Sunday, July 31, 2022

Bachianas Brasileiras no. 4 from Slovenia

From Ljubljana, the RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra play Bachianas Brasileiras no. 4, in a concert from Gallus Hall conducted by Ricardo Castro.

I believe the Fourth Bachianas Brasileiras has become the second most commonly performed Villa-Lobos work, after the Fifth. Villa wrote it originally for piano, and backwards. The fourth movement is from 1930, the third from 1935, and the first two movements were completed in 1941. The version for orchestra was premiered in Rio on July 15, 1942.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Three-Cushion Billiards Champion of Rio de Janeiro

Heitor Villa-Lobos plays billiards at the Brazilian Press Association, Rio de Janeiro, 1950s. From the Museu Villa-Lobos photo archive.

"Thus far, besides treating several thousand music lovers to samples of his 1,500-odd works, Villa-Lobos has acquired an ecstatic admiration for tall buildings and vanilla ice cream. In the encounter of two such dynamic protagonists as Villa-Lobos and the U.S., onlookers expected even more to happen before he returns to Rio de Janeiro, where he is the city's amateur three-cushion billiards champion as well as musical overlord of Brazil's Ministry of Education."

- from a story in Time magazine, February 19, 1945

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Joyful Innocence

Heitor Villa-Lobos plays Chinese Checkers ("Dama Chinesa" in Brazil) with Mindinha and friends: Arailda Dutra, Roberto Strutt, Sonia Maria Strutt, Cristina Maristany, Iberê Gomes Grosso and Tomás Terán. A shot from Rio in the 1950s, from the Museu Villa-Lobos photo archive.

From Ralph Gustafson's wonderful article "Villa-Lobos and the Man-Eating Flower: A Memoir", The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 75, No. 1 (Spring, 1991), pp. 1-11:  
"On a rainy afternoon we played Chinese checkers together, at which he cheated with joyful innocence.


Monday, July 25, 2022

Coffee with Villa

 "Villa-Lobos com copinho de café"- Villa has some coffee at the interval of a Philadelphia Orchestra concert at Carnegie Hall, January 1955.

Here's a wonderful photo of the composer conducting a rehearsal of the Philadelphia Orchestra. I wish I knew who took these great shots; they're from the Museu Villa-Lobos photo archive.

There's a fabulous review of the Carnegie Hall concert, which included the premieres of the 8th Symphony and the Harp Concerto, in the January 31, 1955 issue of Time. The story is entitled "Tropical Thunderstorm".

This photo is also from the interval at Carnegie Hall, on January 15, 1955. Villa with soloist Nicanor Zabaleta & his special friend Andres Segovia. Mindinha has her arms around both Segovia & her husband. Also in the photo are conductor and composer Walter Burle Marx, pianist Bernardo Segall, conductor Arthur Cohn, and two Philadelphia Orchestra harpists, Carlos Salzedo and Edna Phillips.

It's perhaps not surprising that the Harp Concerto, commissioned by Zabaleta in 1953, hasn't stayed in the repertoire. There are many lovely passages in the score, but it doesn't really hold together. As Villa said, though, "Better that people should hear bad Villa-Lobos than good somebody else."

The new motto of The Villa-Lobos Magazine!

Joseph Battista and the Cirandas

From the Museu Villa-Lobos photo archive, Heitor Villa-Lobos in his Rio apartment with American pianist Joseph Battista, July 7, 1952. Battista would have been preparing for his recording of the Cirandas, released in 1953. The Philadelphia-born pianist has a small discography; he was only 50 when he died, in 1968.

Villa-Lobos wrote the Cirandas in 1926, using as his raw material folk melodies, within the form of the ciranda round dance that had become popular with Brazilian children. The cycle is an important sign-post in the composer's lifelong interest in the world of the child. The folkloric stream in his music, always there throughout his life, comes to the surface here. It was to stay there for much of the next decades, as Villa-Lobos worked on his Guia Prâtico anthology of folk-music.

Villa in Buenos Aires, part 2

My last post featured some photos from the Museu Villa-Lobos of Villa-Lobos playing the piano in Buenos Aires. He was in Argentina for the May 25, 1935 premiere of the first staging of his 1917 ballet Uirapuru, at the Teatro Colon. Here's a great shot of the composer on stage following that first performance.

Uirapuru is Villa's first great orchestral work, written under the strong influence of Igor Stravinsky's Firebird Suite. It's an early example of his lifelong interest in the music and culture of the indigenous people of Brazil.

And here's Villa-Lobos with baritone Ernesto Dodds once again during his May 1935 visit. Note the poster from LR8, Radio Stentor in Buenos Aires, which began broadcasting from its studio on Hotel Castelar, Avenida de Mayo, in 1933.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Villa-Lobos in Buenos Aires

Heitor Villa-Lobos plays the piano in Ernesto Dodds' Studio de Canto y Arte, Rua Maipu 994, Buenos Aires. This photo, from the great archive of the Museu Villa-Lobos, was taken on May 19, 1935. Villa-Lobos was in Buenos Aires for the first staging of his ballet Uirapuru, at the Teatro Colon. The composer was also in the Argentine capital the previous year, when he conducted three concerts, including Bach's B Minor Mass.

Ernesto Dodds was an operatic baritone; I'm not sure what his connection to Villa-Lobos was. Perhaps Dodds was one of the soloists in that B Minor Mass performance. This photo of the singer is from 1931.

Another shot from Villa's piano recital in Buenos Aires. I love the Beethoven bust, and the rapt audience in the mirror.

Villa looks very much the dashing concert pianist here, but he was hardly a virtuoso at the keyboard. I expect he was playing some of his own works, perhaps including a recent piece like Valsa da Dor, from 1932.