Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The lost scores, and immortality

Back in 2003 I published this post on Villa-Lobos's lost scores at The Villa-Lobos Website, which is now hosted by the Latin American Music Center at Indiana University. It included a pretty long list of works which are not available, either because they've been lost or, as is quite likely in some cases, they were never actually written. I highlighted these works which we especially miss:
  • the 6th Prelude for guitar, which looms large because of the incredible popularity of the other five.  Guitarists would eat this score up!
  • the Fifth Symphony "A Paz", especially now that the other 11 are all recorded.
  • the two missing works - #13 and #14 - in the Choros series.  These two works are listed in the 1972 catalogue Sua Obra: "Choros #13 for two orchestras and band (1929) - score lost," and "Choros #14 for orchestra, band and chorus (1928) - score lost."
  • A Prole do Bebe, suite no. 3, which would instantly become part of the repertoire for many pianists, judging from the recent popularity of Villa-Lobos on the keyboard, around the world.
I also asked for feedback from my readers; this was the response:

  • The sixth guitar prelude: 50% (25 votes)
  • Prole do Bebe #3, for piano: 20% (10 votes)
  • The fifth symphony "A Paz": 4% (2 votes)
  • Choros #13: 10% (5 votes)
  • Choros #14: 8% (4 votes)
  • Fantasma, for orchestra (1918): 4% (2 votes)
  • Concerto Brasileiro: 4% (2 votes)
  • The Golden Centaur, for orchestra (1916): 0% (0 votes)
Total votes: 50
I wonder how people feel about this now. I'd still be most excited about news that the 6th Prelude had been found, though I wouldn't believe anything showing up on April 1st.  Musically, I think perhaps the 3rd book of Prole do Bebe would make the most impact, if it's anything like the first two books, both masterpieces of pianistic modernism. The Symphonies have been pushed forward by the second very successful Naxos series with OSESP and Isaac Karabtchevsky, so the 5th Symphony would fill what seems to be a bigger gap now.

But in terms of bigness - and there's always a certain amount of bigness with Villa-Lobos - the two missing Choros, written for large resources at the absolute peak of Villa's powers in 1929 (#13) and 1928 (#14) would be a hit, I think. Wikipedia has two marvellous articles on Choros 13 and Choros 14, which include a distressingly large amount of detail about works which have never been heard. Villa-Lobos said #13 was "absolutely atonal … with tendencies to classicism", while of #14 he says,
One might expect it to represent the simplest and most accurate in technique and form, with respect to the others. On the contrary, this Choros surprises us with its harmonic and thematic complexity, verging almost on a complete and calculated cacophony.
If there were any stops left in the Choros series after #8, 9, 10, 11 and 12, Villa-Lobos pulled them out in the last two of the series. The final one even ends on with a Haydn Farewell Symphony bit:
... after a development of the last stretto performed by almost all of the instruments, a kind of canonical rondo appears and gradually each performer drops out, leaving only the first violin (as soloist) with two long double-stopped notes a minor second apart, dying slowly away until disappearing.
I wonder, though, how much all of this really matters.  I just finished reading Alberto Manguel's marvellous book With Borges, and was struck by this passage:
He said he couldn't understand Unamuno, who had written that he longed for immortality. 'Someone who longs to be immortal must be crazy, eh?'
In the case of Borges, it was his work, his material, the stuff on which his universe was made that was immortal, and for that reason he himself did not feel the need to seek an everlasting existence. 'The number of themes, of words, of texts, is limited. Therefore nothing is ever lost. If a book is lost, then someone will write it again, eventually. That should be enough immortality for anyone,' he said to me once when he was talking about the destruction of the Library of Alexandria.
I'd love for someone to slide some of those missing scores underneath the door of the Museu Villa-Lobos some night, but I have no doubt that Villa's immortality is right here:

No comments:

Post a Comment