Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Villa-Lobos Conference in Paris, pt. 2

Lee Boyd continues her commentary on the Villa-Lobos Conference in Paris:

Saturday April 13

NOEL DEVOS discussed the large amount of very expressive wind music produced by VL, which he pointed out was both idiomatic and often virtuosic, though never impossible to play. Moreover, he felt VL was more generous than most composers in giving orchestral winds juicy parts. [Here is an interesting interview with Noel Devos from Double Reed in PDF format].

MANUEL DE CORREA LAGO gave detailed analyses of the occurrence of the large number of children's folk songs in the Guia Pratica and other works, such as the Cirandas. He suggested some published sources which may have been used by VL, in addition to his own personal experience.

LUCIA SILVA BARRENECHEA gave the most thrilling presentation of the conference, in my opinion. First she read excerpts from her doctoral thesis, which described the background of VL's composing the "Hommage a Chopin," and analyzed his approach to combining Chopin's style with his own. She had to sing excerpts which she would have demonstrated on the piano, but we were in a room without one. For that reason, she also had to play a recording of the complete piece which she made 4 days earlier, rather than perform live. Her performance was simply masterful: total technical control and a breadth of expression rarely available in playing such virtuosic material. I am sure both Chopin and Villa-Lobos would have been delighted had they been present.

[A highlight later that day was] Benjamin Bunch's playing the de los Angeles recording of the Aria of Bachaianas Brasileiras No. 5 at the end of his talk. Which is
still haunting me.

In the afternoon there was a roundtable discussing some publishing background, and the possible ways in which the complete works of Villa-Lobos might be issued. Gandelman observed that electronic media have completely changed how things are done, so their effects might retard or speed up the process depending on goodness knows what. Maestro Duarte said at age 60 he knew he would never live to see the end of it, but proposed that a commission of young and brilliant musicologists (LF Lima immediately sprang to my mind) be appointed to address the work in an orderly and up to date manner.

Turibio Santos, as Director of the Villa-Lobos Museum, described how much music there actually is to cope with, and even more appearing. The Guimaraes family once drove up to the Museum in a Volkswagen, opened the trunk, and unloaded a number of boxes of scores and other materials. They have promised to look for more. He described the previous time in Museum history, during which Dona Arminda organized and promoted its work, as "The Heroic Period." I think he said his regime's main task is consolidation.

Gandelman told an interesting story of how he tried to track down the lost score of Villa-Lobos's 5th Symphony, which involved Ricordi of New York, which was bought by a medium size company and then by a very large publishing conglomerate. He said he thought he might be able to get help from the Mafia to obtain whatever was still in the old files. The panel asked him about that, and as he was talking about the Mafia, I suddenly blurted out, "But Mayor Giuliani killed the Mafia!" Perhaps I shouldn't be allowed out in public any more: I was surprised at myself and rather embarrassed. But life went on. The day came to a climax when someone said we should all give Professor Tarasti a standing ovation for organizing this historic First, but not last, International Villa-Lobos Conference. This was a very nice moment I'll never forget.

Something else I'll never forget is how I realized, in the moment of shocked silence after my weird comment, that everybody in the room knew who Mayor Giuliani was, and why that was so.

The best pleasure of the conference was just being with people who wanted to talk about their experiences with Villa-Lobos. Mostly, in my life, when I want to talk about this topic, I have been used to seeing my companion's eyes slowly go out of focus as attention drifts away. My husband attended the concert on Thursday night and will give me a paragraph on that soon.


Thanks for that report, Lee. We'll all look forward to Jim's report on the concert. This is the first Mafia connection I've heard of to classical music - all that comes to mind is the opera in Godfather III). With Rudy Giuliani no longer in public life, we should perhaps be looking to Tony Soprano for help.

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