Sunday, January 31, 2010

Streaming audio on Mbaraka

A new online magazine called Mbaraka, from Rádio Cultura FM and the Fundação Padre Anchieta, provides cultural stories and streaming music in a variety of classical genres. There are a host of Villa-Lobos works there: Sonia Rubinsky on the piano, the Nonetto with Gil Jardem, Choros conducted by John Neschling on BIS, Leopold Stokowski's famous recording of Uirapuru, and some works conducted by Villa-Lobos in Paris in the 1950s.  Besides Villa-Lobos, though, there are many classical and jazz performances by composers like Varese, Copland, Bach, Handel, and performers such as Egberto Gismonti, Charlie Haden, Keith Jarrett, and Jan Pascal Tortelier.  This site is highly recommended.

Complete Villa-Lobos Piano works on CD

Brazilian pianist Marcelo Bratke's new series of the complete Villa-Lobos piano works on the Quartz label has been announced for early in February 2010.  Read the full-page article, which includes an interview with Bratke, in Estado de Sao Paulo [left] - and in Google translation.

Meanwhile, the fascinating story of Bratke's nearly-lifelong vision problems broke in a Daily Mail story by Kate Snell earlier this weekend.  It's pretty amazing story that we hadn't heard of this before, considering how serious Bratke's disability was, and what an amazing pianist he is.

The new series is due February 5 from Quartz Music; there's no sign of it yet on their website, or on Bratke's own website.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Naxos Customer Review Team

I've been reviewing CDs and DVDs as a member of the Naxos Customer Review Team for a few months now. Naturally, there are Villa-Lobos discs included on this list, and music from Latin America. Somehow, some way, though, I manage to mention Villa-Lobos in pretty much every review! Who'd have thought that!

Here is a complete list of reviews as they appear at You'll also see these reviews showing up in a wide variety of online shops:,,,,,,, and the iTunes store.

My most recent review is for the amazing Mats Bergstrom's disc of music by Francisco Tarrega. This is very, very highly recommended!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Machaca: 'Los Ambulantes'

Guitarist Morgan Szymanski's group Machaca will be launching a new album at South Bank Centre on April 27, 2010. "Los Ambulantes" includes music by Villa-Lobos, Piazzolla, Lauro, Machado, Iannarelli, Cardoso and the world premiere of a new work by Stephen McNeff.

Machaca made quite a stir with the release of their 2007 album "Mano a Mano", which includes a nice version of the Aria from Bachianas Brasileiras, featuring soprano Laura Mitchell.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Home movies

Another Globo Video: This five-minute video includes amazing 8mm home movie footage of Villa-Lobos playing the piano and the guitar, conducting, playing pool, hanging out with friends and colleagues, and walking arm and arm with Mindinha on the deck of an ocean liner. He's nearly always smiling, and pretty much always has a cigar in his mouth or hand.

Again, the video may take a while to load. The soundtrack is the final movement of Bachianas Brasileiras #4, Danza (Miudinho). Though the caption of the video is "Villa-Lobos toca piano", I'm not sure if that's the composer playing the piece or not.

I love the footage of Villa-Lobos playing the guitar for his aged mother while Mindinha knits in the background. What memories the music must have for Noemia Villa-Lobos!

His relationship with his mother, a vital woman in her eighties, according to Villa-Lobos, is almost that of a young boy. She watches all his activities. Although she is a gentle old lady, he is still in awe of her and would not like ever to incur her displeasure. He sent her letters and telegrams and phoned her at Christmas, always very anxious to hear from her, all through his sojourn in the United States. He told me that she was very upset about his taking a plane for his trip and was adamant in her demand to go with him to the airport. 'I shall not be surprised,' he added, 'if she is there when I return.'
- from Henri Leiser's article "Villa-Lobos: Ambassador of Music", Musical Courier, May 1, 1945, p. 7

Villa's mother died in 1946, soon after Leiser's article was published.

Villa-Lobos em 3 tempos

The third and final episode of the Globo TV series "Villa-Lobos em 3 tempos." With interesting performance and archival footage, this is of interest to all Villa-Lobos lovers, even those (like me) who don't know Portuguese.

This takes a while to load, but it's worth it!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Harmonica Jam

This program from the Rockford IL Symphony ( @RkfdSymphony ) is really cool, and an innovative way to promote classical music:
Join Robert Bonfiglio and the RSO Staff for a special Harmonica Jam at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, January 15 at Cliffbreakers. Cost is $10 in advance and $15 at the door. The first 50 guests receive a FREE Harmonica. To make your reservation, call the RSO at 815.965.0049 or Click here.
Of course, Robert Bonfiglio is one of Villa-Lobos's greatest advocates. He's played the Harmonica Concerto many, many times around the world, and will do so again on Saturday the 16th with Steven Larsen conducting the Rockford SO. Incidentally, the programme for the rest of that concert looks really interesting! The concert notes are at the RSO site.

So get out there and pick up that harmonica!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Moment Symphony (0'01")

Once a reporter objected to the length of his work, which in his opinion, took too much playing time for Americans. 'You probably don't know,' he answered, 'that I am now preparing a new work which will not take much of your time. It is called a Moment Symphony, and designated for Madison Square Garden, with a super-orchestra of several hundred musicians and more than a thousand choral singers. The conductor will appear on the podium, raise his baton with his right hand, his eyes fixed on a watch in his left hand, then turn around to the audience, and the whole symphony is completed!'
Henri Leiser, "Villa-Lobos: Ambassador of Music," Musical Courier, May 1, 1945.

Villa-Lobos's career is full of practical jokes. The little joke of the Moment Symphony is on one level like the leg-pulling Villa indulged in when he was first in Paris. Daniella Thompson quotes Darius Milhaud, who tells this story about his friend Villa-Lobos:
...when traveling in the Amazon in search of Indian folklore he had found some themes which the Indians themselves had forgotten but that the parrots who live for two hundred years were still singing.
But his musical sense of humour also reminds me of some of the people he came across in Paris in the 1920s: Cocteau, Satie, and the Dadaists. It's interesting that Villa-Lobos, who included a prepared piano in his 1928 Choros #08, should come up with the concept for a musical piece 0'01", five years before John Cage's 4'33".

Monday, January 11, 2010

Arminda and Rubinstein

A picture of Arminda Villa-Lobos (the composer's widow) with Villa's great friend Arthur Rubinstein. This is from the digital library of the PATRIMONIO CULTURAL DE LA FUNDACIÓN ALBÉNIZ, and is dated April 1973.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Música e Músicos do Brasil

The program Música e Músicos do Brasil appears every Saturday at 12 noon (9 am EST, 7 am MST here in Red Deer) on the Brazilian radio station MEC-FM.  It's repeated the following Tuesday at 10 pm (7 pm EST, 5 pm MST).  You can listen here online.

Here are programs coming up in January and February 2010 that feature Villa-Lobos:

Dia 09 – CARLA DOMINGUES – soprano
Carla dá um depoimento sobre a sua vida e carreira e, acompanhada pelo pianista Cláudio Thompson,  interpreta canções de Villa-Lobos, Alceu Camargo, Frederico Richter, Klebler Alexandre, e árias das óperas Os Contos de Hoffmann, de Offenbach e Hamlet, de Ambroise Thomas.

Dia 30 – RICARDO ROCHA – regente – 3º programa
Continuação do depoimento do Maestro Ricardo Rocha.
Apresentação de trechos das Bachianas Brasileiras nºs 1, 5, com Orquestra de Violoncelos e a soprano Veruschka Mainhard e Bachianas Brasileiras nº 3, com a Orquestra Bachiana Brasileira e o pianista Flávio Augusto. Todos sob a regência de Ricardo Rocha.

Dia 20 – MARCOS ALAN – violonista e compositor.
A violonista e professora Graça Alan, fala sobre a vida, carreira e composições de Marcos Alan, seu irmão, falecido precocemente aos 17 anos. No programa, gravações de Marcos tocando obras de Heitor Villa-Lobos e de sua autoria.

Dia 27 – EDILSON LEAL – Pianista.
Edilson fala da sua vida, dos seus estudos e carreira e interpreta Cenas Infantis, de Schumann; Étude de Tableaux op. 33, nº 8 e Momento Musical Ops. 16, nºs. 2  e  4, de Rachmaninov; e Bachianas nº 4, de Heitor Villa-Lobos.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Was Villa-Lobos wrong?

A new book by conductor and scholar Roberto Duarte entitled Villa-Lobos errou? looks at the often chaotic state of Villa-Lobos's scores. According to Duarte, who has published careful studies of Villa's orchestral scores in the past (the two-volume Revisão das Obras Orquestrais de Villa-Lobos in 1994) notes that "his mind was much faster than his hands." Villa-Lobos wrote so many notes that it would have required a super-human to keep everything perfect. As Duarte says, the composer was "intensely human."

The book is trilingual: Portuguese, German, & English. I'll see if I can order it from the Great White North, and report back here. It's for sale at Algol Editora and Loja Classicos.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Piano Concerto #2 from Cuba

Ulises Hernandez plays the first movement of the 2nd Piano Concerto, with the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Cuba under the direction of Enrique Pérez Mesa, from a concert recorded in Havana in 2003.  It's really unfortunate that the CD/DVD set of the five concertos from Cuba is no longer available.  Did anyone get a chance to buy this before it vanished?  My initial order to wasn't filled before it went missing.  I'm continuing to check eBay for it!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Villa-Lobos "O Educador das Massas"

This exhibit at the National Library (Divisão de Música e Arquivo Sonoro da Biblioteca Nacional, at the Palácio Capanema, localizado na Rua da Imprensa) runs from December 14, 2009 to Febuary 11, 2010. The focus is on Villa's work for the Vargas regime in the 1930s, as head of Superintendência da Educação Musical e Artística (SEMA).

I love the quote on the poster:

Brazil needs education, an education which is not of stuffed birds in museums, but broad flights of art in heaven.