Monday, November 11, 2013

Villa-Lobos's cello on CD and DVD

Cellist Hugo Pilger and pianist Lúcia Barrenechea will release a new CD/DVD of music by Villa-Lobos and other Brazilian composers later this month. The recording features Villa-Lobos's own cello, made in 1779 by Martin Diehl. Here's a picture of the instrument from the Museu Villa-Lobos:

Saturday, November 9, 2013

6th Festival Villa-Lobos in Venezuela

The 6th annual version of Venezuela's Festival Villa-Lobos takes place in Caracas later this month. This Festival has hosted important Villa-Lobos performances in the past, including the cantata Mandu Çarará at the 4th Festival in 2011. This work is still without a commercial recording.  One of the encouraging things about this Festival in the past has been postings of concerts on YouTube. Here is Bachianas Brasileiras no. 4 from last year's Festival, with the Orquesta Simón Bolívar conducted by Roberto Tibiriçá.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Sebastian Benda plays Villa-Lobos

Memoires, the new 2-CD set from Genuin by the Swiss pianist Sebastian Benda (1926-2003), includes works by Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Liszt, Martin, Mussorgsky, and 5 pieces by Villa-Lobos, recorded from 1961 to 1994.

Though the back of the CD only says "Selected works" of Villa-Lobos, the actual tracks are:
  • Alma brasileira 
  • Festa no sertão 
  • Lenda do caboclo 
  • Impressões seresteiras 
  • Dança do indio branco 
These pieces were recorded in 1981.

Benda spent nearly 30 years (1952-1981) in Brazil, though he traveled extensively in Europe during that period as well. During that time he had a significant impact on the musical life of the country. In a short note on Villa-Lobos that Benda provides for the liner notes, he says this about Brazil's greatest composer:

Villa-Lobos’s personality is energetic and highly authentic; his music is the music of Brazil, the music of the jungle and the sertão, the dry outback in the northeast, and the music of the sea. It describes the unique characteristics of the people, the way of life and the natural environment of Brazil and is uncommonly vital and impressive. He transforms the folklore, which has a regional character at its center, into a universal language whose message reaches audiences on all continents with ease.

Here is Benda in Sao Paulo in 1952:

I know Benda best from his chamber music recordings (especially the Naxos recording of the Martinu cello sonatas with his son Christian). This wide-ranging collection shows he was a gifted pianist and musician.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Villa-Lobos at the Latin Grammys

The Best Classical Album category of the 14th Annual Latin Grammy Awards includes three of the six nominations featuring the music of Villa-Lobos. All are albums that I would have put close to the top of the list for my favourite albums in the past year.

First up is a piano disc from the great Nelson Freire, Brasileiro: Villa-Lobos and Friends, on Decca. This one stands out, even amongst the plethora of great Villa-Lobos piano discs of the past decade. It not only includes a generous sample of Villa-Lobos works, some of which aren't that well-known, but also pieces by Villa's colleagues Guarnieri, Oswaldo, Levy, Lorenzo Fernandez, Santoro and Mignone.

Next is a really entertaining album from composer/arranger/pianist Mario Adnet: Um Olhar Sobre Villa-Lobos, on Borandá from Brazil.

Finally, the excellent 2nd disc in the new Naxos series of Villa-Lobos Symphonies from OSESP and Isaac Karabtchevsky, with the 6th & 7th Symphonies.

We'll see who wins on November 21, 2013. Good luck to all!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Estrella é Lua Nova in Toronto

Villa-Lobos lovers in Toronto can hear one of Villa's best vocal works, Estrella é Lua Nova, at the premiere performance of the Concord Vocal Ensemble on Monday, December 9, 2013, at Windermere United Church. This song, adapted by Villa-Lobos from the African-Brazilian Macumba ritual, is becoming a favourite piece for choirs around the world.