Saturday, January 29, 2011

New Choral CD from Hänssler Classic

I'm looking forward to this disc, due next month from Hänssler Classic.  Marcus Creed conducts the SWR Vokalensemble in an exciting programme of choral works, including some World Premiere recordings.  Here are the works included:
  • Cor dulce, cor amabile
  • Jose
  • As Costureiras
  • Bachianas brasileiras No. 9 (version for chorus)
  • Choros No. 3, "Picapau" (version for a capella)
  • Preces sem palavras
  • Duas lendas amerindias em nheengatu
  • Ave Maria (version for 4 part choir)
  • Bazzum
  • The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Prelude and Fugue No. 8 in E flat minor / D sharp minor, BWV 853 (arr. H. Villa-Lobos for choir)
  • Na Bahia tem (version for male chorus)
  • Bendita sabedoria
You can pre-order the CD from

Cia. Bachiana Brasileira Plays BB#3

Pianast Flávio Augusto and the Orquestra Bachiana Brasileira, under the direction of Ricardo Rocha, play the least often performed work in the Bachianas Brasileiras series. It's one of the two great piano concertos of Villa-Lobos, along with Choros #11. None of the five works Villa titled Piano Concertos is at this level.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mandu Çarárá in Caracas

The 4th Annual Festival Villa-Lobos in Caracas continues with an important concert conducted by Roberto Tibiriça.  The Sinfónica de la Juventud Venezolana Simón Bolívar and the Coro Sinfónico Juvenil de Venezuela will perform two rarely played works: the 4th Symphony and the 1939 Cantata Mandu Çarará.

The latter work is especially in need of more performances and a good new recording.  In the words of Fabio Zanon, "It's a mystery why a work so spectacular is practically unknown."

Thanks to Eugenia Meijer Werner for the heads-up on this.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Brazilian Guitar Quartet Plays Villa-Lobos

The music of Villa-Lobos has always attracted arrangers, including the composer himself.  Villa adapted his own works in a multitude of formats; his first thoughts about musical ideas were rarely his last.  There is so much interesting music to adapt beyond the usual Aria from Bachianas Brasileiras #5 (which is out there in so many versions, including harmonica, saxophone, and percussion) and the Little Train movement from BB #2 (a favourite of marching bands and even reggae groups). 

The Brazilian Guitar Quartet included an arrangement of the entire Bachianas Brasileiras #1 in a previous CD "Essencia do Brasil" which I thought worked out very well.  The new BGQ Plays Villa-Lobos CD, which will be released later this month, includes a wide selection of music originally written for piano and chamber ensemble, arranged by Tadeu do Amaral for four guitars.  The music is selected and presented to show off Villa's music and the group's musicianship to best advantage.  There are a variety of infectious rhythms, some sweet and sad melodies, moments of modernist angularity, and transcendent beauty from one of Villa's greatest chamber works.

While Villa-Lobos often composed at the piano, and he wrote a host of amazing, idiomatic pieces for the instrument, his native instrument was the guitar.  His nickname as a member of a choroes group as a young man was "classical guitar".  His few pieces for guitar loom so large in the music for guitar, and he often imitates the guitar in his piano works and even his orchestral music.  When he wrote music for harp (besides his 1953 Harp Concerto, he wrote some very important chamber works with harp, especially in the 1920s) he was often thinking of the guitar: "I played the harp from my experience with the guitar", he once said.  I mention the harp because the four guitars of the BGQ often evoke this instrument in Amaral's Villa-Lobos arrangements.

It's interesting, then, to listen to the BCG version of the early modernist piano work Suite Floral, written under the influence of Debussy, Faure, and Ravel.  The sound of the guitars evokes the sound-world of Parisian chamber music with harp as much as it does the piano music of the impressionist masters.  This is definitely transatlantic music, though, since Brazilian rhythms are an important part of the work.  Another piece on this disc which stands out is Amaral's adaptation of the Twelfth String Quartet, one of Villa's greatest chamber works, a piece of great subtlety and power.  This disc is very highly recommended!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Villa with a Reggae Beat

The "Trenzinho caipira" movement of Bachianas Brasileiras #2 is one of the most commonly arranged pieces by Villa-Lobos, especially in Brazil. I think this reggae version, by the Orquestra Brasileira de Música Jamaicana, is very successful.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Soni Ventorum plays Villa-Lobos

 Bill McColl sent me this email before Christmas:
Nine woodwind pieces are now available for free download in mp3 format. The material consists of live location recordings and out-of-print commercial recordings by the Soni Ventorum Quintet. (The Trio performance has been running for a long time in ogg format on the Wikipedia site.)

Visitors to this site scroll down to find Villa Lobos:

The group had a long connection with the works of Villa Lobos and a great devotion to them. A high point was meeting Mindinha in Rio.
Thanks so much for this, Bill!  These performances include all of Villa's chamber music for winds:
  • Choros #02 for flute and clarinet
  • Trio for clarinet, oboe, and bassoon
  • Choros #07 for flute, oboe, clarinet, alto saxophone, bassoon, violin, and cello
  • Quinteto em forma de choros
  • Quartet for flute, oboe, clarinet, and bassoon
  • Duo for oboe and bassoon
  • Bachianas Brasileiras #6 for flute and bassoon
  • Fantaisie Concertante for clarinet, bassoon, and piano
Many of these performances appeared on Pandora LPs in the 1970s and 80s (such as the LP pictured above, MHS 3187).  Others are from later recordings of live concerts.   Thanks so much to Soni Ventorum for making this important archive available to music lovers around the world!