Monday, May 31, 2010

Sonia Rubinsky Contest, v.1 winner & v.2 review

The contest is now over; thanks, everyone, for participating!

Congratulations to Julio Garrido Letelier from Chile, the first winner of a CD from Sonia Rubinsky's complete set of Villa-Lobos's Piano Music on Naxos. Seven more discs will be awarded, one each week until the entire set has been sent out.  It's easy to enter: send an email to and tell me your favourite piano piece by Villa-Lobos.  If you've already entered, your name stays in the pool.

Disc 2: the winner will be drawn on Friday, June 4

The second disc was recorded in the following spring (April 2000). This time the venue was Grace Church on the Hill in Toronto, and the production team of Bonnie Silver and Norbert Kraft (yes, he's also the guitarist, and the guy who recorded my favourite of the millions of Villa-Lobos guitar CDs) did the recording, editing, and engineering. The second disc included music similar to the first. The second book of A Prole do Bebe, from 1921, and the Cirandinhas, from 1925, aren't at quite the same high level as the music on Volume 1, but still represent important achievements in Villa's piano music. The beautiful Valsa da Dor, from 1932, is also included.

Another winner, another 10/10 rating from Classics Today.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Contest: Villa-Lobos Piano Music by Sonia Rubinsky

The contest is now over; thanks, everyone, for participating!

In early 2010 Naxos released an 8-CD box set of the complete Piano Music of Villa-Lobos that the Brazilian pianist Sonia Rubinsky recorded from 1999 to 2007.  To celebrate this important event, I will be sending out free copies of the individual discs to lucky winners over the next couple of months.

All you have to do is send an email to this special address - - and let me know what your favourite Villa-Lobos piano work is.  If you're not sure, that's o.k. - you'll still be entered in the draw for these discs.  I'll draw one entry at random each week for the next 8 weeks, and will contact winners for their address.  You only need to enter once; your email stays in the prize pool until all 8 discs have been won.

Thanks to Naxos USA for making these great discs available.

Disc 1: the winner will be drawn on Friday, May 28

Back in October 1999, Sonia Rubinsky went to Santa Rosa, California to record a CD for Naxos.  Included in the recording were three of Heitor Villa-Lobos's most important works for piano.  The first book of A Prole do Bebe (the Baby's Family) is one of the great piano cycles of the 20th century, eight pieces that showed up in hundreds of programmes by Villa's greatest early supporter, Arthur Rubinstein.  Cirandas is a later cycle from Villa's modernist period, written in 1926 (the same year as the great Choros #10).  Villa uses deceptively simple children's songs to begin to create the national song-book that became the Guia pratico.  Hommage a Chopin, written to honour the Polish composer in an earlier Chopin year,  has become recognized as one of Villa's best piano works from his later production.

Rubinsky's disc was very well received by the critics.  Classics Today, for example, gave the disc a 10/10 (performance/recording) rating.  But the real significance of the CD for Villa-Lobos fans was the title "Piano Music Volume 1".  It was exciting to look forward to many more discs like the first one!  This was especially true for those Villa-Lobos fans lucky enough to have acquired Anna Stella Schic's 7-LP set of the complete piano music from the 1970s (reissued on CD on the Solstice label, and still available from various online sources).  We knew there was lots of great music to come in this series, and as authoritative as Schic's excellent versions were (she was a close friend of Villa-Lobos & Mindinha), Rubinsky's technique and Naxos's modern sound and easier availability (not to mention its low price) made a series like this a real winner .  As usual, Naxos was providing relatively unknown repertoire, beautifully played, recorded, and engineered, to a much wider audience than before.

There were two other encouraging characteristics of this first disc.  James Melo provided excellent notes (detailed and enlightening) to this first disc, and the cover of the CD was a painting by the great Brazilian modernist painter (and another Villa-Lobos friend and fellow participant in the 1922 Semana de Arte Moderna in Sao Paulo), Tarsilla do Amaral.  These two important components stayed throughout the entire project.  Melo's essays always added something special to each disc, especially for those works that have been under-appreciated (like Carnaval das Criancas in Volume 4, and Amazonas in volume 7).  And the cover paintings were always relevant to the programmes Rubinsky had chosen, demonstrating how Villa fit in the cultural life of Brazil.  Artists chosen for the series, besides Tarsilla, were Djanira, Candido Portinari,  Cicero Dias, Lasar Segall, Alberto Guignard, Ismael Nery, and Jose Pancetti.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Raúl Villa-Lobos's Masterwork

Here is a new, deluxe, version of "A Revolta da Armada de 6 de Setembro de 1893", by Villa-Lobos's father Raúl.  This book of history was originally published in 1897, under the pseudonym Epaminondas Villalba.  The new edition is available from, though you can also download the PDF, scanned by Google from the library of Harvard University, from

By the way, the composer used that same pseudonym, Epaminondas Villalba, but with the addition Filho (son), in publishing music throughout his life.  Villa was ten years old when this book was published by his father, an assistant librarian at the National Library in Rio de Janeiro.  He was obviously very proud of his father's work.  Unfortunately, the elder Villa-Lobos died only two years later.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New BIS recordings of the Villa-Lobos Symphonies

There was an exciting announcement from the Swedish recording company BIS this afternoon. They'll be recording a new series of the complete Symphonies of Villa-Lobos, with Isaac Karabtchevsky conducting the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra (OSESP). The recordings will be released according to this schedule:
  • 2011 – Sinfonia nº 3, “A Guerra” & Sinfonia nº 4, “A Vitória”
  • 2012 – Sinfonia nº 6, “Sobre a linha das montanhas do Brasil” & Sinfonia nº 7
  • 2013 – Sinfonia nº 10, “Ameríndia”
  • 2014 – Sinfonia nº 1, “O Imprevisto” & Sinfonia nº 2
  • 2015 – Sinfonia nº 8, Sinfonia nº 9 & Sinfonia nº 11
  • 2016 – Sinfonia nº 12 + Uirapurú & Mandú-Çarará
The same recording company and orchestra (though with a different conductor, John Neshling) won the Diapason d’Or de l’Année in 2009, for their recording of the complete Choros of Villa-Lobos.  Today's announcement also included the very good news that Criadores do Brasil will be releasing new editions of the scores, which are badly needed. 

This is great news for Villa-Lobos lovers.  There is certainly nothing wrong with the excellent cpo series with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony conducted by Carl St. Clair.  But after many years of hearing how poor (and how atypical) these works were, it will be great to experience another cycle, and perhaps take a new look at all of Villa's orchestral works.  And though it will be a long wait (2016!), we've long needed a new recording of the great orchestral/choral work Mandú-Çarará.

Thanks to João Luiz Sampaio for this news, via Twitter and this article.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Prêmio Carlos Gomes Winners

Last year's production of Villa-Lobos's opera A Menina das Nuvens at the Palácio das Artes in Belo Horizonte was the big winner at the Brazilian Classical Music Awards, the Prêmio Carlos Gomes de Ópera & Música Erudita.   It won five awards, including Best Female Singer (Gabriella Pace), Best Opera Conductor (Roberto Duarte), Best Lighting (Paulo Pederneiras), Best Set Design (Rosa Magalhães), and best Opera Production.

Other winners with Villa-Lobos connections include:
  • Turibio Santos, who was cited for his restoration of Villa-Lobos scores.
  • The Quarteto Radamés Gnatalli, for their performances of the 17 Villa-Lobos String Quartets.
  • Conductor Roberto Tibiriçá, for his work with the Orquestra de Heliópolis (Tibiriçá has recorded a number of Villa-Lobos works, and has programmed more with the Heliópolis orchestra, and with the Orquestra Nacional de Porto).

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Alma Brasileira: Steve Griggs Ensemble plays Villa-Lobos

Steve Griggs is one of quite a few jazz musicians from around the world that are using Villa-Lobos as source material for their new music.  I've written before about Seattle-based Griggs' Villa-Lobos projects.  In November 2009 there was Seresta, an homage to Villa commemorating the 50th anniversary of his death.  Then, last March, Griggs put together Canção Carioca: Song from Rio.  Note the timing of these projects: they coincide with the birth- and death-days of the composer.

Next November 20th, the 12 musicians who make up the Steve Griggs Ensemble will present Alma Brasileira (Soul of Brazil): Steve Griggs Ensemble plays Villa-Lobos.  This project re-imagines music from Villa's Choros cycle; it includes Choros #01, 05, 06, 09, and 11, as well as the Introdução and Dos Choros Bis: the introduction and encores to the series.  It's so great to see this important music more widely disseminated; especially the rarely-played orchestral Choros 6, 9, & 11, and the Introdução.  I will do my best to make it to Seattle for this important concert!