Friday, May 25, 2012

Villa-Lobos in New Orleans

I remember the Beethoven Bicentennial of 1970 very well - each month I waited by the mailbox for the next Time-Life Bicentennial set of 5 Deutsche Gramophon LPs to arrive. But I was too young to remember the 1956 Mozart celebrations; his 200th birthday was on January 27, 1956.

Mozart isn't a composer one thinks of in connection with Villa-Lobos, who was closer musically and in temperament to Bach, Beethoven & Wagner. But Villa did write his first Sinfonietta in 1916 "À memória de Mozart". Therefore it was a great piece to start off a concert Villa-Lobos was conducting in New Orleans on January 17, 1956, with the NO Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra.

The above excerpt from the program of that concert is from Lisa M. Peppercorn's book The World of Villa-Lobos in Pictures & Documents (p. 247). I was able to piece together the rest of that concert from mentions in the Museu Villa-Lobos's Villa-Lobos: Sua Obra (2009).  After the Danses Africanes (also written in 1916) and the Intermission came an early American performance of Choros #06, and what seems to be the first complete version of Bachianas Brasileiras #5 in the U.S. (the Aria had been performed in New York in 1939). That's a pretty big deal, considering how popular the work has become in the years since.

M.J. (Mary Jane) Euphemie Blanc was, I assume, the soprano who sang BB#5, though I haven't found anything on the web about her as a singer. All I could find about M.J. is that she wrote (with her husband Louis Alfred Blanc) a book called Make Music Yours (1949), and that she and Louis Alfred endowed Loyola University with a music scholarship. Can anyone from the Crescent City tell us more?

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