Monday, September 30, 2002

October on Cultura FM

Here are radio programs of interest from Sao Paulo's Cutural FM - listen here on the Internet. Times are local Sao Paulo times, one hour ahead of EDT.

October 1, 2 pm: Prof. Gilberto Tinetti discusses Felicja Blumental's performances of Bachianas Brasileiras no. 3 and Piano Concerto no. 5. This program is repeated at 3 am the following day.

October 2, 11 am: The Rio Cello Ensemble and pianist Wagner Tiso perform Mandu-çarará, which I haven't seen on CD.

October 7, 10 am: From the Brazilian label Funarte, the 1st Sonata-Fantaisie, with Oscar Borgerth, violin, and Ilara Gomes Grosso, piano. This is repeated at 4 a.m. on the 14th. Immediately following at 11:00 on the 7th, the Orquestra Petrobrás Pró-Música and conductor Armando Prazeres perform the 1st Sinfonietta, and Nelson Freire plays the amazing masterwork for the piano: Rudepoema.

October 13, 6 am: From a Brasilian CD on the Brascan Brasil SA label, Antonio Menezes, cello and Ricardo Castro, piano, perform the Pequena Suite. This is repeated at 11:00 on October 14.

October 21 is a day full of great piano performances: at 11 am Marcelo Bratke performs the first Prole de Bebe suite, and at 8:05, Caio Pagano performs Carnaval das crianças and the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th collections from the Guia prático (none of which are easily available on CD). The latter program is repeated at 9 am on the 26th.

October 24, 11 am: a Brazilian ensemble plays the Fantasia concertante for piano, clarinet and bassoon, and the great classical/popular instrumentalist Paulo Moura performs the Fantasia for Saxophone and Orchestra, with the Orquestra de Câmara Brasileira, conducted by Bernardo Bessler.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Villa-Lobos Concerts & CDs Analyzed

I've been tracking performances of Villa-Lobos works at concerts and recitals from around the world since January 1997, in the Upcoming Villa-Lobos Concerts page of the Villa-Lobos Website. I've recently put together a list of the works played at those concerts. As well, I've looked at the 445 CDs containing works by Villa-Lobos that are currently available at I'll be posting a spreadsheet with this information on the Website - it's here - and I'll keep it updated as I receive new information.

In the meantime, here are some interesting results. The most commonly performed works:

Bachianas Brasileiras #5 (48)
Harmonica Concerto (20)
Unspecified Pieces for Guitar (20)
Assobio a Jato (19)
Bachianas Brasileiras #2 (17)
Bachianas Brasileiras #1 (12)
Guitar Etudes (12)
Bachianas Brasileiras #6 (8)
Bachianas Brasileiras #9 (8)
Bachianas Brasileiras #4 (7)
Guitar Preludes (7)
Saxophone Fantasia (7)

No real surprises here. The Bachianas Brasileiras series looms large in terms of the popular view of Villa-Lobos. BB#5 is one of the standards of the orchestral repertoire, and in its version for soprano and guitar for that of chamber music. Robert Bonfiglio has nearly single-handedly brought a high level of popularity to the Harmonica Concerto. The works for guitar are probably under-reported by a factor of at least three, since many concert notices do not refer to particular works.

Many of these pieces show up at the top of the CD list as well:

Bachianas Brasileiras #5 (98)
Guitar Preludes (70)
Guitar Etudes (57)
Choros 1 (33)
Suite Popular Bresilienne (32)
Bachianas Brasileiras #2 (22)
Guitar Concerto (22)
Bachianas Brasileiras #4 (20)
Choros #5 (16)
Bachianas Brasileiras #1 (14)
Song Recitals (14)
Ciclo Brasiliera (13)
Prole de Bebe #1 (13)

The guitar music is well represented on CD, with every one of the works Villa-Lobos wrote for the instrument (with the exception of the Introduction to Choros, which has unaccountably received only a single recording) in the top ten most popular works. The best works for piano are well represented as well. It's nice to see a work from the Choros series - Choros #5, subtitled Alma Brasileira - getting as many recordings as some of the Bachianas Brasileiras series.

At the other end, there are a few great works that received no performances (as reported on my page - my collection of this information is very hit and miss). These include most of the Symphonies; four of the Piano Concertos; Choros 8, 9 and 12; and the String Trio. Luckily, the list of works with no recordings in the list (nearly all of which are available throughout the world) is really quite short:

Cello Sonata 1
Choros 4
Choros 6
Daughter of the Clouds
Duas Lendas Amerindias
Fantasia de Movementos Mixtos
Sinfonietta #1
Symphony 2
Symphony 3
Symphony 7
Symphony 9

From this short list, we'll soon be able to remove the 3rd and 9th Symphonies, coming soon from cpo. Symphonies 2 and 7 will presumably follow, from the same source, within a year. After that, we badly need recordings of the 6th Choros, the Fantasia de Movementos Mixtos and the Nonetto. As for the other hole in the Choros series, number 4, that's available in the indispensable CD Os Choros de Câmara from the Brazilian company Kuarup. I ordered this CD, and others, from Kuarup's website. Kuarup's CDs are very inexpensive, and the discs arrived amazingly quickly.

I think that, overall, the works of Villa-Lobos are fairly well represented both discographically, and on the concert stages of the world. The complete cycles of string quartets recently performed at the Kuhno Festival in Finland and by the Cuartetto Latinoamericano brought many hidden gems to the surface. Naxos is especially to be commended for their well-played, well-recorded budget CDs. I'm sure, though, that there are many works that I've left out in my list that need performances and recordings. Why not tell me what you think?

Wednesday, September 4, 2002

More New CDs

Another cpo new release contains a well-chosen concert of VL's chamber music for strings. The Deutsches Streichtrio performs three duos: the Deux Choros Bis (1929) for violin and cello, a version of the 1921 Choros #2 for violin and cello, and the 1946 Duo for violin and viola. Best of all they've included one of VL's masterworks, the String Trio written in 1945. A disc with this repertoire is pretty much self-recommending, and Bert's thumb's up clinches the deal for me.

It's a good time for new Villa-Lobos from Europe. Bert also likes the new Lorelt disc with the BBC Singers and the Ensemble Lontano, under the direction of Odaline de la Martinez. This disc also includes the Deux Choros Bis, with the addition of some other chamber works: Choros 7 (1924) and the early modernist masterpieces the Quatour Symbolique and the Sexteto Mistico. Best of all, there's the original version of Bachianas Brasileiras #9, for an "orchestra of voices." This is apparently a re-issue of a disc recorded in the early 1990's.

It's like the people at cpo and Lorelt were listening to my wish-lists. Now, if they'd turn to the Nonetto and the operas Yerma (1955) and Daughter of the Clouds (1957)....

New Symphonies CD

"A new Symphony by Heitor Villa-Lobos is a world event."

- from a review in the Christian Science Monitor of the premiere of the 11th Symphony (quoted in Vasco Mariz's Heitor Villa-Lobos: Life & Work of the Brazilian Composer (1970).

Though it hasn't shown up at (or the other Amazon sites around the world), the new cpo CD of Symphonies 3 & 9 conducted by Carl St. Clair can be purchased from the European site JPC. Thanks to Bert Berenschot in the Netherlands for this update. Check here for all the information, including sound samples. I haven't ordered from JPC myself, but the CD is certainly a good buy at US$11.96 (13.99 Euros). As Mariz says, "The Ninth Symphony seems to have been composed in 1951 but has never been performed, and I have no data on it." So this release is certainly of world-wide interest to music lovers.

The early 3rd Symphony makes up the bulk of the rest of the disc, which has a nice filler in the "Ouverture de l'Homme Tel." I've often seen this work in lists of Max Eschig publications, and wondered what it sounded like. The short Real Audio excerpt on the JPC site includes only a fanfare, but you can tell from the clips that the orchestral playing from St. Clair's Stuttgart forces remains of the highest quality. I'm certainly looking forward to this one!