Saturday, April 27, 2002

Guitar Concerto in Concert

The Villa-Lobos Guitar Concerto will be performed this Sunday, April 28, by guitarist Fukuda Shin-ichi and the Japan Philharmonic under the direction of Toyama Yuzo.

For other Villa-Lobos concerts from around the world, check out the Upcoming Villa-Lobos Concerts Page.

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

New VL Piano Concerto CD

This News Release from Brana Records should excite Villa-Lobos lovers around the world:

NEWS RELEASE - For immediate use - Tuesday 22nd April 2002


On 25th May 1955, Heitor Villa-Lobos conducted the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and soloist Felicja Blumental in a performance of his 5th Piano Concerto at the Musikverein in Vienna.

A recording of this performance has been restored by Brana Records and is to be released as a limited edition CD on Tuesday 2nd July, together with the composer’s Bachianas Brasileiras No. 3 for piano and orchestra and 4 further unaccompanied pieces for piano.

The edition will be limited to 500 and may be pre-ordered at or via at $19.99 or £13.99 plus postage.

It was as a result of hearing an earlier performance of his Bachianas Brasileras No 3 that Villa-Lobos promised to write a piano concerto for Felicja Blumental. She performed the World Premier at the Royal Festival Hall in London with the London Symphony Orchestra under Anatole Fistoulari.

Brana Records will be releasing a series of restored Felicja Blumental recordings including the Albeniz Piano Concerto and Hekel Tavares’ Concerto in Brazilian Forms for Piano and Orchestra.

For Further Information contact:
Mark Walmsley, Executive Producer, Brana Records. 01737 768 127


Thanks, Mark, for that information. I'm looking forward to hearing this music. The piano concertos (and BB #3) aren't as well known as they should be, and the artistry of Felicja Blumental is legendary. The abilities of Villa-Lobos as a conductor have been questioned by some, and admired by others. This recording, with a great orchestra, should help us decide.

Fans of Felicja Blumental should definitely check out Classical Discoveries - an interesting new website with lots of streaming audio.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Villa-Lobos Conference in Paris, pt. 2

Lee Boyd continues her commentary on the Villa-Lobos Conference in Paris:

Saturday April 13

NOEL DEVOS discussed the large amount of very expressive wind music produced by VL, which he pointed out was both idiomatic and often virtuosic, though never impossible to play. Moreover, he felt VL was more generous than most composers in giving orchestral winds juicy parts. [Here is an interesting interview with Noel Devos from Double Reed in PDF format].

MANUEL DE CORREA LAGO gave detailed analyses of the occurrence of the large number of children's folk songs in the Guia Pratica and other works, such as the Cirandas. He suggested some published sources which may have been used by VL, in addition to his own personal experience.

LUCIA SILVA BARRENECHEA gave the most thrilling presentation of the conference, in my opinion. First she read excerpts from her doctoral thesis, which described the background of VL's composing the "Hommage a Chopin," and analyzed his approach to combining Chopin's style with his own. She had to sing excerpts which she would have demonstrated on the piano, but we were in a room without one. For that reason, she also had to play a recording of the complete piece which she made 4 days earlier, rather than perform live. Her performance was simply masterful: total technical control and a breadth of expression rarely available in playing such virtuosic material. I am sure both Chopin and Villa-Lobos would have been delighted had they been present.

[A highlight later that day was] Benjamin Bunch's playing the de los Angeles recording of the Aria of Bachaianas Brasileiras No. 5 at the end of his talk. Which is
still haunting me.

In the afternoon there was a roundtable discussing some publishing background, and the possible ways in which the complete works of Villa-Lobos might be issued. Gandelman observed that electronic media have completely changed how things are done, so their effects might retard or speed up the process depending on goodness knows what. Maestro Duarte said at age 60 he knew he would never live to see the end of it, but proposed that a commission of young and brilliant musicologists (LF Lima immediately sprang to my mind) be appointed to address the work in an orderly and up to date manner.

Turibio Santos, as Director of the Villa-Lobos Museum, described how much music there actually is to cope with, and even more appearing. The Guimaraes family once drove up to the Museum in a Volkswagen, opened the trunk, and unloaded a number of boxes of scores and other materials. They have promised to look for more. He described the previous time in Museum history, during which Dona Arminda organized and promoted its work, as "The Heroic Period." I think he said his regime's main task is consolidation.

Gandelman told an interesting story of how he tried to track down the lost score of Villa-Lobos's 5th Symphony, which involved Ricordi of New York, which was bought by a medium size company and then by a very large publishing conglomerate. He said he thought he might be able to get help from the Mafia to obtain whatever was still in the old files. The panel asked him about that, and as he was talking about the Mafia, I suddenly blurted out, "But Mayor Giuliani killed the Mafia!" Perhaps I shouldn't be allowed out in public any more: I was surprised at myself and rather embarrassed. But life went on. The day came to a climax when someone said we should all give Professor Tarasti a standing ovation for organizing this historic First, but not last, International Villa-Lobos Conference. This was a very nice moment I'll never forget.

Something else I'll never forget is how I realized, in the moment of shocked silence after my weird comment, that everybody in the room knew who Mayor Giuliani was, and why that was so.

The best pleasure of the conference was just being with people who wanted to talk about their experiences with Villa-Lobos. Mostly, in my life, when I want to talk about this topic, I have been used to seeing my companion's eyes slowly go out of focus as attention drifts away. My husband attended the concert on Thursday night and will give me a paragraph on that soon.


Thanks for that report, Lee. We'll all look forward to Jim's report on the concert. This is the first Mafia connection I've heard of to classical music - all that comes to mind is the opera in Godfather III). With Rudy Giuliani no longer in public life, we should perhaps be looking to Tony Soprano for help.

Monday, April 22, 2002

Gala VL Concert in Paris

Another of the performers invited to perform at the Gala Concert in Paris was guitarist Benjamin Bunch. His website includes an MP3 file of the second prelude, from the Etcetera CD "Villa-Lobos and Friends."

The field of Villa-Lobos guitar music - especially the five preludes - is especially crowded. One day I'll count up the CDs that are currently available, and the guitarists who have MP3s of one or more of the preludes available on the web. I first heard this music on an old Julian Bream LP, so that's how it sounds in my head. The Bunch version of the second prelude shows a mature and polished artist. I'd love to hear more of this disc, but unfortunately Etcetera distribution is spotty. I can't find this disk (KTC 1241) on or Etcetera, an Amsterdam-based company, is the source of some of the most important Villa-Lobos discs, including many by Alfred Heller. Can anyone help me out with a website or North American web distributor?
Soprano Mai Israeli recently let us know about performances of Villa-Lobos songs in Tel Aviv and other venues in Israel. She was asked to perform at the recent Gala Concert, part of the First International Villa-Lobos Congress in Paris:

"dear Dean
i just got back from the conference. it was very successful. Musicians from all over the world meet for Villa-lobos conference.
As i promised i am writing to you about my experience in this conference.
the first villa lobos conference was very impresive and educating. great Musicians, musicologists and researchers took part in this conference. it was very interesting and educating to hear each research and the point of view of each of them. also, most of us did not knew each other, we felt like a big family, the villa lobos familiy.
The gala concert went very well. i was very flattered when Mr. Pierre Vidal, the president of the conference, told me that he was looking for the right villa lobos singer for a long time, and that now, finally, he found her. he had suggested to arrange recordings of the villa lobos songs with labels in Switzerland.
Prf. Tarasti, the vice president, told me that the interpretation were very accurate and that the style also were exactly the villa lobos style.
i was very honored to participate in such important event and to get such warm responses.
My planes for the future are- recording and performing my recital of brazilian songs all over the world.
i hope we will meet some time.
yours sincerely
mai israeli"

Thanks, Mai for this report. I'm certainly looking forward to hearing your interpretations.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Jean de Lery

Lee Boyd's latest report from the Villa-Lobos Conference in Paris makes reference (in her report on Emmanual Gorge's presentation "Influences indigenes sur le langage musical de Villa-Lobos") to the 16th Century French explorer Jean de Lery. In his Histoire d'un voyage faict en la terre du Bresil, autrement dite Amerique, published in 1578, Lery quotes a number of Indian melodies, which Villa-Lobos later used in some of his compositions.

Thanks to the excellent University of Virginia Library website "The Renaissance in Print: Sixteenth Century Books in the Douglas Gordon Collection", portions of Lery's book are available in facsimile on the web. The picture above shows a woodcut of a Tupi ceremonial dance pictured in the rare first edition of Jean de Lery's Brazilian book. Here's a larger version. Note the parrot, a common companion of many performers on album covers - see Benjamin Bunch's album above.

A modern translation of Lery's work is available in paperback from the Amazon site includes sample pages.

Friday, April 12, 2002

Gala VL Concert in Paris

As the International Villa-Lobos Conference continues in Paris, a gala concert is planned for Friday evening. Here's the concert schedule:

Heitor Villa-Lobos - Un continent musical

Concert de gala

jeudi 11 avril 2002 a 19 heures

Maria Ines Guimaraes, piano
- Alma brasileira, Choros no. 5
- Sururu na cidade (Zequinha de Abreu)
- Beija-Flores (Maria Ines Guimaraes)

Mai Israeli, soprano and Efrat Peled, piano- Viola Quebrada
- Adeus Emma
- Saudades da Minha Vida
- Estrela e Lua Nova
- Xango
- Cancao do Poeta do Seculo 18
- Desejo
- Samba Classico

Benjaminn Bunch, guitar- Modinha (arr. Bunch)
- Prelude no. 1 (version enregistree par VL)
- Yara (Anacleto Augusto de Medeiros - arr. Bunch)
- Tango brasileiro (Chiquinha Gonzago - arr. Bunch)

Emil Holmstrom, piano- Rudepoema

VL Conference Report - Day two from Paris

Here are Lee Boy's reports from the second day of the Conference - Thursday, April 11.

Luis Fernando Lima - Choros no. 8 by Villa-Lobos: A Semiotic Analysis - "Lima presented an unusually lucid and insightful analysis of Choros No. 8, explaining the different levels of communication involved, as well as the components of the score. He made semiotic analysis seem exciting and useful, and not, as I have seen it described, 'frightful gobbledy gook'."

Cristina Bittencourt - Une hypothese de construction d'une interpretation - "Bittencourt is a pianist who explained how she arrived at a full interpretation of one of the Cirandas by examining the progressively complex relationships the composer invested in the simple elements of the sustained melodic notes and the constantly running cells of 16th notes. Maestro Duarte identified some fo the Brazilian folk sources in this piece and congratulated Cristina on her discoveries."

Anais Flechet - Entre musique et image: la reception des oeuvres de Villa-Lobos en France dans les annees 1920 - "Flechet examined French music criticism in the 1920's with respect to VL's music itself and the French thirst for exoticism in that period. Villa-Lobos was seen by Henry Pruniere, Florent Schmitt, and others as a 'bon sauvage' in some cases, and a 'sauvage sauvage' in others."

Flavia Toni - Amizade de Mario Andrade e Villa-Lobos - "Flavia Toni read several letters from an important correspondence between VL and Mario de Andrade, 'the Pope of Modernism,' revealing the great excitement both men felt at the birth of this new music and the strength they obtained through sharing these feelings with each other. Luis Fernando Lima pointed out that in the early 1920's the period of the letters Flavia Toni covered, Mario had not yet settled on his complete conception of Brazilian Modernism. Thus VL, far from not being 'one of them,' is shown to have exerted a strong influence."

Mario Rey - Narrative in the Chamber Works of Heitor Villa-Lobos's Bachianas Brasileiras - "Mario Rey applied the interpreative categories of a noted semiotician to 3 Cantigas, from BB's 4, 5 and 6. He used transparences of the music and CD excerpts to illustrate his insights. For example, in BB6, for flute and bassoon, the composer wants the listener to notice the virtuosity of the flute player, as well as the beauty of the notes. He explained how Bach's musical techniques were applied in non-Baroque ways. In the question period, he was asked why Bach, as opposed to, say, Mozart, was chosen to be synthesized with Brazilian materials. Dr. Rey reminded us all that VL was a cellist, and would have known the Bach cello suites intimately."

Emmanual Gorge - Influences indigenes sur le langage musical de Villa-Lobos - "Gorge was reading Jean de Lery's book about his trip to early Brazil and discovered the musical examples he collected. Gorge showed some examples of VL's use of this material, played some recordings, and discussed some French composers with an interest in this type of material. Maestro Vidal told us about Messiaen's enthusiasm for VL."

"More to Follow..."

International Villa-Lobos Conference

As nice as it is right now in Red Deer (after a horrendously cold early spring), I'd still rather be in Paris right now, attending the first International Villa-Lobos Conference. Here are some reports from our intrepid reporter on the scene: Lee Boyd. 

 From Wednesday's program: 

Eero Tarasti - Villa-Lobos's Contribution to the XXth Century Music - "Professor Tarasti situated VL as a composer for audiences all over the world as well as Brazilians. He cited several composers who achieved international recognition in the 20th Century by applying their erudite musical skills to the folk and popular musics of their countries." 

Roberto Duarte - The Revisions of VL's Orchestral Works - "Maestro Duarte explained how many details in VL's orchestral manuscripts needed to be corrected before musicans' parts could be distributed for his VL recording sessions. Some were the same as any composer's minor oversights, such as putting rests in the bassoon parts but not in the double bass, but one typical VL error roused sympathy in all of us - a performance instruction with phrases in both Portuguese and French." "Our question periods are in French, English & Portuguese, also sometimes in the same sentences. Of special note, Maestro Duarte used his laptop and PowerPoint software to display and manipulate scanned manuscript excerpts, which worked very nicely." 

Noel Devos - "Noel Devos is a bassoonist who has performed much VL music, some under the composer's direction. He described several occasions on which an orchestra member said his instrument couldn't execute the notes as written, whereupon VL took the instrument and played them." "Unfortunately Ana Stella Schic could not appear a the afternoon sessions [her scheduled talk was Memoires of Villa-Lobos]." 

Pierre Vidal - Villa-Lobos tel que je l'ai connu - "Maestro Vidal described his many experiences with the composer on and offstage, during VL's time in Paris." 

Maria Teresa Madeira - Villa-Lobos and Jose Vierira Brandao - Madera is concentrating on documenting the life of the pianist Jose Vieiro Brandao, who permiered many of VL's piano works, and to whom some are dedicated." 

Ronald Paz - In Memory of Heitor Villa-Lobos: Results of the Research - "Ronaldo Paz showed a film about his family's reminiscences of meeting VL in Berlin in the 1930's. The sound system of the Parisian equipment didn't cooperate with the Bolivian audio, but Sr. Paz read his paper in clear, well-paced Spanish that precisely matched the film speed, a fascinating performance." 

Leah Arbelada Boyd - Truth & Justice for Dona Arminda, as well as for Dona Lucilia, and even Dona Lisa - "Leah Arbelada Boyd described the allegory on the life of Villa-Lobos which is embedded in Jorge Amado's Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, and discussed some of the circumstances surrounding it." 

"Professor Tarasti fortunately obtained for us a restored copy of the film O Descobrimento do Brasil with VL's music, which he showed after the talks. Besides the music, there is some unusual anthropological material in this Brazilian government production from the 1930's." 

Thanks so much, Lee, for these fascinating reports. Reports from Thursday's sessions are on their way!