Thursday, June 7, 2018

Villa-Lobos Essential Works

Menuetto Classics has a series called Essential Works, packages that include a variety of older licensed performances. Variety is the keyword with their Villa-Lobos release; it's really an odd mixture, though each track is beautifully played. There's one performance that I'd call essential: the symphonic poem Uirapurú, performed by Leopold Stokowski & the Stadium Symphony Orchestra of New York. And I was so pleased to see the superb late work Fantasia for an Orchestra of Cellos, with the The Violoncello Society, an all-star super-group of all the top New York cellists, led by the composer. This is an easy way to get that work, streamed or on MP3, though I'll still be listening on my old LP!

Here is the lovely 2nd movement, Lento. An orchestra of cellos! Note that this album is now also available at the Naxos Music Library.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Sexteto Místico from Santa Catarina

From the 13th Annual Festival de Música de Santa Catarina, Sexteto Místico by Heitor Villa-Lobos. Such an interesting work, from 1917, an important year for the young composer.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Lost Villa-Lobos piano transcriptions found

Here's some exciting news for lovers of Villa-Lobos's piano and guitar music.  Alvaro Henrique reports in his blog that the lost piano transcriptions of Villa's Etudes 9-12 by José Viera Brandão have been found. These transcriptions as well as those of the Guitar Preludes are by a close friend and colleague of the composer, and emphasize the influence of two pianists on the great guitar works: Frederic Chopin and Ernesto Nazareth. The Prelude transcriptions have become fairly popular with pianists; I'm hoping the Etudes will soon begin showing up in concert, on YouTube and in recordings.

This is Sonia Rubinsky playing the 2nd Prelude in Brandão's transcription:

This is from volume 7 in Rubinsky's Naxos series of Villa-Lobos Complete Piano Music. In his fine album notes, James Melo notes "In their technical virtuosity Brandão’s transcriptions achieve the stature of true transcendental etudes for the piano."

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

A tour-de-force of musicianship and technology

Antonio & Alberto Lysy: South America. Music by Villa-Lobos, Casals, Piazzolla, Kodaly, Bach, Gardel, Filiberto, Mora

In 1958 cellist Bernard Greenhouse and composer Heitor Villa-Lobos organized a concert at New York's Town Hall of The Violoncello Society, a newly formed group led by Greenhouse and made up of many of the top cellists of the day. The concert, which was recorded and released on an LP, though unfortunately never re-released on CD*, included a number of Bach Preludes and Fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier. These were adapted by Villa-Lobos in 1941 for "an orchestra of cellos". In his score he asks for a minimum of ten, and in the end Greenhouse rounded up 32 cellists for the recording.

In this new Yarlung Records disc Antonio and Alberto Lysy provide a well-chosen selection of South American music for cello and violin, and a few other instruments. In a tour-de-force of technology and musicianship, and in a tribute to his hero Bernard Greenhouse, cellist Antonio Lysy multi-track recorded between 16 and 28 cellos playing 4 to 7 parts in one of Villa's Bach fugues, and in Pablo Casals' multi-cello piece Les Rois Mages (The Three Kings). Producer Bob Attiyeh provides this explanation in his excellent liner notes:

The effect is quite stunning.

There's much more on this disc. Two popular Villa-Lobos pieces show up, featuring Antonio's cello with two guests: O canto do cisne negro (The Song of the Black Swan) with harpist Marcia Dickstein Vogler; and Assobio a Jato (The Jet Whistle) with Anastasia Petanova on flute. There are a number of works from Argentina featuring Coco Trivosonno on bandoneon. Finally, there's a major work for father and son, with Alberto Lysy on violin: Zoltán Kodály's Duo for Violin and Cello. This is a well-planned, beautifully-played and expertly recorded disc.

* but listen to it on YouTube here.

This post is also featured at Music for Several Instruments.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Bom apetite!

Here is a very cool project from back in 2012, by soprano Julianne Daud and chef Ivo Faria da Costa of Vecchio Sogno Ristorante in Belo Horizonte. Chef Faria matched pieces by Villa-Lobos with dishes he created, and served them as Daud and a small group of musicians performed.

The fish appetizer goes with Uirapuru:

The next course with Choros no. 5, "Alma Brasileira":

With pork ribs "à moda sertaneja" (country style), the Toccata movement from Bachianas Brasileiras no. 2, the Little Train from the Caipira:

Finally, for dessert, Villa-Lobos's sweetest music, the Aria from Bachianas Brasileiras no. 5:

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Engaging and colourful music from Latin America

Villa-Lobos: Concerto Grosso, Fantasia em Tres Movimentos (en Forma de Choros); Chavez: Chapultepec; Rodrigo: Per la flor del lliri blau, Adagio

This is such a great release, with music we've needed on disc for such a long time. Of course, I'm most interested in the two Villa-Lobos works, both of which from his late period. Late Villa-Lobos is a bit of a hodgepodge; it includes a few less than inspired commissioned works, but also some of his greatest music: the last few String Quartets, the Magnificat Alleluia and Bendita sabedoria, and the operas Yerma and A Menina das Nuvens. The two pieces for wind orchestra are both standouts. The Concerto Grosso for Wind Quartet (flute, oboe, clarinet & bassoon) and Wind Orchestra is from Villa-Lobos's last year, 1959. There are a few recordings available, including a Latin Grammy-winner from Naxos with Jose Serebrier conducting "The President's Own" United States Marine Band. The 1958 Fantasia em Tres Movimentos (en Forma de Choros), a nostalgic final look back at a lifetime of music in the Choros form, has only a single recording, a world premiere available from the University of Pennsylvania Music Department. Both of the newly recorded pieces are beautifully played by the Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra under conductors Clark Rundell and Mark Heron, and well presented by the Chandos producer engineers. 2017 was the Villa-Lobos Symphonies Year, thanks to the completion of the Naxos series from OSESP under Isaac Karabtchevsky. Even though it's only March, I'm quite sure 2018 will be the Villa-Lobos Wind Orchestra Year, based on this release.

On Twitter I referred to these two works as Villa-Lobos's NAFTA music, after Marcelo Rodolfo of the Museu Villa-Lobos tweeted that the Concerto Grosso was written in Mexico, and the Fantasia in Canada:

As you can see from the scores, both works were written for The American Wind Symphony in Pittsburgh, and both were dedicated to Mindinha.

(Thanks for these, Marcelo!)

The other works on this disc are really interesting. The two pieces by Joaquin Rodrigo are about what I expected, colourful music with Iberian touches. With the title Chapultepec, I expected something more folkloric from Carlos Chavez's piece, but it's more about the municipal band in the town square playing military marches and Italian opera tunes than anything approaching the revolutionary modernism we connect with Chavez. The entire disc is full of colour and engaging tunes; it's completely delightful.

This disc will be released on April 23, 2018. This review also appears at Music for Several Instruments.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Bachianas Brasileiras no. 4 for Wind Ensemble, & more!

Here's another arrangement of a Villa-Lobos piece for wind ensemble, after yesterday's BB#5 Aria from DePauw University Band. It's from The University of Houston Wind Ensemble's 1999 album Enigma Variations, conducted by Eddie Green. The arrangement is by Merlin Patterson.

The 4th Bachianas Brasileiras went through a number of transformations by Villa-Lobos himself. It was originally written for piano in three chunks: the Dança (Miudinho), which became the finale, in 1930; the Ária (Cantiga), the 3rd movement, in 1935; and the Prelúdio (Introdução) and Coral (Canto do Sertão), the 1st two movements, in 1941.

Villa then orchestrated the piece in 1942.

Finally, he re-worked the first movement to become the opening Seed of God segment of his Broadway musical Magdalena. There's a recording of the Magdalena Suite on an amazing LP from 1974 called Andre Kostelanetz Plays Villa-Lobos. Unfortunately, this isn't available on Spotify, but you can listen to a 30 second clip at the Internet Archive. By the way, this disc is available on CD & MP3 from Klassic Haus Restorations.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

BB#5 Aria for Wind Ensemble

This is quite lovely: John Krance's arrangement for wind ensemble of the Aria of Bachianas Brasileiras no. 5. It's played beautifully by the DePauw University Band, conducted by Craig Paré. From their 2017 album Everything Beautiful.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Wind Band Music from Latin America

This is exciting: a new Chandos disc of music for wind orchestra from Latin America, due to be released on April 23, 2018, which includes two important late works by Villa-Lobos.

The Concerto Grosso for Wind Quartet (flute, oboe, clarinet & bassoon) and Wind Orchestra is from Villa-Lobos's last year, 1959. There are a few recordings available, including a Latin Grammy-winner from Naxos with Jose Serebrier conducting "The President's Own" United States Marine Band. The 1958 Fantasia em Tres Movimentos (en Forma de Choros), has only a single recording, a world premiere, available from the University of Pennsylvania Music Department.

Villa-Lobos had a real knack for wind band music, and the different sonorities make these works more interesting than some of the more routine commissioned works from the 1950s. I have high hopes for the new Chandos disc. Once I get a chance to hear it, I'll report on it here, and post a full review at Music for Several Instruments.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Nepomuceno songs arranged by Villa-Lobos

New at the IMSLP Petrucci Music Library, scans of the autograph scores of two songs by Alberto Nepomuceno arranged for voice and orchestra by Villa-Lobos: Oração ao diabo and Trovas. These are in the public domain, except in the EU.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Viva Villa! at OSESP

In February 2018 the place to be for Villa-Lobos fans is Sao Paulo. Later this month the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra (OSESP) will feature six concerts of Villa-Lobos in their Viva Villa! Festival. Isaac Karabtchevsky leads the orchestra in such important works as Choros #10 and Uirapuru. They'll also play assorted movements from the Symphonies, coinciding with the release of the 6 CD box set of the Complete Symphonies from Naxos. The excellent OSESP Choir, led by Valentina Peleggi will perform the choral version of Bachianas Brasileiras #9 along with Villa-Lobos's arrangements of Bach preludes and fugues. Also featured are guitarist Fabio Zanon and pianist Marcelo Bratke.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Bachianas Brasileira no. 2: live performance from the ABM

Except for the Little Train movement, the 2nd Bachianas Brasileiras isn't as well known as some of the other in the series. Here's a fine recent (July 2017) performance by Roberto Tibiriçá and the Orquestra Sinfônica da UFRJ.