Monday, July 26, 2021

Erico Verissimo & Villa-Lobos

The novelist Erico Verissimo is well-known & well-regarded in Brazil, to judge by his Wikipedia article, though there don't seem to be many of his works available in English translations. I know him as a friend of Heitor Villa-Lobos. He sometimes acted as Villa's translator and was always a strong supporter of the composer, whom he called "the greatest minstrel of our people."

Erico Verissimo by Leonid Streliaev

Erico Verissimo is introduced as Villa's translator early in Zelito Viana's wonderful 2000 film Villa-Lobos: Uma Vida da Paixão:

VILLA LOBOS from Paisagem Filmes on Vimeo.

Here are Villa & Erico together, in a photo from Instituto Moreira Salles's Erico Verissimo archives:

I love this story that Verissimo tells in his Cronica; Villa-Lobos is speaking to an American audience: "He didn't have a clear theme for his talk, telling stories about music and musicians, not bothering about coherence."

After a time, he seemed somewhat at a loss and tired of all this talk. He glanced behind him, and off to the sides, as if he were looking for something, and cried out, "I want a piano! Bring me a piano!" Lukas Foss got up from his chair and went off to find a grand piano, which eventually was brought onto the stage.

'Still with his cigar between his teeth, our Villa sat down at the noble instrument, played a few chords, looked at the audience, and said, "I'll play Brahms" ... He begins to play a passage from a sonata, and then comments "and the piano won't budge." He addresses himself to the Apassionata and lightly plays the opening phrase.

'Turning to the audience, "I play Beethoven, but the piano doesn't stir." After that comes Schumann, Schubert, Chopin. And, according to the Maestro, the piano continues not to "budge." Finally the speaker cries out, "I'll play Villa-Lobos!" His hands romped over the keys, producing a passage from his "Rudepoema." He got up and pointed to the piano, exclaiming. "It budged! It budged!"'