Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Villa-Lobos Concerts & CDs Analyzed

I've been tracking performances of Villa-Lobos works at concerts and recitals from around the world since January 1997, in the Upcoming Villa-Lobos Concerts page of the Villa-Lobos Website. I've recently put together a list of the works played at those concerts. As well, I've looked at the 445 CDs containing works by Villa-Lobos that are currently available at Amazon.com. I'll be posting a spreadsheet with this information on the Website - it's here - and I'll keep it updated as I receive new information.

In the meantime, here are some interesting results. The most commonly performed works:

Bachianas Brasileiras #5 (48)
Harmonica Concerto (20)
Unspecified Pieces for Guitar (20)
Assobio a Jato (19)
Bachianas Brasileiras #2 (17)
Bachianas Brasileiras #1 (12)
Guitar Etudes (12)
Bachianas Brasileiras #6 (8)
Bachianas Brasileiras #9 (8)
Bachianas Brasileiras #4 (7)
Guitar Preludes (7)
Saxophone Fantasia (7)

No real surprises here. The Bachianas Brasileiras series looms large in terms of the popular view of Villa-Lobos. BB#5 is one of the standards of the orchestral repertoire, and in its version for soprano and guitar for that of chamber music. Robert Bonfiglio has nearly single-handedly brought a high level of popularity to the Harmonica Concerto. The works for guitar are probably under-reported by a factor of at least three, since many concert notices do not refer to particular works.

Many of these pieces show up at the top of the CD list as well:

Bachianas Brasileiras #5 (98)
Guitar Preludes (70)
Guitar Etudes (57)
Choros 1 (33)
Suite Popular Bresilienne (32)
Bachianas Brasileiras #2 (22)
Guitar Concerto (22)
Bachianas Brasileiras #4 (20)
Choros #5 (16)
Bachianas Brasileiras #1 (14)
Song Recitals (14)
Ciclo Brasiliera (13)
Prole de Bebe #1 (13)

The guitar music is well represented on CD, with every one of the works Villa-Lobos wrote for the instrument (with the exception of the Introduction to Choros, which has unaccountably received only a single recording) in the top ten most popular works. The best works for piano are well represented as well. It's nice to see a work from the Choros series - Choros #5, subtitled Alma Brasileira - getting as many recordings as some of the Bachianas Brasileiras series.

At the other end, there are a few great works that received no performances (as reported on my page - my collection of this information is very hit and miss). These include most of the Symphonies; four of the Piano Concertos; Choros 8, 9 and 12; and the String Trio. Luckily, the list of works with no recordings in the Amazon.com list (nearly all of which are available throughout the world) is really quite short:

Cello Sonata 1
Choros 4
Choros 6
Daughter of the Clouds
Duas Lendas Amerindias
Fantasia de Movementos Mixtos
Sinfonietta #1
Symphony 2
Symphony 3
Symphony 7
Symphony 9

From this short list, we'll soon be able to remove the 3rd and 9th Symphonies, coming soon from cpo. Symphonies 2 and 7 will presumably follow, from the same source, within a year. After that, we badly need recordings of the 6th Choros, the Fantasia de Movementos Mixtos and the Nonetto. As for the other hole in the Choros series, number 4, that's available in the indispensable CD Os Choros de Câmara from the Brazilian company Kuarup. I ordered this CD, and others, from Kuarup's website. Kuarup's CDs are very inexpensive, and the discs arrived amazingly quickly.

I think that, overall, the works of Villa-Lobos are fairly well represented both discographically, and on the concert stages of the world. The complete cycles of string quartets recently performed at the Kuhno Festival in Finland and by the Cuartetto Latinoamericano brought many hidden gems to the surface. Naxos is especially to be commended for their well-played, well-recorded budget CDs. I'm sure, though, that there are many works that I've left out in my list that need performances and recordings. Why not tell me what you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment