Friday, January 31, 2003

Villa-Lobos in the Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a multilingual project to create a complete and accurate open content encyclopedia.

I've recently added a fairly comprehensive article on Villa-Lobos. I will be keeping an eye on the article, and hope to see readers of The Villa-Lobos Magazine and the Heitor Villa-Lobos Website make their own contributions to the main article or any related topics.

I hope that the Villa-Lobos community will be able to provide information on Villa-Lobos and Brazilian classical music to Wikipedia in other languges, especially Portuguese.

Thursday, January 9, 2003

José Vieira Brandão

October, 2002 saw the death of an important figure in the life of Villa-Lobos and in the musical life of Brazil. Thanks to Martin Anderson for giving me permission to re-print his obituary of José Vieira Brandão. The article appeared first in The Independent on October 18, 2002. The picture is from the Museu Villa-Lobos (Brandão in on the far left).

José Vieira Brandão
Brazilian composer and pianist
18 October 2002

José Vieira Brandão, composer, pianist, conductor and teacher: born Cambuquira, Brazil 26 September 1911; married Eunice Costa Pereira (four sons, one daughter); died Rio de Janeiro 27 July 2002.
It's a tough life being a composer in a country where a single towering figure epitomises its music both at home and abroad. Even now, Finnish composers still feel Sibelius looming over them (indeed, the late Einar Englund called his 1996 autobiography I skuggan av Sibelius – "In the Shadow of Sibelius"). For Brazilian musicians it is Heitor Villa-Lobos who hogs the limelight. But for José Vieira Brandão Villa-Lobos' pre-eminence presented an opportunity rather than a threat, and he became one of his closest musical companions.

Brandão's musical ability was evident in childhood, and at eight he moved south from Minas Gerais to Rio de Janeiro to continue his musical education, first studying piano privately and then at the Instituto Nacional de Música, graduating with a gold medal in 1929; three years later he was awarded the diploma of the Conservatório Nacional de Canto Orfeônico, and choral conducting was to become the other mainstay of his life as a practising musician.

His ability as a pianist was impressive enough for the French pianist Marguerite Long, on a visit to Brazil, to ask him to come to France to study with her, and he accepted. But it was not to be, as he later explained in an interview:

At that time I had met Villa-Lobos, when he started to introduce his ideas in musical education into the public schools in Brazil. My trip to France was already scheduled but I decided to stay here and work in his project.

His collaboration with Villa-Lobos was an almost permanent feature of his early life. As a youth he spent his afternoons at Villa-Lobos' house, playing his mentor's music on the piano, and was to give the premieres of many of his piano compositions; later, in 1942, he was the piano soloist in the first performances of the Chôros No 11 in Rio and the Bachianas Brasileiras No 3 in New York, both conducted by the composer.

He became Villa-Lobos' assistant in 1932, helping him in his ambitious reform programme for music education in Brazilian schools, later pushing the project forward himself. In 1934 he founded the Madrigal Vox do Conservatório Brasileiro de Música and led the group until 1943; in parallel he held positions as an assistant professor of music and then professor of arts, becoming a professor at the Conservatório de Canto Orfeônico in 1943, and remaining there until 1967. He was president of the Conservatório Brasileiro de Música from 1940 until his last years, and one of the founders of the Academia Brasileira de Música in 1945.

Vieira Brandão began to compose at the age of 15, but his composition didn't really pick up speed until after 1940; by the time of his death his catalogue contained some 100 works, written in a national-Romantic style. His choral music, the technique sharpened by years of practical experience, buzzes with Brazilian rhythms and forms an important contribution to the Brazilian choral tradition. Nor did he neglect his own instrument, the piano, and the musicologist and Vieira Brandão scholar Maria Teresa Madeira singles out the 4 Études, the two Serestas (1942) and the Fantasia Concertante for piano and orchestra (1937-59).

Martin Anderson

Thanks, Martin, for that beautiful tribute. It's our opportunity to learn more about this key figure in the Villa-Lobos world.

As I write this, I'm listening to the Brazilian String Quartet play Brandão's Miniatura. This lovely piece is the only work I've heard from what looks to be a significant body of music. It's on an excellent disc I received late last year, on the Albany label from New York. Entitled "Brazilian String Quartet", it includes music by Villa-Lobos and two other composers of the generations after Villa: Radames Gnattali and Cesar Guerra Peixe, performed by one of the premiere chamber ensembles of Brazil. I'm afraid it won't be easy for most of us to hear more of the music of Brandão, though. lists only the piece for String Quartet.

There is an opportunity to hear one of Brandão's chamber works coming up - I happened to mention it yesterday in a post to The Villa-Lobos Magazine. At 11:00 São Paulo time (10 a.m. EST) on February 5th, you can hear his Divertimento for flute, oboe, clarinet, trumpet and bassoon on Cultura FM. Listen here on the Internet.

I'll be on the lookout for more of this music, from online vendors in Brazil and around the world. I'll report my findings here.

Wednesday, January 8, 2003

January on Cultura FM

Happy New Year!

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

At 11:00 on January 7, Janos Starker performs the Fantasia for cello & orchestra. Eleazar de Carvalho conducts the Orquestra Sinfônica da Paraíba. This is from the excellent Brazilian Festival '88: A Brazilian Extravaganza CD on the Delos label, still available from

The following day, again on the Cirandas program at 11:00, you can hear three relatively unfamiliar works from the great Choros series: the epic number 12, along with two witty chamber pieces: number 7 and 4.

At 12:00 on January 12th, the program Acervo Cultura presents "As notas são": "Da música brasileira. Série de 13 programas dedicados à composição erudita do Brasil. Em destaque: A CRIAÇÃO E A CRÍTICA (VILLA-LOBOS E FRANCISCO MIGNONE OS CRIADORES, CARLOS MAUL, E DOIS ANÔNIMOS OS CRÍTICOS). Idealização e apres.: Sérgio Vasconcellos Correa. Apoio de produção: João Antonio Batista. Produção: José Roberto Prazeres - 1990." I'll try listening to this, but I'm not sure if my extremely limited Portuguese will allow me to understand much.

At 11:00 on January 13, you can hear one of the best of Villa's Symphonies, his Sixth. This performance by Carl St. Clair and the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Stuttgart is also one of the best in the excellent cpo series of complete symphonies.

At 15:00 on January 27, the great String Trio is performed by the Ensemble Capriccio, from a 2001 Paulus CD. Also on the programme is a work by a composer I don't know, Amaral Vieira. His Quintet for piano and strings is op. 297, so there's a lot of Vieira out there to listen for in the future. The Villa-Lobos String Trio is repeated at 11:00 on January 30, along with a very interesting group of other works: New York Skyline for piano, the Dança do índio branco and Improviso em homenagem a Villa-Lobos by pianist João Carlos Assis.

Looking ahead to February, there's a short piece I'm looking forward to hearing. It's the Divertimento by the late José Vieira Brandão. Brandão, a close associate of Villa-Lobos and an excellent composer in his own right, performed many premieres of works by Villa-Lobos. He died in October of 2002. The Divertimento is performed by a chamber group of excellent Brazilian players: Andréa Ernest Dias (flute), Luiz Carlos Justi (oboe), José Botelho (clarinet), Philipp Doyle (trumpet) and Noel Devos (bassoon). Listen at 11:00 on February 5th.

On February 28 at 11:00, the rarely performed Introdução ao Choros for guitar and orchestra can be heard. This is from a highly recommended Ondine CD with the Finnish guitarist Timo Korhonen.

Good listening!