Thursday, July 5, 2012

Villa-Lobos as Conductor

When Villa-Lobos came to New York after the war, it was primarily to present himself to America as a composer.  He was a very busy conductor as well, though, and not just of his own music.  This list of his conducting repertoire is from his file at the New York Philharmonic Digital Archive.

This is an interesting list, with some names I wouldn't have expected. It was a surprise to see Haydn,  Handel and Brahms.  More congenial composers include Ravel, Debussy, Scriabin, Honegger, Stavinsky, his close friend Florent Schmitt, Bach (of course), Beethoven, Liszt and Wagner.  The only Brazilian composer is Oscar Lorenzo Fernandez. The Italian composers Pizzini, Casella and Petrassi were, I think, more popular then than today; their neo-classical style would have appealed to Villa-Lobos in the 1940s.  I wasn't familiar with the music of Paul Le Flem, but from what I've read in Wikipedia, I can see the appeal for Villa-Lobos. Le Flem is from the same generation as Villa-Lobos, he studied with Vincent d'Indy and Paul Roussel, and he had an interest in folklore (from his native Britanny).

Villa was about to enter a period of major success in America and Western Europe, but by the 1950s it was his pretty much only his own music that he was conducting. It's a shame we haven't any recordings of him conducting other composers. I would love to hear his version of the Bach B minor Mass!

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