Thursday, August 23, 2018

Villa-Lobos at Harvard

On February 21, 1945, the Boston Symphony Orchestra performed an all-Villa-Lobos concert at the Saunders Theatre at Harvard, under the direction of the composer himself. The audience was in for a treat: this was the first performance outside of Brazil of Bachianas Brasileiras no. 7, one of Villa's greatest works, and among the best-loved. I'm not sure why only the last two movements were performed; the entire work was played at the world premiere in Rio de Janeiro the previous March. The next work was an even bigger coup for the BSO and Harvard (take that, Yale!): it was a world premiere, of Choros no. 11, written in Rio de Janeiro in 1925.

After the intermission came the orchestral version of Rudepoema which Villa-Lobos had made in 1932 from the original piano piece, written in the period 1921-26, and dedicated to Arthur Rubinstein. This was the third performance; the first was in Rio in 1942, and the second in Los Angeles the previous November. I don't believe there have been too many performances of this odd work since then.

This is a concert that's high on the list I keep next to the controls of my time machine.

Via Boston Symphony Orchestra Digital Archive.

Speaking of which, here's a picture (by an unidentified photographer) from the previous year, of Villa-Lobos in the Green Room at Symphony Hall in Boston.

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