Monday, February 19, 2018

Wind Band Music from Latin America


This is exciting: a new Chandos disc of music for wind orchestra from Latin America, due to be released on April 23, 2018, which includes two important late works by Villa-Lobos.


The Concerto Grosso for Wind Quartet (flute, oboe, clarinet & bassoon) and Wind Orchestra is from Villa-Lobos's last year, 1959. There are a few recordings available, including a Latin Grammy-winner from Naxos with Jose Serebrier conducting "The President's Own" United States Marine Band. The 1958 Fantasia em Tres Movimentos (en Forma de Choros), has only a single recording, a world premiere, available from the University of Pennsylvania Music Department.


Villa-Lobos had a real knack for wind band music, and the different sonorities make these works more interesting than some of the more routine commissioned works from the 1950s. I have high hopes for the new Chandos disc. Once I get a chance to hear it, I'll report on it here, and post a full review at Music for Several Instruments.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Nepomuceno songs arranged by Villa-Lobos


New at the IMSLP Petrucci Music Library, scans of the autograph scores of two songs by Alberto Nepomuceno arranged for voice and orchestra by Villa-Lobos: Oração ao diabo and Trovas. These are in the public domain, except in the EU.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Viva Villa! at OSESP


In February 2018 the place to be for Villa-Lobos fans is Sao Paulo. Later this month the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra (OSESP) will feature six concerts of Villa-Lobos in their Viva Villa! Festival. Isaac Karabtchevsky leads the orchestra in such important works as Choros #10 and Uirapuru. They'll also play assorted movements from the Symphonies, coinciding with the release of the 6 CD box set of the Complete Symphonies from Naxos. The excellent OSESP Choir, led by Valentina Peleggi will perform the choral version of Bachianas Brasileiras #9 along with Villa-Lobos's arrangements of Bach preludes and fugues. Also featured are guitarist Fabio Zanon and pianist Marcelo Bratke.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Bachianas Brasileira no. 2: live performance from the ABM



Except for the Little Train movement, the 2nd Bachianas Brasileiras isn't as well known as some of the other in the series. Here's a fine recent (July 2017) performance by Roberto Tibiriçá and the Orquestra Sinfônica da UFRJ.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Aeanan from Norway



I don't often get to listen to Villa-Lobos music I've never heard before. This is Aeanan, a vocalise, from the new CD by the Norwegian boys' choir Sølvguttene. I can't find any reference to this work in the Villa-Lobos repertoire; can anyone help? I love the bird calls!

One thing we know: Villa-Lobos knows his way around a vocalise!




Update: No mention of this piece by name in Villa-Lobos Sua Obra, 2009. But there are 12 Vocalises in one of Villa's choral collections; I expect it's one of those.

Update #2: Thanks to Tiago Arruda in São Luís, Maranhão, Brazil, who got the answer to this from Marcelo Rodolfo at the Museu Villa-Lobos. This is the choral version of the tune Pintor De Cannahy from the first volume of Guia Prático (1932).


Villa-Lobos used the same tune in building one of the pieces from his Cirandas. Here's Sonia Rubinsky playing this piece, from the first volume of her Complete Piano Works:


Saturday, November 4, 2017

Bachianas Brasileiras no. 1 at the Philharmonie



From the Philharmonie in Berlin, the Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic play Villa-Lobos's Bachianas Brasileiras no. 1.

Thanks to Rodrigo Roderico for the heads-up on this.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The violinophone in a Bach Brandenburg Concerto

Violí Stroh (ca. 1900), Compagnie française du gramophone. Museo de la Música de Balcelona.
In a review of a 1930 concert conducted by Villa-Lobos, Mario de Andrade mentions Villa's innovative use of a violinophone in Bach's Brandenburg Concerto no. 1. Bach calls for a violino piccolo, which is tuned a minor third or fourth higher than a regular violin. This is hardly Historically Informed Practice by today's standards, but Andrade was impressed: "The effect was very curious, especially the timbre in the second movement, marrying admirably the timbre of the violinophone with that of certain wind instruments."

From: http://literalmeida.blogspot.ca/2008/01/msica-na-semana-de-22.html
Villa-Lobos had used the violinophone, also called a Stroh violin after its inventor, in Amazonas from 1917.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Sounds of youth with echoes of maturity



Heitor Villa-Lobos: Symphonies 1 and 2

The Villa-Lobos Symphonies series from Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra (OSESP) under Isaac Karabtchevsky comes to a triumphant conclusion with this disc of the composer's first two symphonies. Though Villa-Lobos was a little bit of a late bloomer - his earliest works aren't especially accomplished by the standards set by Mendelssohn or Schubert - there's an interesting situation keeping this release from being anti-climactic. The 2nd Symphony, ostensibly written in the late teens of the 20th century, had to wait until 1944 for its premiere, and the composer seems to have used more than a bit of his best juju in polishing up this piece for its performance. It thus seems to be far in advance of the 1st symphony, and more importantly, the 3rd and even the 4th, as good as that work is. Though it's true that the 2nd Symphony is based on the principles of composition espoused by Vincent d'Indy and there are many French and Russian-sounding bits, one keeps hearing passages that sound like nothing as much as the Bachianas Brasilieras. And that's all to the good, I think.

By the way, there are a few other works from this period where something similar happened. Villa-Lobos wrote "1917" on the score of the marvellous orchestral work Uirapuru, but it wasn't premiered until 1935. Like the 2nd Symphony, it has a suspiciously nationalistic, Bachianas Brasileiras sound, which isn't surprising considering that the composer conducted the premiere in front of President Vargas. And the score of the Sexteto Mistico (one of my favourite chamber works), written in 1917, was lost. Villa-Lobos re-wrote it from memory, but obviously slipped in music in the modernist style he had mastered in Paris in the mid-1920s.

With his 1st Symphony Villa-Lobos was still learning to write music for orchestra, but it's still a more than creditable effort. It has a very fine performance here, partly because of the Sao Paulo musicians, who are very much in a groove with their conductor Isaac Karabtchevsky; and partly because of the carefully revised score which fixes many mistakes and excrescences, and in which Karabtchevsky himself played a major role. This performance makes an even better case for the symphony than the very good CPO recording from Stuttgart conducted by Carl St. Clair.

There are two last things to praise.  The Naxos design team has done a great job with this whole series. They've broken out of the bland Naxos cover tradition with striking black and white photographs. This last disc is one of the best; it features Beach at Nightfall, Rio de Janeiro, 1940, by Thomaz Farkas, the great Hungarian photographer who moved to Brazil as a child. Secondly, Fábio Zanon, who is currently Visiting Professor at the Royal Academy of Music, provides another absolutely first-class essay for the liner notes, with strong analysis and new insights. Put together, the Naxos Symphonies notes represent a major contribution to Villa-Lobos scholarship. This last disc in the set will be released on November 10, 2017

This review also appears at Music for Several Instruments.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The final disc in the Naxos Symphonies series


Here is the cover of the sixth and final disc in the splendid Naxos set of complete Villa-Lobos Symphonies from OSESP under Isaac Karabtchevsky, due to be released on November 10, 2017. I'll post a review as soon as I get a chance to listen. Once again Naxos has come up with a head-turning design for the cover; design hasn't always been their strong suit over the years, but all six discs in this series are just beautiful. It's based on a stunning photograph: "Beach at Nightfall, Rio de Janeiro," 1940, by Thomaz Farkas.

Here is the back cover:

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A pleasure you suffer


Villa-Lobos: Suite populaire bresilienne; Scriabin:  Prelude pour la main gauche; Ponce: Sonata #3; Takemitsu: Equinox; Sor: Fantaisie Elégiaque

In Paris est une solitude peuplée Judicael Perroy has put together a fascinating group of pieces for the classical guitar, played with style and precision. It's a program of moods, with a focus on the beautifully melancholic, that nostalgic enjoyment one takes in the sad sounds of a lost past. The Portuguese, and especially the Brazilians, have the term saudade, which Manuel de Melo has called "a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy." Villa-Lobos's Suite populaire Bresilienne is layered with these feelings. Already when the composer put pen to paper he was remembering an earlier time of street musicians from his father's generation and his childhood. When he added the final movement, the Chorinho, in 1923, there was a new modernist, Parisian layer to the music and an additional layer of sadness and regret. Perroy plays Villa's 1948 revision of this music; the composer was always polishing his early music. I've been listening to this beautiful music for many years, and especially since I began the Villa-Lobos Website nearly 25 years ago, so listening to this fresh sounding version evokes all of the dozens of versions - Kraft, Zanon, Barrueco, Turibio Santos, Leisner, Assad - that I've come to love. The rest of the album continues on a pensive note, with a fine miniature based on a Scriabin work for piano left hand. Works by Ponce, Takemitsu and Sor round out this well-planned, nicely presented and beautifully played album. It's due to be released on September 1st, 2017.

This review has also been posted at Music for Several Instruments.