Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Sinfonietta no. 1 from Porto Alegre

A new video from Simone Menezes: she conducts the Porto Alegre Symphony Orchestra in a relatively unknown work by Heitor Villa-Lobos, his Sinfonietta no. 1, "In memory of Mozart", from 1916. This piece has become Menezes' calling card in concerts in Europe and the Americas. More information about Menezes and her Villa-Lobos Project here.

Thanks once again to Rodrigo Roderico, whose YouTube Channel is the best source for Villa-Lobos video content!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Villa-Lobos in the National Emergency Library

One of the best of the scholarly works that were published in the wake of Villa-Lobos's Centennial in 1987 was Gerard Behague's Heitor Villa-Lobos: The Search for Brazil's Musical Soul, which was published in 1994 by the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. You can borrow this book for free online, from the Open Library project of the Internet Archive. And now, thanks to their National Emergency Library project, the limit on the number of people who can borrow each book has been removed until June 30, 2020. This very fine publication is only one of an amazing 14 million titles in the project! Go to www.archive.org/NEL to learn more.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Villa-Lobos is, I think, tops

Photo: Instituto Moreira Salles, which holds the Eric Verissimo archives
Villa-Lobos & Erico Verissimo in California, 1944. The Brazilian novelist Verissimo acted as translator for Villa-Lobos during this trip, which the composer made to present his music in Los Angeles, & to accept an honorary degree from Occidental College. Belying their apparent friendship here, the two clashed. This report details some of the issues involved:

Director Zelito Viana begins his 2000 biopic Villa-Lobos: Uma Vida da Paixão, with a very funny series of scenes between Verissimo & Villa-Lobos. Watch here, beginning around 2:30 (then watch this very fine film all the way through!)

Friday, March 6, 2020


OK, this might be an indication that my Villa-Lobos obsession has crossed some sort of line. This is a Maguey for cigar belonging to Heitor Villa-Lobos, from the collection of the Municipal Theatre of Rio de Janeiro. Maguey is Agave americana, the century plant. It's a source of fibre, so perhaps this is what Villa's cigar holder is made of. It's pretty rare to see a picture of Villa-Lobos without his faithful cigar.

Photo: João Lima

You can see Villa-Lobos is using a cigar holder in this marvellous portrait by Sabine Weiss.

From the same collection: a gold-plated cufflink which belonged to Francisco Mignone.

Photo: João Lima

You can now go about your regular business...

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Great Villa-Lobos Portraits by Arnold Newman

On September 15, 1951 Heitor Villa-Lobos spent the day with photographer Arnold Newman at the New Weston Hotel in New York. Villa-Lobos is one of the most photogenic of composers, but these shots are among the most impressive ever taken of him.

My favourite Newman portrait is this one of the composer at rest. Villa is in charge here, and Newman gives him his own space.

Then the great portrait photographer takes over, and does some serious psychological searching with this close-up.

It's a tribute to Villa's worldwide fame that he attracted so many fine portrait photographers. Among my favourites: Erich Auerbach; Genevieve Naylor; Roger Viollet; Constantin Joffe & Luis Lemus from Vogue; and Thomas D. Mcavoy, J. Siegelman & most especially W. Eugene Smith from Life Magazine.