Monday, April 11, 2016

Villa-Lobos in Montreal

The caption of this photo from the Museu Villa-Lobos gives a date of 1951, but I believe this might have been from Villa's visit to the Great White North the following year. There's a short clip online that might be the beginning of this interview. Unfortunately TVCultura no longer has the "Fala, Villa-Lobos" feature, but I have it captured on Tumbling Villa-Lobos (go here to listen).
In 1952 Villa-Lobos visited Canada.  Here’s his introduction on the International Service of CBC’s Radio-Canada, from Montreal.   The announcer welcomes Villa-Lobos, who seems to be suffering from a bad cold, and who will be giving a press conference shortly (I’ll have to look for reports in the Montreal paper archives).  When asked what school of composition he is connected to, Villa-Lobos replies “Mine”.  And when asked what kind of school it is, he says: “every year I found a new school.”
It’s all completely typical of Villa-Lobos.  [thanks to TV Cultura’s “Fala, Villa-Lobos” feature for this]
On this visit Villa-Lobos conducted the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal at Plateau Hall in a concert of his own music, along with pieces by Chilean Humberto Allende and Argentina's Ernesto Drangosch.

One of the most important Canadian connections for Villa-Lobos was the pianist Ellen Ballon, to whom he dedicated his First Piano Concerto. She played the Canadian premiere at Plateau Hall in 1953, with the OSM under Désiré Defauw. (The world premiere was in 1947 with the Dallas Symphony under Antal Dorati).

This somewhat startling sculpture of Ellen Ballon by Jacob Epstein (1938) is at Dalhousie University in Halifax, but there's also a version in the Strathcona Music Building on the McGill campus in Montreal.

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