Saturday, January 2, 2016

RIP Gilberto Mendes

Photo by Luiza Sigulem
Yesterday we lost a great Brazilian composer, perhaps the greatest since Villa-Lobos. Gilberto Ambrosio Garcia Mendes was born in Santos on October 13, 1922, and died January 1, 2016, at age 93. Like every Brazilian musician he was in Villa's shadow, but Mendes, who studied with Boulez and Stockhausen, saw him as a precursor to new music. Mendes was able to build on Villa's legacy rather than spending his energy raging about or rebelling against the reactionary Villa-Lobos.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment