|Photo by Luiza Sigulem|
What matters in Villa-Lobos, says Mendes, "is not the Brazilian character that his music can have, rather it is the modernity of such a personal musical language that he built, at times, with some elements of our folklore and popular urban music, at other times with elements of Bach’s music, as it could have been built with any other elements and would have always been the same language, his language". This is from the excellent liner notes to the 2011 OSESP album Gilberto Mendes 90 Anos. By the way, you can download the entire album + notes at the OSESP site.
Though his music fit smack in the middle of the avant garde in Brazil, he was never doctrinaire or too serious about anything. One of my favourite pieces of his is Ulysses in Copacabana Surfing with James Joyce and Dorothy Lamour. As ironic as it might be intended, it's full of lush, romantic exoticism, and is a lovely piece in itself.
Back in 2009 I posted here at The Villa-Lobos Magazine on Mendes's analysis of Villa-Lobos the Modernist. Mendes was a perceptive fellow!
One of my favourite Mendes CDs is from Filip Rathé and the Spectra Ensemble. Unfortunately, it's not on Spotify or the Naxos Music Library. Here's a link to more information, with 30 second clips from each track.