Monday, April 30, 2012

Sonia Rubinsky and the Suite for Piano & Orchestra

Brazilian pianist Sonia Rubinsky has a new website in the works, but in the meantime, you should check out her Facebook Bandpage. It features an outstanding version of Rudepoema, and exciting news about two concerts this fall (spring in Brazil), featuring a piece that has only been heard a few times since its premiere in 1923. This is the 1913 Suite for Piano and Orchestra. I'm hoping that we end up with YouTube video from one of these concerts, or even a CD.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Carlé Costa's CD Alma de uma terra

The guitarist Carlé Costa was born in Uruguay in 1959, the year Villa-Lobos died. Growing up (in Argentina) as a classical guitarist, he must have learned Villa's music for guitar early. By today he has the Preludes and Etudes mastered, judging by this new disc, recorded in the Genezarethkirche in Berlin during two midnight sessions in August of 2011. We're extraordinarily blessed with great recordings of this music, and Costa adds to the riches with this CD. This isn't a routine run-through of a chunk of the CG canon, but something that comes across as deeply thought-out and organic.

Organic is the right word: Costa's CD is entitled "Alma de uma terra" - "Soul of the earth", and he adds a tagline "with hope for the day we respect the soul of the earth." The connection between Villa-Lobos's music and the natural world is one that the composer made himself, many times. The landscape of Brazil is obvious throughout Villa-Lobos's music: in early pieces like Amazonas, middle works like Bachianas Brasileiras #4, and late music such as Erosao. And while the guitar works don't have an explicit connection with nature - the Preludes are studies of Brazilian characters or "types", and the Etudes are technical exercises souped-up for concert presentation - this music feels like it flows from two basic sources: the music of JS Bach and the soil and flora & fauna of Brazil.

All this is evident in Costa's playing. Perhaps the German recording location brings him to a more classical way of playing this music, without as much rubato as many guitarists use in this music. But it's controlled rather than overly severe. There is often a bit of swing to his playing, which is evident, for example, in the 5th Prelude, a picture of teenage Cariocas.

Costa plays the original 1928 score of the Etudes rather than the 1953 version which was heavily edited by Segovia. A number of other guitarists have recorded this version, most notably David Leisner in 2000. The recent recording by Frédéric Zigante includes both versions of Etudes #10 & 11, which show the biggest differences. The importance of this is much more than purely technical, though Segovia & Villa-Lobos got into heated arguments about fingering. Villa was pushing the envelope as far as what the guitarists of the day could actually play.  In the mid- to late-1920s Villa-Lobos was at his absolute peak as a composer, and the music he wrote then (the Choros series especially, but also the magnificent Rudepoema) surely sounded wild and dissonant to Segovia. The later version of the Etudes have some of their sharp edges rounded off; they're a bit manicured. Costa's Etudes are as close to the rain forest as they are to Bach's Well Tempered Clavier or the piano music of Chopin.

Though it may not have as wide a distribution as some CDs in this repertoire,  I recommend this disc very highly. Carlé tells me that he'll soon have the disc on Amazon, but in the meantime, you can email him to find out about purchasing the CD.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Rehearsing Symphony #10

Here's the first video from the complete symphony series now under way in São Paulo: Isaac Karabtchevsky rehearses Symphony #10 with the São Paulo Symphony (OSESP) and Chorus. There's more information on the BIS recording project here.

The 10th Symphony, written in 1952 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of São Paulo, is very well represented on CD. There are three excellent recordings, from Harmonia Mundi, Koch International, and cpo.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sexteto Mistico from Porto

Here is a fine recording of the Sexteto Mistico, by faculty of the Conservatório de Música do Porto.

Recorded at the Casa da Música on 25/10/2007.

Olavo Barros - flauta
Elen Telles - oboé
Francisco Ferreira - saxofone
Paulo Peres - guitarra
Áurea Guerner - harpa
João Queirós - celesta

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Second Piano Concerto

I came across this story about Villa-Lobos's 2nd Piano Concerto in Seymour Bernstein's memoir Monsters and Angels. Bernstein is visiting with his teacher, Alexander Brailowsky and his wife Ela:
Rummaging through some scores, she produced the manuscript of Concerto No. 2 by Heitor Villa-Lobos, a work that the composer had written for, and dedicated to, Brailowsky. Villa-Lobos had once heard Brailowsky in Rio de Janeiro perform two concerti on the same program - the Tchaikovsky B flat minor and the Rachmaninoff C minor. He was so impressed by his playing that he decided to create another big romantic vehicle tailored to Brailowsky's virtuosic style. It was this score, then, that Ela handed me. With a sense of awe, I turned over the front cover and saw the following inscription:

Ministerio da Educacao e Saude Conservatorio Nacional de Canto Orfeonico
Rio, 12/25/49
Cher Brailowsky,
Voila le concerto que je vous avais promis. La partition et materiel d'orchestre vous pouvez trouver a la Maison Villa-Lobos Corp., 1585 Broadway, New York.
Heureux 1950.
Bien a vous,

[Here is the Concerto that I promised you. You can find the score and orchestral parts at the Maison Villa-Lobos Corp. Happy 1950. My best to you.]
Ela explained, 'With all of the big warhorses in my husband's repertory, he never learned this concerto. Now, of course, he never will. Perhaps if it interests you, you might premiere it with some major orchestra. But whether you decide to study it or not, we would like you to have it.'
p. 128-129. Bernstein finally played what he termed the US premiere of the concerto with the Chicago Symphony, in 1969.

It's interesting that the latest version of Villa-Lobos: Sua Obra (v. 1.0, 2009, Museu Villa-Lobos) makes no reference to Brailowsky. According to the listing for the 2nd Piano Concerto, the work was dedicated to the Brazilian pianist João de Souza Lima. Also listed is the actual American premiere, with Gerson Yessin and the City Symphony Orchestra at the American Museum of Natural History on February 27, 1955.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Saxophone Fantasia

Jan Gričar is the saxophonist in Villa-Lobos's Fantasia for Saxophone & Strings. The Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by Simon Krečič.