Friday, October 31, 2008

Aldo Parisot interview

I came across this 2001 interview with Aldo Parisot, the great Brazilian cellist, on the International Cello Society website.

Parisot, of course, commissioned the second Villa-Lobos cello concerto in 1954:

"My manager suggested that I ask Villa-Lobos to write a concerto for me, which I would play in my debut with the New York Philharmonic. I wrote a letter to Villa-Lobos and he agreed to do it. In 1954 he came to New York and requested that I spend a week with him so that he could get an idea of how I played. So I'd go to his hotel and he'd ask me to play anything -- scales, etudes, sonatas,concertos, etc. Then he'd write a phrase and ask me to play it. If he didn't like how I played it, he would take the cello and demonstrate what he wanted. He was a cellist, after all, and he earned a living playing in a trio in a restaurant in Brazil. He was also a wonderful guitarist and could improvise on it for hours. Interestingly, while we worked together, he sat on the table with two scores, one was the cello concerto and one was a symphony, which he was working on at the same time.

"Almost always sitting silently in the background each morning was guitarist André Segovia, who was a close friend of Villa-Lobos. Villa-Lobos and Segovia would tell jokes to each other in Portuguese, usually dirty. I often thought that the only reason Segovia came was for the lunches. Villa-Lobos' wife, Arminda, would make feijoada for us, a very popular Brazilian dish, which he would devour."

October 31, 2008: The original picture I posted (from a Stock Image library) is apparently not really Feijoada. See the comments below (and thanks to the commentor!)

So, here's the new picture, from Wikipedia:

Feijoada is an important Brazilian dish [pictured above]. I read once about Villa-Lobos writing a "Fugue Without End" on the theme of Feijoada, but I can't track down the reference. I can see the appeal for Villa-Lobos: he loved life, which includes good food and good wine, along with snooker, flying kites, playing with kids and listening to all kinds of popular and erudite music. People often comment on how the mix of ingredients in Feijoada is like the mix of diverse peoples making up Brazil. That's something Villa-Lobos would probably have agreed with as well.

Update: Found it! This is from John & Matt Lewis Thorne's "Serious Pig: An American Cook in Search of His Roots," p. 313

"Brasileiros traditionally eat the meal for Sunday lunch, leaving the rest of the afternoon free to sleep it off. Heitor Villa-Lobos composed a four-part fugue in honor of feijoada, each part representing one basic element of the dish. One is tempted to suspect that the piece, entitled "Fugue without End," was never finished because somnolence overcame the composer before he could gather together the completing measures."

Here's Elsie Houston's recipe for Feijoada, from Robert's Basement.

Here's another October 31, 2008 update: by an amazing coincidence, just when I was updating this post, I was listening to Sonia Rubinsky's new CD (vol. 7) from her Complete Villa-Lobos Piano Music series on Naxos, and came across the little piece entitled Feijoada sem perigo. Here is an explanation of this piece, from the liner notes by James Melo:

Finally, the extremely condensed gem Feijoada Sem Perigo seems to capture Villa-Lobos in the very moment of creation. In its brevity it manages to express the very essence of a musical thought, primeval and unaltered by further elaboration. The piece was dedicated to Dora Vasconcellos, the Brazilian consul in New York at the time, and the author of a few poems that Villa-Lobos set to music. Villa-Lobos dedicated the piece to Dora Vasconcellos to thank her for an invitation to partake of the quintessential Brazilian dish at her home in New York.
FINALLY, November 13, 2008: So, here's the proper Brazilian feijoada, with ingredients from the Wikipedia article:


  1. Please, post another photo -- this is not a picture of a feijoada -- I can't even tell what it is. The base of a feijoada is black beans- (feijão), no corn goes in it.

  2. My mistake! It came from a Stock Images library. I'll replace it with another right away!

    - Dean

  3. According to Wikipedia, this second photo shows a Portuguese feijoada, which is very different from what we eat in Brazil.

  4. So, I screwed up again! I'll post a good Brazilian Feijoada picture right away!

    Everyone getting hungry?