Thursday, December 30, 2010

Through the Night

One of my favourite radio programmes is BBC Radio3's Through the Night, presented by John Shea.  It's six hours of interesting music, often including recent concert recordings from around the world.  The show begins at 1:00 a.m. London time, a convenient 6:00 p.m. here in Red Deer.


For the next seven days you can listen to a March 2010 concert of Brazilian music by the Orchestra della Svizzera Italia [pictured above], conducted by Emmanuel Siffert.  Alvaro Pierri is the soloist in the Villa-Lobos Guitar Concerto, and the concert also includes the amazing Saudades do Brasil by Darius Milhaud.  Listen until January 6, 2011.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Harp Concerto from RAI

Villa-Lobos's Harp Concerto, written in 1953 for Nicanor Zabaleta, should be much better known than it is.  Letizia Belmondo is the harpist in this May 2010 RAI concert from Torino. The first movement begins in the 2nd minute of this clip, and the other movements are also available: 2, 3, 4.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Música Erudita Brasileira

The journal Textos do Brasil recently published an issue featuring classical music: #12 is entitled "Música Erudita Brasileira," which is available in PDF format.   There are more than a few articles of interest to the Villa-Lobos fan who can make out at least some Portuguese.   The article "Villa-Lobos Moderno e Nacional" by Jorge Coli discusses the transition in Villa's music from the modernism of the 1920s to the nationalism of the 30s.

Thanks to the Brazilian Concert Music blog for the link to this journal.  The site is currently featuring the CD that came with this issue, which contains music by a wide variety of Brazilian composers.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The end of an era in the Villa-verse

The December 2010 issue of Revista da União Brasileira de Compositores brings the news that Turíbio dos Santos, Director of the Museu Villa-Lobos, has stepped down from his post after 24 years.

  

The "keeper of the scores" at the Museu since 1986, Turibio will continue in his important role as President of the Academia Brasileira de Música (founded by Villa in 1945), and will remain active with the Friends of the Museum.  Ending his term at 24 years was, according to the great guitarist and scholar, a gesture of respect to Villa-Lobos's widow Arminda, who was Director of the Museum for 25 years, until her death in 1985.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Turíbio dos Santos for his amazing efforts on behalf of the great Brazilian composer.  It's no coincidence that there's been a huge increase in Villa's reputation in the past 24 years.

There are lots of other interesting things included in this interview, which I found at the website of the Escola de Música UFRJ.  The quite readable English translation from Google is here.

Villa: Fantaisie onirique


Villa: Fantaisie onirique is a theatre/dance project of Théâtre du Lierre, based on the music of Villa-Lobos.  The show runs from December 15-19.  You can watch a video of the production here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sergio and Odair Assad Concert from NPR


Sergio and Odair Assad play Albeniz, Piazzolla, and Villa-Lobos's A Lenda do Caboclo. This NPR concert is from August 2010; you can hear the second half (Gnattali, Jobim, Gismonti, and Sergio Assad) at NPR.org.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fernando Salis Projection on Christ the Redeemer



Film-maker and communications professor Fernando Salis created this amazing projection onto the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer high above the city of Rio de Janeiro, all to the music of Villa-Lobos (the fourth movement of Bachianas Brasileiras #7 "Fuga: Conversa"). This October 2010 project, part of a campaign against child abuse, shows the power of Villa-Lobos to move and to represent the Brazilian people.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A New Villa-Lobos Score


Big news from Rio de Janeiro: a new Villa-Lobos score which was considered lost has been performed as part of the 48th Annual Festival Villa-Lobos, organized by the Museu Villa-Lobos.

Cânticos Sertanejos, a work from 1907, is for flute, clarinet, and strings.  The score is held by the Museu, and is © 2010 by the Academia Brasileira de Musica. The resurrection of this work is due largely to the efforts of Maestro Roberto Duarte, who edited and revised the work and conducted its first performance at the Festival last month.  The musicians at that performance were: Marcelo Bomfim (flute), Cristiano Alves (clarinet), Quarteto Rio de Janeiro (Felipe Prazeres, violin I; Gustavo Meneses, violin II; Ivan Zandonaide, viola; Marcus Ribeiro, cello), Adonhiran Reis, Flávio Santos, Thiago Lopes, Carlos Mendes and Flávia de Castro (violins), Ana Luiza Lopes (viola), Fabio Coelho (cello) and Ricardo Cândido (bass).  What a thrill it must have been to be involved in this historic event!

Thanks to the Museu's Marcelo Rodolfo for sending me this information so promptly.  I feel privileged to present this exciting news to so many Villa-Lobos fans around the world.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Choros #09 in Caracas

Choros #09 is one of Villa's great orchestral works, and one of the most obscure. This performance is from the 4th Annual Festival Villa-Lobos in Caracas, Venezuela. The Sinfónica de la Juventud Venezolana "Simon Bolívar" is conducted by Roberto Tibiriça.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

IV Festival Villa-Lobos in Caracas

The Fourth Annual Festival Villa-Lobos in Caracas began last week, and continues with a concert on December 2nd, featuring two rarely-performed works: the Fourth Symphony, and the Secular Cantata Mandu Çarará.  In the first concert of the Festival, on November 21, the equally rare Choros #09 and Momoprecoce were programmed.  Isaac Karabtchevsky conducts the highly-regarded Sinfonica de la Juventud Venezolana "Simon Bolivar."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Feldkirch Festival 2011



The theme of the 2011 Feldkirch Festival, to be held in the Austrian town from May 25 to June 5, is the music of Brazil and Cuba, and a number of important Villa-Lobos pieces will be featured.  Two great Brazilian instrumentalists headline the show: pianist Cristina Ortiz and cellist Antonio Meneses.  It's especially nice to see the 4th Piano Concerto, which is rarely on concert programs, and also the cello & piano version of Bachianas Brasileiras #2.

Thanks to a tweet from MOMOtheShiba for the news on this.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Almeida Prado, 1943-2010

November 21st was a sad day for Brazilian music; Almeida Prado died in Sao Paulo, at the age of 67.   A student of Messiaen, Boulanger, Foss, and Ligeti, Almeida Prado loomed large in the vibrant classical music scene of 21st century Brazil.

Here is a fitting tribute: cellist Antonio Meneses plays Preambulum.

Concerto Grosso in Newton Center MA


On December 5th, the Charles River Wind Ensemble will be playing the amazing but rarely performed Concerto Grosso for Woodwind Quartet and Wind Orchestra.  Actually, this is the first time I've come across a performance in more than 15 years of maintaining the Villa-Lobos Concerts database.

Bruce Gelin from the Ensemble writes about this piece:
This work is a wonderful example of his mature style, and though it has no specific "nationalistic" or Brazilian references, it's immediately recognizable as pure Villa-Lobos. The virtuoso solo parts for clarinet, oboe, flute, and bassoon are complemented by a large wind organization, deployed with restraint and selectivity to produce subtle tone colors. Our rehearsals of this piece have had to deal with the typically poorly edited score, requiring a lot of back-and-forth to try to get a fully coherent rendition. But it's going to be a real treat, and a good playing of a rarely heard composition.
Good luck with this, Bruce, and with the rest of your programme, which includes so many interesting works!

By the way, there are two very good performances of the Concerto Grosso available on CD, from Naxos and Albany, and both are available at the Naxos Music Library.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Villa-Lobos's Funeral

Today is the 51st anniversary of the death of Villa-Lobos. Here is a fascinating video (without sound) of his funeral:

This is from "Velório do Maestro Villa-Lobos" on the UOL Website.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Emperor Jones


Villa-Lobos wrote his ballet score based on Eugene O'Neill's play The Emperor Jones for José Limón’s dance company in 1956.  The Fundación de Danza José Limón is in the process of evaluating entrants to a design competition for a new production to be directed by Clay Taliaferro.  The new version of The Emperor Jones will be presented in Culiacán, México in April/May 2011, and in New York in June.  This looks like it will be one of the major Villa-Lobos events of 2011.

Monday, November 8, 2010

OSESP European Tour 2010

The Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo (OSESP) is currently on tour in Europe, and are featuring Choros #06 in most of their concerts.  This is great exposure for one of Villa-Lobos's least known great orchestral works; here is a complete list of concerts with Choros #06.

You can follow the tour on Tumblr, and via Twitter.  Here's a snippet of Choros #06 from the Innsbruck concert that took place earlier today:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

48º Festival Villa-Lobos


The 48th annual Festival Villa-Lobos, organized by the Museu Villa-Lobos in Rio de Janeiro, takes places next month, from the 12th to the 28th of November.  The Festival's new website includes programming information.  It's an impressive line-up; highlights include:
  • the jazz group Rabo de Lagartixa
  • Quarteto Radamés Gnattali
  • the choros group Os Matutos
  • the great Quinteto Villa-Lobos
  • a showing of Zelito Viana's film Villa-Lobos, uma vida de Paixão
  • Joel Nascimento
  • Wagner Tiso and the group Uakti
  • and many, many others
Follow the Festival's Twitter feed, @fvlobos

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    A new resource for Classical Music from Latin America

    I was pleased to come across the Concierto.org website from the NPR station WDAV.  Read this inaugural post from Ken Keuffel on the Concierto blog - it lays out the rationale for the site, which is in its pilot phase.  I look forward to the development of what looks like a valuable new web resource.

    By the way, I'm a big fan of Alondra de la Parra and her recent Sony CD Mi Alma Mexicana/My Mexican Soul - I strongly recommend it!

    Sunday, October 17, 2010

    Trio for Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon on the Road

    An interesting programme of music for Oboe, Clarinet, & Bassoon, including Villa-Lobos's excellent work from 1921, on the road in Brazil during the last week in October.  Thanks, once more, to Carlos Eduardo Amaral for this information.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010

    New Reviews

    Here are a few of my reviews of CDs distributed by Naxos Records.  Adding more, but I'm still behind!

    Alicia de Larrocha playing Manuel de Falla, on a new disc from Newton:



    A new Naxos compilation of Ginastera ballets, conducted by Gisele Ben-Dor:


    The latest Granados piano disc in Douglas Riva's series on Naxos:


    Ignacio Cervantes' Danzas Cubanas played by Davide Cabassi:


    Friday, September 24, 2010

    Marcelo Bratke at the Penitenciária Feminina do Butantã

    I came across another interesting project by the amazing pianist Marcelo Bratke. He recently performed a concert (in his Cinemusica Villa-Lobos and Brazil series) before an audience of 270 at a women's prison in Sao Paulo. This story at Estadao.com.br is full of moving bits.  Raquel, serving 4-1/2 years for armed robbery says "É uma música diferente, faz bem para a alma." (It's a different song, it's good for the soul).  Bratke was a bit surprised by such a positive response:

    "Elas chegaram a cantarolar quando toquei as Cirandinhas do Villa-Lobos, não esperava que isso pudesse acontecer....Senti aqui uma energia diferente. Elas me ajudaram a tocar." (They began to sing when I played the Cirandinha of Villa-Lobos; I did'nt expect this to happen.... I felt a different energy here. They helped me play.)

    Here is a video with some highlights from that concert.  The piece being played is Caixinha de Musica Quebrada, from Bratke's latest Villa-Lobos CD.






    Bratke will bring his Cinemusica Villa-Lobos and Brazil project to London, when he performs Brazilian music in front of a film by Mariannita Luzzati, at Southbank Centre on December 2nd.

    Friday, September 17, 2010

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    Sonia Rubinsky Contest Ends

    Congratulations to Carl Woideck of Eugene OR, the final winner of a CD from Sonia Rubinsky's complete set of Villa-Lobos's Piano Music on Naxos.  Thanks, everyone, for participating!


    This 8-CD set is available at a bargain price [Amazon.com - HBDirect]; it's an indispensable part of any good Villa-Lobos collection.

    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    Sonia Rubinsky Contest, v.7 winner & v.8 review

    The contest is now over; thanks, everyone, for participating!

    Congratulations to Joe Michels of Troy NY, the penultimate winner of a CD from Sonia Rubinsky's complete set of Villa-Lobos's Piano Music on Naxos. We're now down to the last disc in this set; your last chance to win! It's easy to enter: send an email to villa-lobos@rdpl.org and tell me your favourite piano piece by Villa-Lobos. If you've already entered, your name stays in the pool.

    The winner of Volume 8 will be drawn on Friday, August 6. 

    The final disc in the series was recorded, once again, in L'Eglise Saint-Michel in Paris, this time in April 2007.  The focus of this disc is the world of children and Brazilian folklore.  The final two volumes (#10 and 11) of the piano albums of the Guia Pratico require a high level of virtuosity from the pianist.  As James Melo points out in his liner notes, the last album is dedicated to the great Polish pianist Mieczyslaw Horzowski.  It's too bad, by the way, that Hozowski hasn't left any significant Villa-Lobos recordings behind; the only one I know of is on a BBC Classics CD with 2 short pieces.

    The 11th Album of Guia Pratico, by the way, is much later than the first ten.  It was published in 1949, nearly 20 years after the bulk of the collection came out, during Villa's musical education phase.  Rubinsky handles everything Villa-Lobos throws her way, and that's not inconsiderable.  Rubinsky also handles the simpler, more delicate early Suites Infantils very well.  I find some of these early pieces quite impressive; they speak to the innocence and purity of childhood.

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    A New Complete Villa-Lobos Piano Series



    It's great to finally hear the first disc in Marcelo Bratke's Complete Solo Piano Works of Villa-Lobos series on Quartz.  It includes the Cirandas, Cirandinhas, and Caixinha de Musica Quebrada.  You can order the CD or download the disc on the Quartz site (the Download is only £5.99), and read the excellent liner notes by Bratke and journalist Celso Masson. 

    Monday, August 2, 2010

    Brasil: Folclore de Norte a Sul


    An interesting concert by the Camerata Heitor Villa-Lobos de Batatais, on Aug. 29 in Batatais, from their blog.  That looks like a Saci in the lower-left corner.  This prankster character from Brazilian folklore shows up in Villa's String Quartet #01.

    Brazilian Classics at Carnegie Hall


    Brazilian Classics: from Villa-Lobos to Tom Jobim.  A great lineup for this November 24, 2010 concert at Carnegie Hall.

    Sunday, August 1, 2010

    Villa-Lobos by Fraga

    Caricaturists love Villa-Lobos; here's a great one by the Brazilian artist Fraga, from his excellent blog, Fraga Caricaturas.

    Friday, July 23, 2010

    More home movies

    It's nice to see these pictures of domestic life. One of the great love matches in classical music: Villa and Mindinha.

    And I always love seeing Tom Jobim talk about his idol. I wish I knew what he was saying, but maybe the Villa-Lobos-inspired cigar says it all!

    Tuesday, July 20, 2010

    Sonia Rubinsky Contest, v.6 winner & v.7 review

    The contest is now over; thanks, everyone, for participating!

     Congratulations to Joana Gama of Portugal, the sixth winner of a CD from Sonia Rubinsky's complete set of Villa-Lobos's Piano Music on Naxos. Only two more discs will be awarded, and the set will be complete. It's easy to enter: send an email to villa-lobos@rdpl.org and tell me your favourite piano piece by Villa-Lobos. If you've already entered, your name stays in the pool.

    The winner of Volume 7 will be drawn on Friday, July 23rd.

    The seventh volume in the series was my favourite, since it included so many pieces I hadn't heard before.  In 1932 Villa-Lobos made a piano version of his early orchestral score Amazonas, which was first published in 1917.  Like in the great Rudepoema of the early 1920s (which Villa-Lobos orchestrated in the same year, 1932, as the Amazonas reduction), there's a lot happening for only 10 fingers and 88 keys to manage at once.  It's interesting that Prof. Tarasti should say, about the Rudepoema orchestration: "... one can only be amazed at how 'orchestral' the piano work already is."  And, though you can't always un-scramble an egg, I find the piano version of the great Stravinsky-infused orchestral version of Amazonas quite pianistic.  I wonder how it was that Villa-Lobos was reducing and orchestrating these two big scores at the same time.  Was it a case of the always practical composer coincidentally needing different versions of these scores, or did he just decide one day to set himself these interestingly symmetrical tasks?

    The transcriptions for piano of the Guitar Preludes by José Vieira Brandão provide another fascinating listening experience, and one which I found even more musically satisfying.  These five pieces are among the greatest in the guitar literature, and are the first Villa-Lobos works I heard (and, naturally, fell in love with).  They fit very well in their new piano guise, which is a tribute both to Brandão's re-thinking of the music for the piano, and Rubinsky's phrasing on the keyboard.  I thought the third Prelude, inspired by Bach, worked especially well on the piano.  James Melo, in his excellent liner notes, calls the Brandão transcriptions "true transcendental etudes for the piano."  They deserve to be taken up by more pianists, either as a group, or one at a time as a encores.  It's a good way to get this response: "I know this piece. What is it? It's by Villa-Lobos, but wait a minute! Something doesn't sound right!"

    In the 1940s Villa-Lobos transcribed the third movement of Bachianas Brasileiras #2 (not #3 - a typo in the liner notes) for piano.  Dedicated to Georgette Baptista, this version was never published (the score is in the Museu Villa-Lobos), and was first played by Cláudia Tolipan in London in 1990. It sounds a pretty slight piece on the piano.  It makes you want to hear a really good orchestra led by a really good conductor (let's say the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, conducted by Eduardo Mata).

    The rest of the disc is filled with really interesting little bits, including some world premiere recordings.  I play Feliz aniversario from the Canções de Cordialidade every year on Villa-Lobos's birthday (March 5th), and Feliz Natal is always in my Christmas playlist as well.

    The sound from this 2007 recording continues excellent, especially in the turbulent Amazonas.  I've read reviewers who prefer the bright sound of the later Paris recordings (6-8) to the softer sound provided by Kraft & Silver in their earlier Toronto ones (2-5).  But the whole series seems to me to place one in a realistic space, and Rubinsky does the rest!

    Monday, July 19, 2010

    Paulo Moura & Turibio Santos Play Villa-Lobos

    Here's a YouTube find: the late Paulo Moura and guitarist (and Museu Villa-Lobos Director) Turibio Santos play Claude Pascale's "Melodia Sobre o Prelúdio No. 1 de Villa Lobos".

    A new book from France

    A new book from French musicologist Rémi Jacobs has been published by Bleu Nuit, in their Horizons series.  It's a slim volume (174 pages), but according to this post at ClassiqueNews.com, it includes some interesting interviews: John Neschling discussing the Choros series; Sonia Rubinsky on Rudepoema; Christina Ortiz on the Piano Concertos; Debora Waldman on The Discovery of Brazil; and Wilhem Latchoumia on the Ciclo Brasileiro.

    The book is available from Amazon.fr.

    Rémi Jacobs: Heitor Villa-Lobos. Bleu nuit éditeur, collection Horizons. 174 pages.  ISBN: 978 2 35884 011 8

    I'll send in my order, and post a review once I've deciphered the text with the help of my two brilliant French-immersion-educated children.

    Here is some information on Rémi Jacobs from the Bleu Nuit website (thanks to Google Translate):

    A graduate of the Paris Conservatoire, Remi Jacobs studied harmony, counterpoint, music history and musicology. He has spent his entire professional career in various record companies, particularly with EMI Classics.  He has published several books on music and musicians. A trip to Brazil has fueled his passion for this great country and revived his knowledge of Villa-Lobos.

    Remembering Paulo Moura


    The sad news came last week: Brazilian musician Paulo Moura was dead at the age of 77.  Larry Rohter's fine tribute in a July 18, 2010 New York Times article shows Moura's versatility and his importance as a musician in his native land and abroad.  Moura, like many Brazilian musicians, was absolutely at home in both the classical and popular musical worlds.

    Moura has recorded a number of Villa-Lobos pieces over the years.  One of the most important of all Villa-Lobos recordings is the great CD on the Kuarup label Os choros de câmara.  Moura played the clarinet in Choros #02, and the alto saxophone in Choros #07.  It's a shame that this disc (and the rest of the Kuarup catalogue) is no longer available; if you ever see a copy on eBay or in a used record shop, buy it!

    In 1983 Moura recorded the Saxophone Fantasia in the version with piano (with the great pianist Clara Sverner), though again one would be hard-pressed to come across this Brazilian EMI LP that I don't believe has ever been re-released on CD.

    Moura also recorded the Saxophone Fantasia in its original orchestral version, in 1992 with the Orquestra de Câmara Brasileira, conducted by Bernardo Bessler.  This is at least available on CD, from Le Chant du Monde, and may be available from online vendors.

    Luckily, many of Moura's jazz and MPB recordings are easily available.  I especially recommend his Latin Grammy winning Pixinguinha, from 1998.

    Monday, July 12, 2010

    Villa-Lobos & Electronic Music

    In 1955, H. De Carsalade Du Pont published an article called "Regards sur Villa-Lobos", in the Paris periodical Études, (1955/07, pp. 94-103). I'm slowly making my way through this interesting article with my cereal-box French (helped, of course, by Google Translate). In the meantime, here are some interesting words about Villa's involvement in the early electronic music scene:

    Apres les instruments classiques, il s'interessa a ceux que l'electronique venait de faire naitre. Il connut l'Onde Martenot lors de son premier sejour a Paris en 1923, mais l'appareil etait encore si imparfait que, malgre l'insistance de M. Gaveau, Villa-Lobos refusa de composer pour un instrument sur lequel on ne pouvait pas encore placer une note avec precision. Il ne cessa pas pour autant de s'interesser aux inventions nouvelles et il fut un des premiers a ecrire pour le Novacorde, le dernier ne a ceux dont le son resulte des oscillations d'un circuit electrique.

    Villa-Lobos was always interested in new instrument technologies, and hung out with avant-garde composers in Paris in the 1920s, most notably Edgard Varèse and Olivier Messiaen. I was unaware, though, that he was exposed to the Onde Martenot as early as 1923.  Messiaen's use of this interesting instrument came more than a decade later.

    As to the Novacorde, I wonder if this is the same as the Sonovox/Solovox that Villa-Lobos included in his score for Amazonas?

    This issue of Études is available from the Gallica Digital Library, a valuable resource.

    Monday, July 5, 2010

    City of London Festival on BBC Radio 3

    This year's City of London Festival features Portugal and the Portuguese-speaking world.  One of the first concerts was on June 24th, featuring the Elias Quartet.  They played Villa-Lobos's First String Quartet, and you can hear their concert on BBC Radio 3 on Friday, July 9th, at 13:00 British Summer Time, and on the BBC iPlayer for a week afterwards.  Read Ben Hogwood's review of the review at ClassicalSource.com (follow Ben on Twitter @benjammin22).

    Another Villa-Lobos concert in the Festival was by pianist Arthur Pizarro, on July 1st.  Read Ben's review here - I'm hoping this will also show up on Radio3.

    Here are the ten concerts from this year's Festival that include works by Villa-Lobos:

    City of London Festival - Events - Artur Pizarro
    City of London Festival - Events - 6pm series: Daniela Lehner
    City of London Festival - Events - 6pm Series: Tai Murray
    City of London Festival - Events - 6pm Series: Elias String Quartet
    City of London Festival - Events - Patricia Rozario and Antonio Meneses
    City of London Festival - Events - Tomorrow's Artists Today (8): Cellophony cello octet
    City of London Festival - Events - 6pm series: Nicolas Altstaedt
    City of London Festival - Events - Adam Walker, Morgan Szymanski and O Duo
    City of London Festival - Events - BBC Singers
    City of London Festival - Events - Joanna MacGregor & Britten Sinfonia

    Friday, July 2, 2010

    Sonia Rubinsky Contest, v.5 winner & v.6 review

    The contest is now over; thanks, everyone, for participating!

    Congratulations to Pablo Lorenzo Barreto of the Canary Islands, the fifth winner of a CD from Sonia Rubinsky's complete set of Villa-Lobos's Piano Music on Naxos. Three more discs will be awarded, one each week until the entire set has been sent out. It's easy to enter: send an email to villa-lobos@rdpl.org and tell me your favourite piano piece by Villa-Lobos. If you've already entered, your name stays in the pool.

    The winner of Volume 6 will be drawn on Friday, July 2 (that's today!).


    For the sixth edition of the Complete Piano Music, Rubinsky went to Paris to record at the Eglise Evangelique, Saint-Marcel, in March of 2006. This CD included both previously unrecorded (and unheard) pieces as well as some of Villa's greatest works for piano.

    The minor novelties include the early works Carnaval de Pierrot and Bailado infantil, along with the 1952 waltz from the opera A menina das nuvens (the recent production of which made such a big stir in Brazil). This waltz was first recorded by Alfred Heller in 1991, soon after it was discovered in the Museu Villa-Lobos.  There are also two pieces included that make use of the interesting practice of millimetrization, which involves the transfer of contours of a natural scene onto the musical scale.  This technique is seen by the always-excellent James Melo (who again writes the liner notes for this release) as similar to the avant-garde experiments of Villa's close friend Edgard Varese.   An identical technique was invented by Joseph Schillinger, and may have been used by George Gershwin while writing Porgy & Bess in the mid-1930s.  I wonder if Villa-Lobos knew of Schillinger's work (and, as always, I wonder if Villa-Lobos knew Gershwin's music at all).  The works in question on this disc are the well-known New York Skyline Melody from 1939 (which also exists in an orchestral version), and the previously unrecorded Melodia da montanha, "Serra da Piedade de Belo Horizonte", from the early 1940s.  Villa-Lobos's final experiment with this technique is the 1944 Symphony #06, which has as its theme and model The Mountains of Brazil. 

    But wait: there's more!  In 1939 Villa-Lobos used a similar technique to write his beautiful As Tres Marias, whose three movements are based on the patterns that three stars make in the constellation Orion.

    Of the more substantial works on the disc, the stand-outs are Sul America (1925), Saudades das selvas brasileiras (1927), and, of course, Rudepoêma (1926).  Rudepoêma is probably Villa's greatest work for piano, and one of the great 20th century works by any composer.  Rubinsky's version certainly has the requisite virtuosity, though some may prefer Heller, Friere, or (as I do) Marc-André Hamelin.  All in all, this disc is a real winner; perhaps the best in the set.

    P.S. Sul America could have been the theme for the 2010 World Cup, until the unfortunate loss of Brazil to the Netherlands in this morning's game (still, Argentina, Uruguay, & Paraguay are left in the remaining 7).

    Villa-Lobos on Cultura FM - July 2010

    Every month I post highlights from the upcoming schedule of Cultura FM from Sao Paulo. Since you can listen live to this station on the Internet, it's a great way to hear Brazilian classical music.

    July 2:
    01h00min
    PIANISSIMO – o piano, seu repertório, seus intérpretes com Gilberto Tinetti
    PIANISTAS BRASILEIROS
    Villa-Lobos
    Suite Floral, Idílio na rede, Uma camponesa cantadeira, Alegria na horta
    Marcello Verzoni (piano)

    more

    Monday, June 21, 2010

    Sonia Rubinsky Contest, v.4 winner & v.5 review

    The contest is now over; thanks, everyone, for participating!

    Congratulations to Harold Lewis of the UK, the fourth winner of a CD from Sonia Rubinsky's complete set of Villa-Lobos's Piano Music on Naxos. Four more discs will be awarded, one each week until the entire set has been sent out. It's easy to enter: send an email to villa-lobos@rdpl.org and tell me your favourite piano piece by Villa-Lobos. If you've already entered, your name stays in the pool.

    The winner of Volume 5 will be drawn on Friday, June 25.


    In 2006, the recording sessions for the fifth volume in the series moved from Toronto to the Township of King City, just north of Canada's biggest city.  Once again the technical side of things was in the more than capable hands of Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver.

    For many this was the first chance to hear the entire cycle of Guia Pratico (though they'd have to wait for volume 8 of the series for Albums 10 and 11).  Anna Stella Schic had included the bulk of the Guia Pratico piano pieces in her complete Piano Music set of 7 LPs, released in the mid-70s in France.  Though this set was re-released on CD, it's never been easy to find.  Caio Pagano included Albums 1-6 in his 1999 album Music for Children.  Clara Sverner didn't release her complete series on the Brazilian Biscoito label until 2008; it's still available on Amazon.com.

    Many of the songs in the Guia Pratico were gathered by Villa-Lobos from folk-songs and children's round songs.  I wonder if Brazilian children in the 1930s skipped rope while they sang them?  Like other Villa-Lobos works from the world of children (Prole do Bebe, especially), the Guia Pratico includes many pieces and passages that would tax the most accomplished pianist.  So in spite of Villa-Lobos's didactic agenda in the choral versions of these songs, many of these pieces are written about children rather than for them to learn to play the piano.  As well, many of these songs were re-cycled by Villa-Lobos in a variety of works later in his career.

    Two very positive components of the Naxos series continued with volume 5.  James Melo again provided excellent liner notes - you can read them here.  Furthermore, the notes included the original Portuguese texts of the songs, along with English translations.  And the cover once again featured a very relevant painting - this time a stage set design from Lasar Segall's 1938 Rio de Janeiro ballet of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

    Thursday, June 17, 2010

    Sonia Rubinsky Contest, v.3 winner & v.4 review

    The contest is now over; thanks, everyone, for participating!

    Congratulations to Christian Sisson from Rio de Janeiro, the third winner of a CD from Sonia Rubinsky's complete set of Villa-Lobos's Piano Music on Naxos. Five more discs will be awarded, one each week until the entire set has been sent out. It's easy to enter: send an email to villa-lobos@rdpl.org and tell me your favourite piano piece by Villa-Lobos. If you've already entered, your name stays in the pool.

    The Disc 4 winner will be drawn on Friday, June 18.



    The fourth volume was once again recorded at Grace Church on the Hill in Toronto, in the fall of 2003.  I'll have to drop in to this church when I'm in Toronto later this summer.  Bonnie Silver and Norbert Kraft again were responsible for Production and Engineering.

    For this disc, Rubinsky chose one of the central works from Villa's piano repertoire: Bachianas Brasileiras #4.  This work was put together from four pieces written over two decades: the fourth movement Dansa: Miudinho from 1930; the third movement Aria: Cantiga from 1935; and the first two movements Preludio and Coral: Canto do Sertao from 1941.  Since this work is so popular, it's easy to find other versions to compare with Rubinsky's reading.  I find Debora Halasz's version on BIS elegant but a bit tentative; the repeated percussive notes of the Araponga in the 2nd movement are hard to hear at first.  Valeria Zanini on Classico is more forthright, but there is less drama in that movement (which is one of my favourites).  Alma Petchersky on ASV stresses the monumental feel of the Coral - think of Stokowski's arrangements of Bach - at the expense of the forward movement of the piece.  It's instructive that Rubinsky's version of this movement is fairly close in tempos, and that dramatic feeling I mentioned, to the orchestral version of BB#4 in which Villa-Lobos himself conducted the French National Radio Orchestra.

    Also on this disc are some smaller pieces from various times in Villa's career: Valsa Romantica from 1907 is one of his first published works.  Simples Coletanea, three pieces written in the late teens, is translated as "Simple Collection", though "Deceptively Simple Collection" might be closer to the mark.  This is the time when Villa-Lobos's own voice was really beginning to emerge under the twin influences of French modernism and Brazilian folklore.  Two pieces on this disc include a second pianist, who is Tatjana Rankovich.  Both Francette et Pia and the Carnaval das Criancas are about the world of children; the first is tender and touching, the second more lively.

    Naxos Reviews

    Though I've fallen a bit behind in my Naxos reviews, I've gotten to the pile before it can fall and do any real damage.  I really enjoyed Xavier Montsalvatge's Piano Music, v. 1, with Jordi Maso, a Naxos disc recorded in Spain in 2008.  Volume 2 is already out, and I look forward to hearing it.

    Another Naxos disc includes music by the amazing Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas, who died much too young, and who was working on the ballet music for La Coronela when he did.  This is an amazing score, and it is presented beautifully by Gisele Ben-Dor conducting the Santa Barbara Symphony.  This is a World Premiere Recording, though it was released by Koch in 1998, and the Naxos version is a recent re-release.  I recommend this very highly!

    Both Revueltas and Montsalvatge have much in common with Villa-Lobos.  Only 13 years younger than Villa, Revueltas unfortunately died in 1940, so his musical legacy isn't as long or as strong as the Brazilian's.  La Coronela shows the same dramatic impetus that we're beginning to discover in Villa-Lobos with the recent exposure of stage works like Yerma, Magdalena, and The Emperor Jones.  Both composers are masters of the large orchestral palette, and both are just as much at home in bombastic battle set-pieces as they are in more introspective and sparely written passages. 

    Montsalvatge is from a younger generation, but there is much overlap in the influences of the the Catalan composer and the Brazilian: Debussy, Milhaud, Satie, Ravel, Messiaen.  Montsalvatge went farther afield into avante-garde music in the 1950s.  He experimented with 12-tone music, which Villa-Lobos carefully skirted during his career.  And Montsalvatge seems to have fallen naturally into a North American jazz idiom in the 40s and 50s, which Villa-Lobos mainly avoided, as much as he felt at home in various (especially Brazilian) popular music styles.  Some of Montsalvatge's piano music might share Latin American (and Caribbean) rhythms with pieces by Villa-Lobos, though it never sounds Villa-Lobosian.

    Two more excellent discs from Naxos, and more to come!

    Monday, June 14, 2010

    Sonia Rubinsky Contest, v.2 winner & v.3 review

    The contest is now over; thanks, everyone, for participating!

    Congratulations to Bernie Folta from New Hampshire, the second winner of a CD from Sonia Rubinsky's complete set of Villa-Lobos's Piano Music on Naxos. Six more discs will be awarded, one each week until the entire set has been sent out. It's easy to enter: send an email to villa-lobos@rdpl.org and tell me your favourite piano piece by Villa-Lobos. If you've already entered, your name stays in the pool.

    Disc 3: the winner has been drawn, and will be announced here Real Soon Now.

    For the third disc, the team of Rubinsky, Silver & Kraft were once again recording at Grace Church in Toronto, this time in September of 2000. The project was on a roll. This time the standout work was Choros #05 "Alma Brasileira". Early works share the disc with more substantial pieces like the 1936 Ciclo Brasileira. A number of pieces from volume 3 were featured at the 1922 Semana de Arte Moderna in Sao Paulo, and caused quite a stir. The African dances and the second piece from Suite Floral might seem a bit tame today, though emotions ran high that week in Sao Paulo. Certainly Villa-Lobos had written more modernist works by 1922. By the way, Suite Floral was a favourite of Arthur Rubinstein, and he programmed the final piece, Alegia na Horta, in hundreds of concerts over the years.

    One of the most interesting things about this disc, though, is the inclusion of arrangements for piano of two of Villa's greatest works: the 1st Choros for guitar, and the 2nd Choros, originally written for flute and clarinet. The transcription of the 1st Choros is by Odmar Amaral Gurgel, while Villa-Lobos himself came up with the piano version of the 2nd Choros. The great thing about Rubinsky's series is that while the major works are completely solid, she keeps coming up with nearly unknown pieces (including some world recording premieres later in the series) to keep Villa-Lobos super-fans interested.

    The third disc had for its cover one of my favourite Brazilian paintings, Cafe (1935) by Candido Portinari. This was an excellent match in subject matter and time period with the Ciclo Brasileira.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    New BIS disc of Floresta do Amazonas


    Coming soon from BIS: Floresta do Amazonas, the great late (1958) work for soprano and orchestra adapted by Villa-Lobos from the music he provided for the MGM film Green Mansions.  John Neschling conducts the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra (OSESP) and Choir, and Anna Korondi sings the beautiful songs, which include such favourites as Melodia Sentimental and Cair da Tarde.

    Neschling's 3-disc Choros series on BIS, with the same orchestra, won the Diapason d'Or de l'Année in 2009.  Amazon will be releasing the SACD disc on June 29th, 2010 (a day late for my birthday).  It's available now for pre-ordering.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    Villa-Lobos and the Marx Brothers

    Walter Burle Marx (1902-1990) was a Brazilian conductor/composer/pianist who was a close friend and a big advocate of Villa-Lobos.  He conducted important Villa-Lobos premieres in Brazil and America, including important concerts at the 1939 World's Fair in New York.  I recently came across his interesting guitar pieces on a recording by Stephen Aron, and look forward to listening to more Burle Marx.

    Roberto Burle Marx (1909-1994) was a great Brazilian landscape architect who designed the gardens at the Museu Villa-Lobos.  Though this isn't mentioned in his (otherwise very informative) Wikipedia article, the two were brothers.

    I discovered this when I came across the cool story "Esthetics: Brazil's Marx Brothers", in the July 21, 1967 issue of Time Magazine.  This was indeed an accomplished and interesting family, and distantly related to Karl Marx as well.

    Magdalena on France Musique

    This exciting information comes from an email from Renaud Machart, host of Matinée Opéra on Radio France's France Musique. The latest edition of this program features the music of Villa-Lobos, and includes the first broadcast of the recent Paris production of the opera/musical Magdalena. You can listen to this 3-hour program at your leisure, but only until Sunday, June 6th. Go to this page on the France Musique site, and click on (ré)écouter.

    Besides this important production (which sounded great to me in my first quick listen), the program includes some additional Villa-Lobos works from CD which help to provide a context for this amazing stage work.  Thanks to Renaud and France Musique for making this available, even if only for a few days.

    By the way, I enjoy listening to France Musique on my iPhone, thanks to their excellent app.  Check it out!

    Monday, May 31, 2010

    Sonia Rubinsky Contest, v.1 winner & v.2 review

    The contest is now over; thanks, everyone, for participating!

    Congratulations to Julio Garrido Letelier from Chile, the first winner of a CD from Sonia Rubinsky's complete set of Villa-Lobos's Piano Music on Naxos. Seven more discs will be awarded, one each week until the entire set has been sent out.  It's easy to enter: send an email to villa-lobos@rdpl.org and tell me your favourite piano piece by Villa-Lobos.  If you've already entered, your name stays in the pool.

    Disc 2: the winner will be drawn on Friday, June 4

    The second disc was recorded in the following spring (April 2000). This time the venue was Grace Church on the Hill in Toronto, and the production team of Bonnie Silver and Norbert Kraft (yes, he's also the guitarist, and the guy who recorded my favourite of the millions of Villa-Lobos guitar CDs) did the recording, editing, and engineering. The second disc included music similar to the first. The second book of A Prole do Bebe, from 1921, and the Cirandinhas, from 1925, aren't at quite the same high level as the music on Volume 1, but still represent important achievements in Villa's piano music. The beautiful Valsa da Dor, from 1932, is also included.


    Another winner, another 10/10 rating from Classics Today.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    Contest: Villa-Lobos Piano Music by Sonia Rubinsky

    The contest is now over; thanks, everyone, for participating!

    In early 2010 Naxos released an 8-CD box set of the complete Piano Music of Villa-Lobos that the Brazilian pianist Sonia Rubinsky recorded from 1999 to 2007.  To celebrate this important event, I will be sending out free copies of the individual discs to lucky winners over the next couple of months.


    All you have to do is send an email to this special address - villa-lobos@rdpl.org - and let me know what your favourite Villa-Lobos piano work is.  If you're not sure, that's o.k. - you'll still be entered in the draw for these discs.  I'll draw one entry at random each week for the next 8 weeks, and will contact winners for their address.  You only need to enter once; your email stays in the prize pool until all 8 discs have been won.

    Thanks to Naxos USA for making these great discs available.

    Disc 1: the winner will be drawn on Friday, May 28

    Back in October 1999, Sonia Rubinsky went to Santa Rosa, California to record a CD for Naxos.  Included in the recording were three of Heitor Villa-Lobos's most important works for piano.  The first book of A Prole do Bebe (the Baby's Family) is one of the great piano cycles of the 20th century, eight pieces that showed up in hundreds of programmes by Villa's greatest early supporter, Arthur Rubinstein.  Cirandas is a later cycle from Villa's modernist period, written in 1926 (the same year as the great Choros #10).  Villa uses deceptively simple children's songs to begin to create the national song-book that became the Guia pratico.  Hommage a Chopin, written to honour the Polish composer in an earlier Chopin year,  has become recognized as one of Villa's best piano works from his later production.

    Rubinsky's disc was very well received by the critics.  Classics Today, for example, gave the disc a 10/10 (performance/recording) rating.  But the real significance of the CD for Villa-Lobos fans was the title "Piano Music Volume 1".  It was exciting to look forward to many more discs like the first one!  This was especially true for those Villa-Lobos fans lucky enough to have acquired Anna Stella Schic's 7-LP set of the complete piano music from the 1970s (reissued on CD on the Solstice label, and still available from various online sources).  We knew there was lots of great music to come in this series, and as authoritative as Schic's excellent versions were (she was a close friend of Villa-Lobos & Mindinha), Rubinsky's technique and Naxos's modern sound and easier availability (not to mention its low price) made a series like this a real winner .  As usual, Naxos was providing relatively unknown repertoire, beautifully played, recorded, and engineered, to a much wider audience than before.

    There were two other encouraging characteristics of this first disc.  James Melo provided excellent notes (detailed and enlightening) to this first disc, and the cover of the CD was a painting by the great Brazilian modernist painter (and another Villa-Lobos friend and fellow participant in the 1922 Semana de Arte Moderna in Sao Paulo), Tarsilla do Amaral.  These two important components stayed throughout the entire project.  Melo's essays always added something special to each disc, especially for those works that have been under-appreciated (like Carnaval das Criancas in Volume 4, and Amazonas in volume 7).  And the cover paintings were always relevant to the programmes Rubinsky had chosen, demonstrating how Villa fit in the cultural life of Brazil.  Artists chosen for the series, besides Tarsilla, were Djanira, Candido Portinari,  Cicero Dias, Lasar Segall, Alberto Guignard, Ismael Nery, and Jose Pancetti.

    Sunday, May 23, 2010

    Raúl Villa-Lobos's Masterwork


    Here is a new, deluxe, version of "A Revolta da Armada de 6 de Setembro de 1893", by Villa-Lobos's father Raúl.  This book of history was originally published in 1897, under the pseudonym Epaminondas Villalba.  The new edition is available from Amazon.com, though you can also download the PDF, scanned by Google from the library of Harvard University, from Archive.org.

    By the way, the composer used that same pseudonym, Epaminondas Villalba, but with the addition Filho (son), in publishing music throughout his life.  Villa was ten years old when this book was published by his father, an assistant librarian at the National Library in Rio de Janeiro.  He was obviously very proud of his father's work.  Unfortunately, the elder Villa-Lobos died only two years later.

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

    New BIS recordings of the Villa-Lobos Symphonies

    There was an exciting announcement from the Swedish recording company BIS this afternoon. They'll be recording a new series of the complete Symphonies of Villa-Lobos, with Isaac Karabtchevsky conducting the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra (OSESP). The recordings will be released according to this schedule:
    • 2011 – Sinfonia nº 3, “A Guerra” & Sinfonia nº 4, “A Vitória”
    • 2012 – Sinfonia nº 6, “Sobre a linha das montanhas do Brasil” & Sinfonia nº 7
    • 2013 – Sinfonia nº 10, “Ameríndia”
    • 2014 – Sinfonia nº 1, “O Imprevisto” & Sinfonia nº 2
    • 2015 – Sinfonia nº 8, Sinfonia nº 9 & Sinfonia nº 11
    • 2016 – Sinfonia nº 12 + Uirapurú & Mandú-Çarará
    The same recording company and orchestra (though with a different conductor, John Neshling) won the Diapason d’Or de l’Année in 2009, for their recording of the complete Choros of Villa-Lobos.  Today's announcement also included the very good news that Criadores do Brasil will be releasing new editions of the scores, which are badly needed. 

    This is great news for Villa-Lobos lovers.  There is certainly nothing wrong with the excellent cpo series with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony conducted by Carl St. Clair.  But after many years of hearing how poor (and how atypical) these works were, it will be great to experience another cycle, and perhaps take a new look at all of Villa's orchestral works.  And though it will be a long wait (2016!), we've long needed a new recording of the great orchestral/choral work Mandú-Çarará.

    Thanks to João Luiz Sampaio for this news, via Twitter and this article.

    Saturday, May 15, 2010

    The Prêmio Carlos Gomes Winners


    Last year's production of Villa-Lobos's opera A Menina das Nuvens at the Palácio das Artes in Belo Horizonte was the big winner at the Brazilian Classical Music Awards, the Prêmio Carlos Gomes de Ópera & Música Erudita.   It won five awards, including Best Female Singer (Gabriella Pace), Best Opera Conductor (Roberto Duarte), Best Lighting (Paulo Pederneiras), Best Set Design (Rosa Magalhães), and best Opera Production.

    Other winners with Villa-Lobos connections include:
    • Turibio Santos, who was cited for his restoration of Villa-Lobos scores.
    • The Quarteto Radamés Gnatalli, for their performances of the 17 Villa-Lobos String Quartets.
    • Conductor Roberto Tibiriçá, for his work with the Orquestra de Heliópolis (Tibiriçá has recorded a number of Villa-Lobos works, and has programmed more with the Heliópolis orchestra, and with the Orquestra Nacional de Porto).

    Tuesday, May 4, 2010

    Alma Brasileira: Steve Griggs Ensemble plays Villa-Lobos

    Steve Griggs is one of quite a few jazz musicians from around the world that are using Villa-Lobos as source material for their new music.  I've written before about Seattle-based Griggs' Villa-Lobos projects.  In November 2009 there was Seresta, an homage to Villa commemorating the 50th anniversary of his death.  Then, last March, Griggs put together Canção Carioca: Song from Rio.  Note the timing of these projects: they coincide with the birth- and death-days of the composer.

    Next November 20th, the 12 musicians who make up the Steve Griggs Ensemble will present Alma Brasileira (Soul of Brazil): Steve Griggs Ensemble plays Villa-Lobos.  This project re-imagines music from Villa's Choros cycle; it includes Choros #01, 05, 06, 09, and 11, as well as the Introdução and Dos Choros Bis: the introduction and encores to the series.  It's so great to see this important music more widely disseminated; especially the rarely-played orchestral Choros 6, 9, & 11, and the Introdução.  I will do my best to make it to Seattle for this important concert!

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    Brazil's classical music awards



    The Prêmio Carlos Gomes de Ópera & Música Erudita is Brazil's classical music award program.  Nominations for the thirteenth edition of the awards were announced yesterday, and they include some musicians that Villa-Lobos lovers will know well.  I'll highlight a few:
    • Turibio Santos, guitarist and the Director of the Museu Villa-Lobos, is nominated in the Instrumental Soloist category (won last year by Sonia Rubinsky for her Naxos recordings of the complete piano music of Villa-Lobos)
    • Isaac Karabtchevsky is nominated for his DVD of Villa-Lobos's Floresta do Amazonas
    • Quarteto Radamés Gnatalli, for their performance of the complete cycle of Villa-Lobos String Quartets
    • The production of A Menina das Nuvens, Villa's fairy-tale opera presented at the Palácio das Artes in Belo Horizonte, received multiple nominations, including "Espetáculo de Ópera", along with nods for the Orquestra Sinfonica de Minas Gerais and conductor Roberto Duarte, singer Gabriella Pace, and other musicians and technical artists
    • Soprano Eliane Coelho, who'll be featured in the upcoming presentation of Villa's Yerma in Manaus, was nominated for Schoenberg's Erwartung in Belo Horizonte
    • Pianist Nelson Freire was nominated for the Troféu Guarany, which I'm guessing is a kind of life-time achievement award.  This was won last year by the great Villa-Lobos conductor John Neschling.
    The award organizers have opened up the polls for online voting here: http://www.premiocarlosgomes.com.br/popular/votopopular.asp.  Polls will be open until April 25th.

    The awards will be announced in the Sala São Paulo on May 5th.

    Friday, April 9, 2010

    Villa-Lobos gets the Congressional Seal of Approval

    Here's an interesting story from Brasília. The Brazilian Congress has approved the first steps to adding Villa-Lobos to the Livro dos Heróis da Pátria - the Book of Heroes of the Fatherland.  Representative Dr. Talma presented the motion, which I gather will be debated, and will then go to the Senate once it is approved.

    Here is what the article says about the Book of Heroes (via Google Translate):
    The Book of Heroes of the Fatherland is a memorial in the pages of steel with the name of Brazilians who, in life, "contributed to the greatness, pride and glory" of Brazil. It is located in the Pantheon of the Fatherland, monument to freedom and democracy, located in the Plaza of Three Powers in Brasília. Tiradentes, Zumbi dos Palmares, Placido de Castro, Santos-Dumont are some of the names inscribed in the Book of Heroes.
    One of the pleasurable side-effects of my Villa-Lobos researches is that I'm learning more about Brazilian history and culture. I knew a little about Alberto Santos-Dumont, who made the world's first public flight in an airplane, on October 23, 1906.  This is a very engaging individual.  Though admittedly from a wealthy family, it says a lot about Santos-Dumont that he donated half of a big prize he won in an early dirigible contest to the poor of Paris, and distributed the rest to his mechanics.  It's sad that he ended up killing himself, depressed by his multiple sclerosis and by the use of airplanes to kill thousands in wars.

    Zumbi dos Palmares, the "black leader of all the nations", is a fascinating figure from the second half of the 17th century.  From the stronghold of  Quilombo dos Palmares, a republic the size of Portugal near Bahia, Zumbi led a spirited resistance against the Portuguese government.  His warriors were skilled in capoeira, Brazil's home-grown martial art.  Zumbi was eventually captured and beheaded, though his martyrdom was the inspiration for many future struggles.

    Joaquim José da Silva Xavier, known as Tiradentes, was a revolutionary from the same generation as the American Founding Fathers and the French Revolutionaries. From what I've read in the Wikipedia article, he seems somewhat like the Canadian Louis Riel; both were hanged by their governments, and the names of both have lived on as heroes.

    Finally, José Plácido de Castro led the successful resistance of Acre against Bolivia in the late 1800s.  He became President and Father of his Country in 1900, when he was only 27 years old, and Governor of the State when it was annexed to Brazil three years later.  He was only 35 years old when he was ambushed and assassinated by rivals.  Though Plácido de Castro doesn't have his own article in the English Wikipedia, a life like this really deserves one - here is the Portuguese entry.

    Here is the Panteão da Pátria (Pantheon of the Fatherland) Tancredo Neves, in the Praça dos Três Poderes (Plaza of Three Powers) in Brasília - home of the Book of Heroes, from the Wikimedia Commons:



    This is pretty impressive company, even for a larger-than-life figure like Heitor Villa-Lobos!

    Thursday, April 1, 2010

    The Lost 6th Prelude Found? [Nope]

    What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. - Matthew 18:12-13
    I was excited to read this tweet from Brazilian guitarist Alvaro Henrique today:
    @alvaroguitar http://brazilianguitar.net/index.php?showtopic=3453 Achado o 6o Prelúdio para Violão de Heitor Villa-Lobos!
    Alvaro links to this post at the forum Brazilianguitar.net:

    http://brazilianguitar.net/index.php?showtopic=3453

    Is it really true that the missing 6th Prelude of Villa-Lobos has been found?  This being April Fool's Day, I was immediately suspicious that this most important Villa-Lobos find ever might be a joke. As I said in a message to Alvaro, it sounds too good to be true. Here, thanks to Google Translate, is the gist of the story.

    The Brazilian rock musician Dado Villa-Lobos and his brother Luis Octavio Villa-Lobos, grand-nephews of the composer, were looking through some papers of their father, the diplomat Jayme Villa-Lobos. There they found the score to the missing Sixth Prelude (left behind in Paris when Villa-Lobos & Mindinha returned to Brazil), as well as other works for guitar, including a complete version of Valsa de Concerto no 2. Also found were sketches for a symphony Villa-Lobos had planned in honour of Brasilia. Unfortunately, the composer died before the symphony (and the city) could be completed.

    According to Alvaro's post the found Prelude will be played by guitarist Marcus Moraes at the next meeting of Associação Brasiliense de Violão (BRAVIO), on April 10th.

    Boy, it's hard enough for me to keep from getting tricked in my own language.  If I have to get to Google Translate to help, I may be in trouble!  I will keep you all posted!

    April 5: Well, yeah, it was a joke.  Alvaro tweeted this:
    @alvaroguitar @villa_lobos Vill Unfortunately it is a April Fool's Day joke... Too good to be true! 
    Of course, it seems obvious now.  The Villa-Lobos in-laws who are likely to have lost scores would be Guimares, the families of the brothers of Villa's first wife Lucilia.  Good joke!

    Monday, March 29, 2010

    Yerma in Manaus



    It looks like the production of Yerma at the Teatro Amazonas is a go for next month.  Here is the cast and production staff for the show, from the Amazonas Festival website.  This is a really big deal - a rarely performed Villa-Lobos opera in the great Opera House in the Amazon rain-forest.


    23.Abr (Sex) - 20h - Teatro Amazonas
    25.Abr (Dom) - 19h - Teatro Amazonas
    30.Abr (Sex) - 20h - Teatro Amazonas
    YERMA
    Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959)
    Ópera em três atos
    Libreto do compositor, baseado na obra de Federico Garcia Lorca
    Yerma – Ana Lucrecia Garcia
    Juan – Marcello Puente
    Maria –Isabelle Sabrié
    Victor – Homero Velho
    1ª velha – Keila de Moraes
    2ª velha – Elaine Martorano
    3ª velha – Elmiza Carvalho
    4ª velha – Regina Santiago
    5ª velha – Lincoln Pires
    6ª velha – Kelly Fernandes
    1ª moça – Patrícia Botelho
    2ª moça – Carol Martins
    1ª lavadeira - Jaiana Silva
    2ª lavadeira - Lídia Mendes
    3ª lavadeira – Carolina Herculano
    4ª lavadeira - Thalita Azevedo
    5ª lavadeira - Dhijana Nobre
    6ª lavadeira - Thelvana Freitas
    1ª cunhada – Miriam Abad
    2ª cunhada – Raquel Brasil
    Dolores – Elaine Martorano
    1ª mulher – Tamar Freitas
    2ª mulher – Marinete Negrão
    1º homem – Cristiano Silva
    2º homem – Eli Soares
    Macho – Randal Oliveira
    Fêmea – Priscilla Pinheiro
    Menino – Marlon de Souza Pereira
    Menina – Marília Rodrigues Pinheiro
    Voz feminina interna – Elane Monteiro
    Companhia de Dança do Amazonas
    Coral Infantil do Liceu de Artes e Ofícios Claudio Santoro
    Coral do Amazonas
    Amazonas Filarmônica
    Direção Musical e Regência: Marcelo de Jesus
    Direção Cênica e Figurinos: Allex Aguilera
    Coreografia: Monique Andrade
    Iluminação: Moisés Vasconcelos

    Thanks to Richard, who posted this information on a comment to my story about Yerma in Brazil.

    Sunday, March 28, 2010

    Digital Cabernet Challenge



    An interesting and illuminating experiment at the Proper Discord site: can you tell the difference between compressed and CD-quality music? I couldn't (and admitted so in the poll).

    Here's another poll: try this digital Cabernet Sauvignon test.
    1. Play your favourite Villa-Lobos CD or MP3 file (I chose John Neschling's version of Choros #08).
    2. Open a good bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon (for me, it was a 2006 Penfolds Bin 407).
    3. Click on the video above.
    So, which wine is better?  Can you really tell the difference?  Let me know!

    P.S.  Note to Casa Valduga's advertising agency: next time, use Bachianas Brasileiras no. 5 as the background music in preference to Vivaldi.

    Friday, March 26, 2010

    Clara Rodriguez at Wigmore Hall



    The Venezuelan pianist Clara Rodriguez will be playing three Villa-Lobos works in her Wigmore Hall concert on April 12, 2010.  Check out her website - you'll find a nice version of Poema Singelo, from a live performance in London.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    Trío Cordvent's "Homenaje a Villa-Lobos"

    Jesús Saiz Huedo from Trío Cordvent sent me an update on their concert "Homenaje a Villa-Lobos," which took place in Madrid last December. You can watch videos of many of the works from that concert at The Trío Cordvent website.

    Here is Recordando a Villa-lobos by Félix Sierra; a lovely work:

    Cristina Ortiz plays Bachianas Brasileiras no3



    The two greatest Villa-Lobos works for piano and orchestra aren't included in the five Piano Concertos. They are Choros #11 and Bachianas #3; both are among Villa's top works. Each of these fairly rare pieces calls for a virtuoso pianist, a large, well-prepared orchestra, and a conductor who can provide a sense of forward momentum to the sprawling scores.

    Here is Cristina Ortiz playing BB#3, with Fábio Mechetti conducting the Orquestra Filarmônica de Minas Gerais in a concert from August of 2009. The second, third, and fourth movements are also at YouTube, thanks to the MinasMusical Channel.

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    The Burial of Villa-Lobos

    From TV Tupi, film footage of the scene in the square in front of the Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro on November 19, 1959, two days after Villa-Lobos died. I find these scenes very moving.

    Monday, March 15, 2010

    The Music Wins

    Recently I've been following two really interesting stories about Brazilian pianists.  Last month I blogged about Marcelo Bratke, who overcame near-blindness on his way to becoming a world-renowned concert pianist.  I look forward to the publication of Bratke's new recording of the complete Villa-Lobos piano music.

    Another story, in O Globo's Gazeta on-line, is a feature on the great pianist and conductor João Carlos Martins. The article by Erik Oakes tells the really fascinating stories of the incredible physical disabilities Martins has overcome: nerve damage and repetitive strain injuries to both hands, combined with the effects of a nasty mugging in Bulgaria.  Last October Martins appeared with jazz great Dave Brubeck at Lincoln Centre, and he'll be conducting the Orquestra Camerata Sesi on March 16 in Espírito Santo.  That concert includes Bachianas Brasileiras no. 4.

    One of the coolest things in Oakes' story is that the Sao Paulo Samba School Vai-Vai will be including the story of Martins in their 2011 Carnival presentation.  The title will be A Música Venceu - The Music Wins.

    Recently I've been enjoying the music of João Carlos Martins on The Naxos Music Library.  Martins recorded the complete keyboard music of Bach on the Labor label, and you can listen to all of them at NML.  I especially enjoy his concertos discs, and especially Brandenburg Concerto no. 5: LAB7042.