Sunday, March 11, 2018

Engaging and colourful music from Latin America

Villa-Lobos: Concerto Grosso, Fantasia em Tres Movimentos (en Forma de Choros); Chavez: Chapultepec; Rodrigo: Per la flor del lliri blau, Adagio

This is such a great release, with music we've needed on disc for such a long time. Of course, I'm most interested in the two Villa-Lobos works, both of which from his late period. Late Villa-Lobos is a bit of a hodgepodge; it includes a few less than inspired commissioned works, but also some of his greatest music: the last few String Quartets, the Magnificat Alleluia and Bendita sabedoria, and the operas Yerma and A Menina das Nuvens. The two pieces for wind orchestra are both standouts. 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), a nostalgic final look back at a lifetime of music in the Choros form, has only a single recording, a world premiere available from the University of Pennsylvania Music Department. Both of the newly recorded pieces are beautifully played by the Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra under conductors Clark Rundell and Mark Heron, and well presented by the Chandos producer engineers. 2017 was the Villa-Lobos Symphonies Year, thanks to the completion of the Naxos series from OSESP under Isaac Karabtchevsky. Even though it's only March, I'm quite sure 2018 will be the Villa-Lobos Wind Orchestra Year, based on this release.

On Twitter I referred to these two works as Villa-Lobos's NAFTA music, after Marcelo Rodolfo of the Museu Villa-Lobos tweeted that the Concerto Grosso was written in Mexico, and the Fantasia in Canada:

As you can see from the scores, both works were written for The American Wind Symphony in Pittsburgh, and both were dedicated to Mindinha.

(Thanks for these, Marcelo!)

The other works on this disc are really interesting. The two pieces by Joaquin Rodrigo are about what I expected, colourful music with Iberian touches. With the title Chapultepec, I expected something more folkloric from Carlos Chavez's piece, but it's more about the municipal band in the town square playing military marches and Italian opera tunes than anything approaching the revolutionary modernism we connect with Chavez. The entire disc is full of colour and engaging tunes; it's completely delightful.

This disc will be released on April 23, 2018. This review also appears at Music for Several Instruments.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Bachianas Brasileiras no. 4 for Wind Ensemble, & more!

Here's another arrangement of a Villa-Lobos piece for wind ensemble, after yesterday's BB#5 Aria from DePauw University Band. It's from The University of Houston Wind Ensemble's 1999 album Enigma Variations, conducted by Eddie Green. The arrangement is by Merlin Patterson.

The 4th Bachianas Brasileiras went through a number of transformations by Villa-Lobos himself. It was originally written for piano in three chunks: the Dança (Miudinho), which became the finale, in 1930; the Ária (Cantiga), the 3rd movement, in 1935; and the Prelúdio (Introdução) and Coral (Canto do Sertão), the 1st two movements, in 1941.

Villa then orchestrated the piece in 1942.

Finally, he re-worked the first movement to become the opening Seed of God segment of his Broadway musical Magdalena. There's a recording of the Magdalena Suite on an amazing LP from 1974 called Andre Kostelanetz Plays Villa-Lobos. Unfortunately, this isn't available on Spotify, but you can listen to a 30 second clip at the Internet Archive. By the way, this disc is available on CD & MP3 from Klassic Haus Restorations.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

BB#5 Aria for Wind Ensemble

This is quite lovely: John Krance's arrangement for wind ensemble of the Aria of Bachianas Brasileiras no. 5. It's played beautifully by the DePauw University Band, conducted by Craig Paré. From their 2017 album Everything Beautiful.

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."

Villa-Lobos had used the violinophone, also called a Stroh violin after its inventor, in Amazonas from 1917.