Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Villa-Lobos & Mindinha with Guiomar Novaes in New York

Another great photo from the new Museu Villa-Lobos website. Villa-Lobos with Arminda & the great pianist Guiomar Novaes, at the Hotel Alrae in New York, 1958. The Alrae, on East 64th Street, reopened in 1984 after a complete renovation as the Hôtel Plaza Athénée.

Creative Commons Atribuição-Sem Derivações 3.0 Não Adaptada - Museu Villa-Lobos

The print behind Villa is Charles de Montfort's Place Gaillon Hotel de Lyon.

Guiomar Novaes plays the first movement of Bachianas Brasileiras no. 4.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Villa-Lobos Symposium in Paris

The Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et danse de Paris is organizing a Villa-Lobos Symposium to be held on Friday, January 10, 2020. Oh, to be in Paris!


Here is the program for the day:

9 H 30
MOT D’ACCUEIL
Fabre Guin et Etienne Kippelen

9 H 45
LES INFLUENCES FRANÇAISES DANS LA MUSIQUE DE VILLA-LOBOS – UN REGARD INTERPRÉTATIF
Simone Menezes

Le rôle de l'interprète dans la musique de Villa-Lobos est fondamental. Profondément prolifique, Heitor VillaLobos ne retouchait que très rarement son œuvre en laissant se rôle à l'interprète. Interpréter Villa-Lobos signifie également se plonger dans l'œuvre de VillaLobos. Pour ce faire, il est nécessaire de comprendre la musique brésilienne et l'influence française exercée dans son œuvre. Nous mettrons en évidences trois éléments de l'influence française dans la musique de Villa-Lobos : le prise en compte du temps, la préférence pour les formes libres et l'importance des éléments extra-musicaux.

10 H 15
UN PAYSAGE SONORE BRÉSILIEN DE VILLA-LOBOS
Cécile Delétré et élèves de la classe d’ethnomusicologie

Par le voyage, mais plus probablement encore par l’enregistrement, Heitor Villa-Lobos a fait connaissance des musiques populaires et traditionnelles de son pays. Après avoir explicité brièvement ces deux notions, le populaire et le traditionnel, la classe d’ethnomusicologie donnera à entendre, explications à la clé, quelques extraits de musique amérindienne, afro-américaine et brésilienne
représentatifs de la musique du Brésil de Villa-Lobos.

10 H 45 PAUSE

11 H
INTERCULTURALITÉS DANS LA COOPÉRATION FRANCO-BRÉSILIENNE : LE CAS DU CHORO, MUSIQUE MÉTISSE ET « ÂME DU PEUPLE BRÉSILIEN » SELON VILLA-LOBOS
Étienne Clément

Dans le contexte pluriséculaire des relations historiques et musicales franco-brésiliennes, nous aborderons les interculturalités dont s’est servi le compositeur Villa-Lobos pour faire de son œuvre une synthèse de la musique classique européenne et de la musique populaire brésilienne, et notamment du genre choro. À partir de la naissance du choro (années 1880) et de celle de
Villa-Lobos (1887), nous proposons une approche historique et linguistique des interculturalités France-Brésil afin de s’interroger sur la place qu’a eu le choro dans la formation de Villa-Lobos.

11 H 30
AUTOUR DE MAGDALENA ET YERMA, DEUX OUVRAGES LYRIQUES DE VILLA-LOBOS
Rémi Jacobs

Magdalena et Yerma illustrent les deux versants de la création de Villa-Lobos Obéissant à la mode des « musicals » américains, Magdalena offre le spectacle bariolé d’un exotisme amérindien mêlé de parisianisme Belle époque. Villa-Lobos y a réutilisé des thèmes favoris d’œuvres antérieures.
Inspiré par la pièce écrite de Garcia Lorca (1934), Yerma se résume à un huis-clos mettant en jeu, dans un milieu campagnard, une femme en mal d’enfant en butte aux sarcasmes de ses voisines et à l’indifférence de son mari. Drame intime écrit en espagnol par un Villa-Lobos qui a adopté une diction lyrique linéaire soutenue par une orchestration minimaliste.

12 H
LE NONETTO (1923) DE VILLA-LOBOS : UNE MUSIQUE DE « SAUVAGE » ?
Étienne Kippelen

En écrivant son nonette quelques mois avant d’embarquer pour la France, Villa-Lobos dépeint un tableau volontairement chamarré du Brésil. De la formation, totalement insolite (flûte, hautbois, clarinette, saxophone alto et baryton, basson, harpe, piano, célesta, dixhuit instruments de percussion et chœur mixte), où le chœur mixte, notablement sous-employé, sert de faire-valoir, jusqu’à l’éclatement extrême du discours, frisant la maladresse : tout semble indiquer qu’il s’agit d’une musique de « sauvage », selon les critères entendus comme tels en Europe et notamment dans la
France de l’entre-deux-guerres, friand d’exotisme et de dépaysement radical. Influencé par le rythme stravinskien, les incantations varésiennes et le bruitisme primal d’un George Antheil, ce nonette obtient un franc succès à Paris lors de sa création et servit de réservoir d’idées lors de la
composition de plusieurs Chôros. Nous nous proposons d’étudier cette partition aujourd’hui tombée dans l’oubli, à l’aune d’une esthétique du « sauvage », à laquelle VillaLobos lui-même donner un certain crédit, notamment lors de son deuxième voyage à Paris en 1927.

12 H 30
QUESTIONS ET ÉCHANGES AVEC LE PUBLIC

The day ends with a concert of L'Orchestre Du Conservatoire, conducted by Simone Menezes: Vendredi 10 janvier à 19 h, Conservatoire de Paris, Salle Rémy-Pflimlin
Entrée libre sur réservation


Sunday, January 5, 2020

At the Bedford Hotel


Villa-Lobos's favourite place in Europe was always Paris, and in the 1950s he spent a fair bit of time at the Hotel Bedford, 17 rue de l’Arcade, in the 8th District, near the Champs-Élysées. I made my own pilgrimage there in 2004 when we visited Paris. The picture above, from the new Museu Villa-Lobos website, is from the Restaurante Nino in the Hotel. Villa & Mindinha are enjoying their meal with friends, including the pianist Marguerite Long (sitting on Villa's left) and the composer Florent Schmitt (the white-haired, bearded gentleman on Mindinha's right.

Villa was pleased and flattered when he was offered the same suite used by the Emperor of Brazil, Pedro II, during his exile after 1889. He even used the Emperor's writing desk. In 1971 the Brazilian ambassador arranged for this plaque. I remember it from my visit, but I don't see it on Google Street View.

photo: Ed Tervooren

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Villa-Lobos: Ambassador of Music

Here is a lovely article about the human side of Villa-Lobos, written by Henri Leiser, a friend he made during his 1945 trip to the United States. I love these stories about Villa's special relationships with Rubinstein, Stokowski and Koussevitzky, and his love of children and vanilla ice cream. The anecdote about the Moment Symphony shows that Villa-Lobos could continue to think as a Parisian avant-gardiste even though by that time he had left behind the modernist style of the 1920s. Remember that John Cage's 4'33" wasn't conceived until 1947-48!

This is from Musical Courier, May 1, 1945.



Friday, December 13, 2019

Merry Christmas from The Villa-Lobos Magazine

Unknown photographer, from the Museu Villa-Lobos Website. Creative Commons attribution

Heitor Villa-Lobos sent this photo to far-away Rio de Janeiro from New York City on Christmas Eve, 1957. His own mother had died in 1946, so perhaps this went out to Mindinha's mother, Villa's mother-in-law.

"À nossa querida mãezinha, Feliz Natal e Ano Novo. NY, 24/12/57. Villa-Lobos"

"To our dear mother, Merry Christmas & Happy New Year."

I'm also thinking of my Mom, who would have turned 92 last week. And I'm also very thankful to all my Villa-Lobos friends around the world. Feliz Natal!

Friday, December 6, 2019

Villa-Lobos at the New York Public Library

One of the photos posted to the new website of the Museu Villa-Lobos in Rio de Janeiro is from a 1940 banquet in New York honouring Carleton Sprague Smith, the chief of New York Public Library's Music Division. At this event Sprague Smith welcomed the absolute cream of Brazilian music, who were in New York for the 1939-40 World's Fair. Here are the Brazilian musicians & the guest of honour, from left to right:

Front row: Lourival Fontes (2), Carleton Sprague Smith (4), Renato de Almeida (5), Villa-Lobos (6)

Back row: Lorenzo Fernandez (2), Mário de Andrade (3), Camargo Guarnieri (6), Brasílio Itiberê (7), Luiz Heitor Correia de Azevedo (8), Herbert Moses (9)



New photos from the Museu Villa-Lobos



Welcome news from the Museu Villa-Lobos in Rio de Janeiro: they have a new website, with lots of digitized goodies promised for 2020. But there are already some cool photos up. I zeroed in on Canadian Content first, of course: here is a photo of Villa & Mindinha taken during their 1951 trip to the Great White North. Here the composer banters - in French, I assume - with journalists in the CBC-Radio Canada studio, in Montreal, I believe.

I've seen this next shot before, but cropped, & in lower resolution. An animated Villa-Lobos talks with a Radio Canada interviewer, in Montreal, I assume, from 1951. Somewhere on the web is a portion of the audio from that interview. I'll see if I can find it...



More to come!

Villa-Lobos in Paris, in impressive company


It's a big deal for me to come across a Villa-Lobos picture I haven't seen before. This shot was taken in Paris, c.1955-58; it's from the collection of the singer Annette Celine, who is the daughter of the great pianist Felicja Blumental, a close friend of Villa-Lobos. That's Léonide Massine, who in his earlier years was the principal choreographer of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Next to him is Mindinha, then Blumental, Celine, and finally Villa-Lobos, looking very relaxed and at home in Paris, his true second home.

I came across this at the invaluable Heitor Villa-Lobos Facebook page.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

John Sebastian's recording of the Harmonica Concerto

One of Villa-Lobos's happiest late works was the Harmonica Concerto, commissioned by John Sebastian. Lisa Peppercorn reminisces about her visit with Villa-Lobos while he and John Sebastian worked on the Harmonica Concerto.
It was one of my joys to work with John and Villa-Lobos during the writing of the Concerto. The composer sat at the huge semi-circular desk with a pot of black thick coffee, several cigars and ashtrays all around working on several compositions at once, while watching a TV at intervals. All the time wearing a hat...



A fine recording was made with Sebastian, released on LP by Heliodor, but no commercial CD was available for a long time. That means that eBay & used record stores became the source for this version. So it's great to hear about this re-mastering by Curt Timmons at Klassik Haus, available on CD, FLAC or MP3.

I've commented before about this work being especially well represented with recordings. With the new Naxos disc things are better than ever!

Monday, October 28, 2019

São Paulo's Villa-Lobos recording revolution


Heitor Villa-Lobos: Guitar Concerto, Harmonica Concerto, Sexteto Místico, Quinteto Instrumental

In the past ten years we've been blessed with a new generation of Villa-Lobos recordings from São Paulo that have instantly become the new standards for interpretation, instrumental playing and engineering. These include the complete Bachianas Brasileiras, Choros and Symphonies series. Now we have a very welcome disc in Naxos's new series The Music of Brazil, which takes on the first of the composer's commissioned concertos from the last decade of his life, along with some important chamber works.

The Guitar Concerto, written for Andrès Segovia in 1951, is somewhat controversial. Jason Vieaux, speaking for the Defence, has expressed his love for the work. Meanwhile, John Williams said, "it just isn't a very good piece, technically or musically." This has always been a popular work, thanks to a plethora of great recordings, by Julian BreamGöran Söllscher, and my own favourite, by Norbert Kraft. There's even a very convincing recording by John Williams himself! But I'll admit that, at least in its final movement, the Guitar Concerto, like much of the commissioned music from Villa's final decade, suffers from some undistinguished patches of banal passage-work, though in this case they connect some of the composer's finest tunes. Lovely tunes were never a problem for this guy! I've only listened to this new recording of the Concerto by Manuel Barrueco and OSESP (the São Paulo Symphony) under Giancarlo Guerrero, five or six times, but I'm already suspecting this will go to the very top of the list. Barrueco's playing is outstanding, especially in the Cadenza, and even in the Finale the partnership between soloist and orchestra makes the most compelling case for bringing this work out of the John Williams cold.

Eero Tarasti refers to Villa-Lobos's "limpid late period". The Harmonica Concerto, written for John Sebastian in 1955, partakes fully of the relaxed, late-night noodlings that are seemingly built-in to the instrument. Beginning with a theme that's disconcertingly similar to the Hancock's Half-Hour theme-song by Wally Stott/Angela Morley, Villa-Lobos continues his formula here: lots of arresting, sometimes quite beautiful, themes held together with characteristic runs and doodles by the solo instrument. In this case, as so often throughout his career, Villa-Lobos cottons on to a wider variety of effects from his instruments than are standard, providing a kaleidoscopic effect of instrumental orchestral colours. The playing here by José Staneck is very fine, though this recording lacks some of the energy of the classic album by Robert Bonfiglio and the New York Chamber Symphony under Gerard Schwarz.

As fine as these two works are, I was most interested in the two chamber works, by the OSESP Ensemble, made up of some very fine musicians indeed. The Sesteto Místico (aka Sextuor Mystique) was nominally written in 1917, though it was revised later in Villa's career. This is a fine example of Villa's modernist style, well ahead of anything being written in Latin America, and close to the leading edge in Europe. Tarasti refers to its "contrapuntal colorism... a refined, aquarelle-like texture simply because of the choice of instruments." He notes that "a corresponding combination is not to be found in European chamber music of the period." This is a very fine recording, with delicate filigree effects and all the colours of the rainbow.

We return to the 1950s with the Quinteto Instrumental, written in 1957. This is a work of pure nostalgia, though it's French nostalgie rather than the usual Brazilian saudade, with Villa-Lobos looking back to his time in Paris in the 1920s. The sounds of the instruments evoke Ravel, as does the mildly ironic and sentimental tone of the music. If there is a falling-off in Villa-Lobos's inspiration in the commissioned works of the 1950s, it's hard to hear it in the great chamber works of the period, including the late String Quartets and this Quintet. And it's a great work to end this very, very fine disc from São Paulo. I look forward to more in this series!





This disc will be released on November 8, 2019. This review also appears at Music for Several Instruments.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Two modernist masterworks in Paris

Here is an announcement of an important concert, from the Parisian journal Excelsior : journal illustré quotidien : informations, littérature, sciences, arts, sports, théâtre, élégances, June 1, 1929. The headline works are two masterpieces of modernism: Edgard Varèse's Amériques, & Heitor Villa-Lobos's Amazonas. From Gallica, the digital library of the Bibliothèque National de France.




This is pretty much a rave from the correspondent, Pierre Leroi. He says of Amazonas, "C'est une véritable orgie de thèmes, souleves par un souffle irrésistible. Et des oppositions heurtées de couleurs, d'ombres et de clartés achèvent de donner á l'œuvre un relief saisissant."




Leonard Bernstein's Little Train

This is very cool: Leonard Bernstein & the New York Philharmonic play, and beautifully demonstrate, Villa-Lobos's "Little Train" movement from Bachianas Brasileiras no. 2. This is a masterpiece of classical music education, from the renowned Young People's Concerts series. Thanks once again to Rodrigo Roderico for posting this.

 


"That's the noisemaking department back there." Here, from the Library of Congress, is Bernstein's list of the interesting percussion instruments Villa-Lobos uses.




Thursday, August 29, 2019

Sinfonietta no. 1 from Porto Alegre

Watch Simone Menezes conduct the Orquestra Sinfônica de Porto Alegre (OSPA) in a portion of Villa-Lobos's engaging Sinfonietta no. 1, written "in memory of Mozart".



Mozart isn't a composer one normally thinks of in connection with Villa-Lobos, and indeed, this sounds unlike anything else Villa wrote. But in the end nearly everything is grist for Villa-Lobos's musical mill, and the results are certainly worth his tarrying on this particular neo-classical by-way. The Sinfonietta no. 1 has become the musical calling card of Simone Menezes, whose career is certainly heating up. I hope that this piece will always be in her repertoire even when she tackles the big bruisers of orchestral music; charm always has its place!