Magazine.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Gênesis - & Erosão - from Paris

Another audio recording of rare Villa-Lobos from the Internet Archive: this time it's his Symphonic Poem Gênesis, written in Paris in 1954. Claudio Santoro conducts the Orchestre National de L'Ile de France. This is from a Festival of Paris concert in August 1987.




As it happens, you can hear more Villa-Lobos from the same year, the same orchestra, and the same conductor. Santoro conducted another Villa-Lobos rarity in Paris, Erosão, on March 3, 1987. Unfortunately, Santoro died only two years later, on March 27, 1989. This is a very fine work, by the way; it was commissioned by the Louisville Orchestra in 1950.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Ninth Symphony from The Philadelphia Orchestra

This is very exciting: the Internet Archive has a recording of the 1951 premiere performance of the Ninth Symphony of Heitor Villa-Lobos performed by The Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Eugene Ormandy. This is the only recording of this interesting and surprising work that I know of, other than those from the complete symphony series from Stuttgart & São Paulo. Here is what Fábio Zanon said about it, in his liner notes to the recent Naxos recording from São Paulo.
In his Ninth – just like Beethoven in his Eighth – Villa-Lobos makes use of disguise. We are presented here with agitated propulsion, the thick layer of orchestral activity that flows in a seemingly uncontrolled manner, but this is his shortest symphony, more economic in terms of ideas and, although the orchestration sounds chimerical in comparison with the likes of Haydn, pre-Beethoven symphonies are his formal inspiration.


Monday, February 17, 2020

Ellen Ballon and the First Piano Concerto

This is very cool: a letter from the Canadian pianist Ellen Ballon to Heitor Villa-Lobos, setting out the arrangements for her commission for his 1st Piano Concerto, in 1945. This is from the new Museu Villa-Lobos website.




Ballon played the world premiere of the work in 1947 with the Dallas Symphony under Antal Dorati, while the Canadian premiere took place at Plateau Hall in Montréal in 1953, with the OSM under Désiré Defauw. She did indeed record the work for the first time, for London in 1949, with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under Ernest Ansermet.



Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Villa-Lobos & Mindinha with Guiomar Novaes in New York

Another great photo from the new Museu Villa-Lobos website. Villa-Lobos with Arminda & the great pianist Guiomar Novaes, at the Hotel Alrae in New York, 1958. The Alrae, on East 64th Street, reopened in 1984 after a complete renovation as the Hôtel Plaza Athénée.

Creative Commons Atribuição-Sem Derivações 3.0 Não Adaptada - Museu Villa-Lobos

The print behind Villa is Charles de Montfort's Place Gaillon Hotel de Lyon.

Guiomar Novaes plays the first movement of Bachianas Brasileiras no. 4.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Villa-Lobos Symposium in Paris

The Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et danse de Paris is organizing a Villa-Lobos Symposium to be held on Friday, January 10, 2020. Oh, to be in Paris!


Here is the program for the day:

9 H 30
MOT D’ACCUEIL
Fabre Guin et Etienne Kippelen

9 H 45
LES INFLUENCES FRANÇAISES DANS LA MUSIQUE DE VILLA-LOBOS – UN REGARD INTERPRÉTATIF
Simone Menezes

Le rôle de l'interprète dans la musique de Villa-Lobos est fondamental. Profondément prolifique, Heitor VillaLobos ne retouchait que très rarement son œuvre en laissant se rôle à l'interprète. Interpréter Villa-Lobos signifie également se plonger dans l'œuvre de VillaLobos. Pour ce faire, il est nécessaire de comprendre la musique brésilienne et l'influence française exercée dans son œuvre. Nous mettrons en évidences trois éléments de l'influence française dans la musique de Villa-Lobos : le prise en compte du temps, la préférence pour les formes libres et l'importance des éléments extra-musicaux.

10 H 15
UN PAYSAGE SONORE BRÉSILIEN DE VILLA-LOBOS
Cécile Delétré et élèves de la classe d’ethnomusicologie

Par le voyage, mais plus probablement encore par l’enregistrement, Heitor Villa-Lobos a fait connaissance des musiques populaires et traditionnelles de son pays. Après avoir explicité brièvement ces deux notions, le populaire et le traditionnel, la classe d’ethnomusicologie donnera à entendre, explications à la clé, quelques extraits de musique amérindienne, afro-américaine et brésilienne
représentatifs de la musique du Brésil de Villa-Lobos.

10 H 45 PAUSE

11 H
INTERCULTURALITÉS DANS LA COOPÉRATION FRANCO-BRÉSILIENNE : LE CAS DU CHORO, MUSIQUE MÉTISSE ET « ÂME DU PEUPLE BRÉSILIEN » SELON VILLA-LOBOS
Étienne Clément

Dans le contexte pluriséculaire des relations historiques et musicales franco-brésiliennes, nous aborderons les interculturalités dont s’est servi le compositeur Villa-Lobos pour faire de son œuvre une synthèse de la musique classique européenne et de la musique populaire brésilienne, et notamment du genre choro. À partir de la naissance du choro (années 1880) et de celle de
Villa-Lobos (1887), nous proposons une approche historique et linguistique des interculturalités France-Brésil afin de s’interroger sur la place qu’a eu le choro dans la formation de Villa-Lobos.

11 H 30
AUTOUR DE MAGDALENA ET YERMA, DEUX OUVRAGES LYRIQUES DE VILLA-LOBOS
Rémi Jacobs

Magdalena et Yerma illustrent les deux versants de la création de Villa-Lobos Obéissant à la mode des « musicals » américains, Magdalena offre le spectacle bariolé d’un exotisme amérindien mêlé de parisianisme Belle époque. Villa-Lobos y a réutilisé des thèmes favoris d’œuvres antérieures.
Inspiré par la pièce écrite de Garcia Lorca (1934), Yerma se résume à un huis-clos mettant en jeu, dans un milieu campagnard, une femme en mal d’enfant en butte aux sarcasmes de ses voisines et à l’indifférence de son mari. Drame intime écrit en espagnol par un Villa-Lobos qui a adopté une diction lyrique linéaire soutenue par une orchestration minimaliste.

12 H
LE NONETTO (1923) DE VILLA-LOBOS : UNE MUSIQUE DE « SAUVAGE » ?
Étienne Kippelen

En écrivant son nonette quelques mois avant d’embarquer pour la France, Villa-Lobos dépeint un tableau volontairement chamarré du Brésil. De la formation, totalement insolite (flûte, hautbois, clarinette, saxophone alto et baryton, basson, harpe, piano, célesta, dixhuit instruments de percussion et chœur mixte), où le chœur mixte, notablement sous-employé, sert de faire-valoir, jusqu’à l’éclatement extrême du discours, frisant la maladresse : tout semble indiquer qu’il s’agit d’une musique de « sauvage », selon les critères entendus comme tels en Europe et notamment dans la
France de l’entre-deux-guerres, friand d’exotisme et de dépaysement radical. Influencé par le rythme stravinskien, les incantations varésiennes et le bruitisme primal d’un George Antheil, ce nonette obtient un franc succès à Paris lors de sa création et servit de réservoir d’idées lors de la
composition de plusieurs Chôros. Nous nous proposons d’étudier cette partition aujourd’hui tombée dans l’oubli, à l’aune d’une esthétique du « sauvage », à laquelle VillaLobos lui-même donner un certain crédit, notamment lors de son deuxième voyage à Paris en 1927.

12 H 30
QUESTIONS ET ÉCHANGES AVEC LE PUBLIC

The day ends with a concert of L'Orchestre Du Conservatoire, conducted by Simone Menezes: Vendredi 10 janvier à 19 h, Conservatoire de Paris, Salle Rémy-Pflimlin
Entrée libre sur réservation


Sunday, January 5, 2020

At the Bedford Hotel


Villa-Lobos's favourite place in Europe was always Paris, and in the 1950s he spent a fair bit of time at the Hotel Bedford, 17 rue de l’Arcade, in the 8th District, near the Champs-Élysées. I made my own pilgrimage there in 2004 when we visited Paris. The picture above, from the new Museu Villa-Lobos website, is from the Restaurante Nino in the Hotel. Villa & Mindinha are enjoying their meal with friends, including the pianist Marguerite Long (sitting on Villa's left) and the composer Florent Schmitt (the white-haired, bearded gentleman on Mindinha's right.

Villa was pleased and flattered when he was offered the same suite used by the Emperor of Brazil, Pedro II, during his exile after 1889. He even used the Emperor's writing desk. In 1971 the Brazilian ambassador arranged for this plaque. I remember it from my visit, but I don't see it on Google Street View.

photo: Ed Tervooren