Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Second Piano Concerto

I came across this story about Villa-Lobos's 2nd Piano Concerto in Seymour Bernstein's memoir Monsters and Angels. Bernstein is visiting with his teacher, Alexander Brailowsky and his wife Ela:
Rummaging through some scores, she produced the manuscript of Concerto No. 2 by Heitor Villa-Lobos, a work that the composer had written for, and dedicated to, Brailowsky. Villa-Lobos had once heard Brailowsky in Rio de Janeiro perform two concerti on the same program - the Tchaikovsky B flat minor and the Rachmaninoff C minor. He was so impressed by his playing that he decided to create another big romantic vehicle tailored to Brailowsky's virtuosic style. It was this score, then, that Ela handed me. With a sense of awe, I turned over the front cover and saw the following inscription:

Ministerio da Educacao e Saude Conservatorio Nacional de Canto Orfeonico
Rio, 12/25/49
Cher Brailowsky,
Voila le concerto que je vous avais promis. La partition et materiel d'orchestre vous pouvez trouver a la Maison Villa-Lobos Corp., 1585 Broadway, New York.
Heureux 1950.
Bien a vous,

[Here is the Concerto that I promised you. You can find the score and orchestral parts at the Maison Villa-Lobos Corp. Happy 1950. My best to you.]
Ela explained, 'With all of the big warhorses in my husband's repertory, he never learned this concerto. Now, of course, he never will. Perhaps if it interests you, you might premiere it with some major orchestra. But whether you decide to study it or not, we would like you to have it.'
p. 128-129. Bernstein finally played what he termed the US premiere of the concerto with the Chicago Symphony, in 1969.

It's interesting that the latest version of Villa-Lobos: Sua Obra (v. 1.0, 2009, Museu Villa-Lobos) makes no reference to Brailowsky. According to the listing for the 2nd Piano Concerto, the work was dedicated to the Brazilian pianist João de Souza Lima. Also listed is the actual American premiere, with Gerson Yessin and the City Symphony Orchestra at the American Museum of Natural History on February 27, 1955.

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