Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Villa-Lobos Conducts Villa-Lobos

The greatest recording project of the music of Villa-Lobos comes from France in the 1950s. Though the recorded sound was thin, Villa-Lobos was at the helm, and he was given plenty of time to prepare his excellent musicians.  Released on 10 LPs in 1958, "Villa-Lobos par lui-même" was by far the best way to learn about the music of the legendary Brazilian composer in the 20th Century, especially after the set was released in a set of six compact discs just after the Villa-Lobos Centennial in 1987.

The set included all nine of the Bachianas Brasileiras (the 4th and the 9th in their orchestral versions). A highlight was the 5th, with the great soprano Victoria de los Angeles outstanding in both movements.  But there was so much more here: the four suites of the Discovery of Brazil and the 4th Symphony were two interesting orchestral works that weren't likely to show up in concerts or recordings. Though it was a shame that the full set of Choros weren't included - it was only recently with the complete Choros series from OSESP and John Neschling that we realized how great a series it is - there was one standout. The 11th Choros is one of the two great concertante works for piano by Villa-Lobos (the other is BB#3), and the great Magda Tagliaferro Aline van Barentzen [thanks for the correction, Harold!] is splendid as a soloist. [Tagliaferro shines in Momoprecoce].

The set seems to be still available at most outlets, and at a very good price. But now there's a new version - perhaps re-mastered - coming out. I've seen it at a number of UK web stores, usually for about £15 for 6 CDs. That's an amazing bargain.  If only they've somehow improved the sound! [I just saw this set on - to be released May 31, 2011.]

Even though we have new sets of Bachianas Brasileiras, the Choros, and the Symphonies, in excellent recordings with superb sound, there will still be a place for these Paris recordings. New generations of conductors especially should pay special attention to Villa-Lobos's own recordings. They represent the true spirit of his music, no matter how imperfectly he was able to communicate it to his French musicians.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

OSESP Benefit Concert for Japan

The Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo (OSESP) has organized a concert to benefit the victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.  It will be held on April 11, one month to the day after the disaster, and will include Japanese and Brazilian musicians. The concert features Toru Takemitsu's Requiem, as well as music by Villa-Lobos: Bachianas Brasileiras #5 and #9, and choral works performed by Coro da Osesp. Wagner Polistchuk conducts. There's more information here.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Villa-Lobos inJazz

Villa-Lobos has often been used as source material by jazz musicians - Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, George Benson, David Sánchez, Kenny Dorham, The Modern Jazz Quartet, among others.  In Brazil, jazz musicians treat Villa-Lobos tunes as standards, like the Great American Songbook.  Projeto B is an excellent example of Brazilian musicians re-thinking Villa-Lobos in a jazz idiom.

"Villa-Lobos inJazz" is a project of Octavio Garcia, based, as he says, "on the deepest roots of our culture."

projeto VILLA-LOBOS INJAZZ crowdfunding catarse from otavio garcia on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Cool Composer Challenge

O.K. Here’s the Cool Composer Challenge. Can you come up with a picture of a composer cooler than this one of Heitor? Post a link to the picture in a comment below, tweet with the #coolcomposers hashtag, or send me an email. I'll post all the pictures at The Cool Composer Challenge page at The Villa-Lobos Website.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Arte de Cristina Ortiz

Cristina Ortiz, one of Brazil's great pianists, is featured on a weekly program on Radio MEC FM, called "A Arte de Cristina Ortiz". The program is on every Sunday at noon (11am EDT - 9am here in Red Deer), so you can listen to the Radio MEC live stream. Episodes are also available, a couple of weeks later, as podcasts. Listen to this program from January 23, 2011, which features the 3rd Villa-Lobos Piano Concerto from the complete set on Decca, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Miguel Gomez-Martinez.

There's lots of Villa-Lobos included in this series - go here for the complete list - but Ortiz plays much more than Brazil's favourite composer. Check out her Chopin, Schumann, or Stenhammar.