Thursday, October 1, 2015

A fine new guitar CD from London

The true art of putting together a CD program is something that even some very good performers don’t always pull off. This is especially important for classical guitarists, whose selections too often lack variety of mood or rhythm. Putting a group of musical items together to build a series of emotional or technical arcs, where one piece speaks to or builds on another earlier in the program: these are things that will always enhance a well-played CG disc. The fine London-based guitarist Kazu Suwa knows that Villa’s guitar pieces are character pieces: the Preludes, the movements of the Suite Populaire Bresilienne, and even the Etudes. He’s picked three Villa-Lobos pieces with great character, and more importantly he plays each of them in a character-ful way. And he puts them in the penultimate spot, as they deserve, with just a sad, beautiful little piece by Mompou as a coda.

There are many felicities in this new CD before that wistful ending.  The Gran Vals of Tarrega with its famous embedded Nokia ring-tone (some day soon we’ll have to explain that bit of trivia to younger people who don’t remember flip-phones or Nokia) is a highlight. I loved the two small Milongas of Abel Fleury, and was impressed with the graceful swing Suwa brings to them. The great Choro da Saudade by Barrios Mangore is a more substantial piece, and Suwa plays it with seriousness and majesty, while he draws out the nostalgic sorrow underlying the music. Another standout is the 6th Fantasia of Fernando Sor, subtitled ‘Les Adieux’, and again Suwa has its measure.

The sound of the disc is excellent, and the production values are very high. There’s an excellent, insightful 11-page essay about the music written by Robert Matthew-Walker. This disc is highly recommended.

The disc is available from Kazu Suwa's website here, at, or at many other online stores listed on his website.

Thursday, June 4, 2015


The excellent new Naxos recording of Symphony #12 with OSESP and Isaac Karabtchevsky includes the cantata Mandu-Carará and the ballet Uirapuru, one of Villa-Lobos's finest early works for orchestra. This piece is based upon an Indian legend about a legendary bird of the rain-forest called the Uirapuru. The Uirapuru is an actual bird, which sounds like this:

Here's what Villa-Lobos makes of the song:

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Villa-Lobos for two guitars, from a 1958 LP

You can listen to this 1958 LP from guitarists Graciela Pomponio and Jorge Martinez Zarate, which includes three Villa-Lobos pieces from Petizada and Cirandas, at the excellent Gallica website.

Monday, May 25, 2015

New Guitar Manuscripts CD

Naxos will release the third and final volume in Andrea Bissoli's series entitled "Villa-Lobos: The Guitar Manuscripts," in July 2015. Two premiere recordings are included, both arranged by Bissoli: a version of the early Tarantela, and 14 songs from the Guia pratico, played by Bissoli and the Ensemble Cirandinha. The main work on the CD, though, is the 1928 manuscript version of the Douze Etudes.

Finally, Naxos has included a fairly rarely-recorded orchestral work: O papagaio do moleque, a story about kite-flying which is performed by the Minas Gerais Philharmonic Orchestra. Villa-Lobos loved flying kites as much as playing billiards and smoking big cigars. I look forward to hearing this!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Primitive Canticles

In this photo from the Library of Congress, dancer Martha Graham is shown in a pose from Two Primitive Canticles, a ballet from 1932 with music by Villa-Lobos. The ballet was divided into two sections: "Ave" and "Salve", but I don't know what the music was.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

New York World's Fair Music Festival

Walter Burle Marx conducts the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra in this long program full of Brazilian goodies, part of the World's Fair Music Festival. This program is from the excellent NYPO Digital Archives.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Nonetto from Greece

An excellent version of one of my favourite Villa-Lobos pieces, the Nonetto. Vladimiros Symeonidis conducts the Contra Tempo Chamber Orchestra and the Mixed Choir of Thessaloniki. Thanks to Rodrigo Roderico for the heads-up on this.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Through The Night from Brazil

One of my favourite programs on BBC Radio 3 is Through The Night, which features music in concert from around the world. Heard during the small hours of the night in the UK, it's prime-time listening here on the West Coast of North America. The latest episode includes some great music from Sao Paulo.

An OSESP concert from 2014, conducted by Isaac Karabtchevsky, begins the program. Two of the works were later recorded (in the studio) for the latest Naxos release in their Villa-Lobos Symphonies series: the ballet Uirapuru and the cantata Mandu-Carara. The great cellist Antonio Meneses is featured in another important work, the Fantasy for cello and orchestra.

It's also great to hear Maestro Karabtchevsky conduct the Heliopolis Symphony in some more Villa-Lobos. More on that worthwhile social and musical endeavor here.

Also, stick around for some guitar music from my favourite Villa-Lobos guitarist, Norbert Kraft. This program will be available for the next 30 days.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

New Symphonies disc: with Mandu-Çarará!

The latest CD in the excellent Naxos Symphonies series comes out next month. Symphony no. 12 is another big piece, written in New York and finished on the composer's 70th birthday, March 5, 1957. I'm looking forward to hearing this; Isaac Karabtchevsky and OSESP are making a big splash with this series (numbers 3, 4, 6, 7, and 10 are out so far).

But for me the most exciting work on the new disc is Mandu-Çarará, a cantata written in 1940 (a period when Villa-Lobos was working on his Bachianas Brasileiras series). This is the first commercially recorded version of this piece. I've heard recordings of live broadcasts, and it's a really impressive piece. It'll be a chance to hear Naomi Munakata's Sao Paulo Symphony Choir & Children's Choir at their best as well.

I'm also looking forward to hearing what Karabtchevsky and OSESP make of Uirapuru, an early masterpiece written under the influence of Stravinsky, which is well-represented on disc (including the ground-breaking Leopold Stokowski version from 1959).

The release date is March 30, 2015 in the UK, April 14 in the US.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Symphony no. 10 video from Naxos Records

From Naxos Records, highlights from the latest release in the complete Villa-Lobos Symphonies series. Isaac Karabtchevsky conducts Leonardo Neiva, baritone, Saulo Javan, bass, and the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra (OSESP) and Choir.