Thursday, November 14, 2002

Villa-Lobos film in New York

This was quick: news from New York about an upcoming showing of Villa-Lobos: Uma Vida de Paixão, at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia, Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway. It's scheduled at 9 p.m., November 23, 2002 - check out the Symphony Space website for more information.

Villa-Lobos film in London

Distribution of the Zelito Vianna film Villa-Lobos: Uma Vida de Paixão has been slow outside of Brazil, where it was released in 2000, and a handful of Film Festivals since then (including Miami and Moscow). Londoners will have a chance to see the film on November 19th, at the Brazilian Embassy's Brazilian Contemporary Arts Cineclub, Room 101, Palingswick House, 241 King Street, London, W6 9LP.

I'm watching the web for any sign of the DVD being released in the rest of the world. I'd appreciate word from any readers of The Villa-Lobos Magazine about any video or DVD releases, or release in theatres outside of Brazil. Unfortunately, the official website from Mapafilm no longer seems to be available.

Those who have seen the film seem to rate it highly: the Internet Movie Database has 45 ratings, with an average of 8.4 out of 10.






[Picture: the movie poster from Mapa Filme - click here for a larger version - 128k]

The London Brazilian Embassy's website is excellent: there's lots of interest from the cultural side. Here's an upcoming concert I found out about from the site, which takes place on November 28, 2002 at Bolívar Hall, the Embassy of Venezuela, 54 Grafton Way, London W1T 5DJ. Nadia Myerscough, violin, and Clélia Iruzun, piano, will play the interesting early Villa-Lobos work, the Sonata-Fantasia No. 1, along with works by Albéniz, Ginastera, de Falla, Prokofiev, Bartok and Marlos Nobre. I've been listening to the works for piano and violin and piano trio recently, and find them absolutely charming. There's more information on the concert here, including this interesting tidbit: Ms. Iruzun will release a CD of Brazilian piano concertos on the Lorelt Label in early 2003.

Sunday, November 3, 2002

November on Cultura FM

Here are radio programs of interest from Sao Paulo's Cutural FM - listen here on the Internet. Times are local Sao Paulo times, one hour ahead of EST.

The Quarteto Bessler-Reis has recorded the cycle of Villa-Lobos string quartets on the Kuarup label. You can hear the 12th and 13th at 10:00 on November 8. This is repeated on the 15th at 04:00. Quartets 14 and 17 are performed at 10:00 the 15th, and repeated at 04:00 on the 22nd. The same day at 10:00, the Bessler-Reis group play quartets 4 and 5 (repeated on the 29th at 04:00). On the 29th at 10:00, you can hear quartets 1 and 3.

Every weekday at 11:00, Cultura FM presents "Ciranda: Academia brasileira da música". On November 12, pianist João Carlos Assis Brasil performs New York Skyline and the Dança do índio branco, along with his own "Improviso em homenagem a Villa-Lobos." Later on the same program, the Ensemble Capriccio performs the amazing String Trio.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Benjamin Bunch's New Website

Guitarist Benjamin Bunch promotes his Etcetera CDs on this excellent website. The site includes an MP3 format file of the 2nd Prelude - one of Villa-Lobos' most popular pieces. We look forward to his upcoming disc An Homage to Heitor Villa-Lobos for soprano and guitar.






Note that though Bunch's discs aren't easy to find in North America, you can order them through the German and UK versions of Amazon.

Friday, October 11, 2002

Paul Creston and Villa-Lobos

The American composer Paul Creston lived from 1906 to 1985. The Paul Creston archives are available in the Special Collections Department of the Miller Nichols Library at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.






The picture above is included in the online version of the Paul Creston Collection. It's another picture that demonstrates how much Villa-Lobos got around in the musical world. Some day soon I'll compile a list of all the famous composers, instrumentalists and conductors that were photographed alongside Villa-Lobos.

Villa-Lobos on Radio France's France Musique

France has many connections with Villa-Lobos, from the composer's first visit in the 1920's, to the time he spent in the 1950's, recording with French EMI. France Musique, the classical music radio network of Radio France, can be heard live on the Internet. Here are some upcoming Villa-Lobos performances, all from European recordings that aren't all that easy to come by here in North America:

October 13, 04:46: Bachianas Brasileiras 6 with Norton Morozowicz, flute, and Noël Devos, bassoon. This is from the CD ADDA 590 901. This is repeated at 22:46 on October 15 and October 17 at 10:46.

October 19, 15:48: Tenor Marcel Quillévéré sings the three Cançoes Indigenas (Indigenous Songs) that Villa-Lobos wrote in 1926. He is accompanied by Noël Lee, on piano, in this excerpt from the OPUS 111 CD (OPS 30-65). This is repeated at 03:48 on October 20, 21:48 on October 22 and 09:48 on October 24.

October 22, 11:52: The Fantasie for saxophone, three horns and strings, with Detlef Bensmann, alto saxophone, and the RIAS-Sinfonietta de Berlin, under the direction of David Shallon. From the KOCH CD 311025. Repeated at 17:52 on October 23.

Monday, September 30, 2002

October on Cultura FM

Here are radio programs of interest from Sao Paulo's Cutural FM - listen here on the Internet. Times are local Sao Paulo times, one hour ahead of EDT.

October 1, 2 pm: Prof. Gilberto Tinetti discusses Felicja Blumental's performances of Bachianas Brasileiras no. 3 and Piano Concerto no. 5. This program is repeated at 3 am the following day.

October 2, 11 am: The Rio Cello Ensemble and pianist Wagner Tiso perform Mandu-çarará, which I haven't seen on CD.

October 7, 10 am: From the Brazilian label Funarte, the 1st Sonata-Fantaisie, with Oscar Borgerth, violin, and Ilara Gomes Grosso, piano. This is repeated at 4 a.m. on the 14th. Immediately following at 11:00 on the 7th, the Orquestra Petrobrás Pró-Música and conductor Armando Prazeres perform the 1st Sinfonietta, and Nelson Freire plays the amazing masterwork for the piano: Rudepoema.

October 13, 6 am: From a Brasilian CD on the Brascan Brasil SA label, Antonio Menezes, cello and Ricardo Castro, piano, perform the Pequena Suite. This is repeated at 11:00 on October 14.

October 21 is a day full of great piano performances: at 11 am Marcelo Bratke performs the first Prole de Bebe suite, and at 8:05, Caio Pagano performs Carnaval das crianças and the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th collections from the Guia prático (none of which are easily available on CD). The latter program is repeated at 9 am on the 26th.

October 24, 11 am: a Brazilian ensemble plays the Fantasia concertante for piano, clarinet and bassoon, and the great classical/popular instrumentalist Paulo Moura performs the Fantasia for Saxophone and Orchestra, with the Orquestra de Câmara Brasileira, conducted by Bernardo Bessler.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Villa-Lobos Concerts & CDs Analyzed

I've been tracking performances of Villa-Lobos works at concerts and recitals from around the world since January 1997, in the Upcoming Villa-Lobos Concerts page of the Villa-Lobos Website. I've recently put together a list of the works played at those concerts. As well, I've looked at the 445 CDs containing works by Villa-Lobos that are currently available at Amazon.com. I'll be posting a spreadsheet with this information on the Website - it's here - and I'll keep it updated as I receive new information.

In the meantime, here are some interesting results. The most commonly performed works:

Bachianas Brasileiras #5 (48)
Harmonica Concerto (20)
Unspecified Pieces for Guitar (20)
Assobio a Jato (19)
Bachianas Brasileiras #2 (17)
Bachianas Brasileiras #1 (12)
Guitar Etudes (12)
Bachianas Brasileiras #6 (8)
Bachianas Brasileiras #9 (8)
Bachianas Brasileiras #4 (7)
Guitar Preludes (7)
Saxophone Fantasia (7)

No real surprises here. The Bachianas Brasileiras series looms large in terms of the popular view of Villa-Lobos. BB#5 is one of the standards of the orchestral repertoire, and in its version for soprano and guitar for that of chamber music. Robert Bonfiglio has nearly single-handedly brought a high level of popularity to the Harmonica Concerto. The works for guitar are probably under-reported by a factor of at least three, since many concert notices do not refer to particular works.

Many of these pieces show up at the top of the CD list as well:

Bachianas Brasileiras #5 (98)
Guitar Preludes (70)
Guitar Etudes (57)
Choros 1 (33)
Suite Popular Bresilienne (32)
Bachianas Brasileiras #2 (22)
Guitar Concerto (22)
Bachianas Brasileiras #4 (20)
Choros #5 (16)
Bachianas Brasileiras #1 (14)
Song Recitals (14)
Ciclo Brasiliera (13)
Prole de Bebe #1 (13)

The guitar music is well represented on CD, with every one of the works Villa-Lobos wrote for the instrument (with the exception of the Introduction to Choros, which has unaccountably received only a single recording) in the top ten most popular works. The best works for piano are well represented as well. It's nice to see a work from the Choros series - Choros #5, subtitled Alma Brasileira - getting as many recordings as some of the Bachianas Brasileiras series.

At the other end, there are a few great works that received no performances (as reported on my page - my collection of this information is very hit and miss). These include most of the Symphonies; four of the Piano Concertos; Choros 8, 9 and 12; and the String Trio. Luckily, the list of works with no recordings in the Amazon.com list (nearly all of which are available throughout the world) is really quite short:

Cello Sonata 1
Choros 4
Choros 6
Daughter of the Clouds
Duas Lendas Amerindias
Fantasia de Movementos Mixtos
Nonetto
Sinfonietta #1
Symphony 2
Symphony 3
Symphony 7
Symphony 9
Vidapura
Yerma

From this short list, we'll soon be able to remove the 3rd and 9th Symphonies, coming soon from cpo. Symphonies 2 and 7 will presumably follow, from the same source, within a year. After that, we badly need recordings of the 6th Choros, the Fantasia de Movementos Mixtos and the Nonetto. As for the other hole in the Choros series, number 4, that's available in the indispensable CD Os Choros de Câmara from the Brazilian company Kuarup. I ordered this CD, and others, from Kuarup's website. Kuarup's CDs are very inexpensive, and the discs arrived amazingly quickly.

I think that, overall, the works of Villa-Lobos are fairly well represented both discographically, and on the concert stages of the world. The complete cycles of string quartets recently performed at the Kuhno Festival in Finland and by the Cuartetto Latinoamericano brought many hidden gems to the surface. Naxos is especially to be commended for their well-played, well-recorded budget CDs. I'm sure, though, that there are many works that I've left out in my list that need performances and recordings. Why not tell me what you think?

Wednesday, September 4, 2002

More New CDs

Another cpo new release contains a well-chosen concert of VL's chamber music for strings. The Deutsches Streichtrio performs three duos: the Deux Choros Bis (1929) for violin and cello, a version of the 1921 Choros #2 for violin and cello, and the 1946 Duo for violin and viola. Best of all they've included one of VL's masterworks, the String Trio written in 1945. A disc with this repertoire is pretty much self-recommending, and Bert's thumb's up clinches the deal for me.






It's a good time for new Villa-Lobos from Europe. Bert also likes the new Lorelt disc with the BBC Singers and the Ensemble Lontano, under the direction of Odaline de la Martinez. This disc also includes the Deux Choros Bis, with the addition of some other chamber works: Choros 7 (1924) and the early modernist masterpieces the Quatour Symbolique and the Sexteto Mistico. Best of all, there's the original version of Bachianas Brasileiras #9, for an "orchestra of voices." This is apparently a re-issue of a disc recorded in the early 1990's.

It's like the people at cpo and Lorelt were listening to my wish-lists. Now, if they'd turn to the Nonetto and the operas Yerma (1955) and Daughter of the Clouds (1957)....

New Symphonies CD

"A new Symphony by Heitor Villa-Lobos is a world event."

- from a review in the Christian Science Monitor of the premiere of the 11th Symphony (quoted in Vasco Mariz's Heitor Villa-Lobos: Life & Work of the Brazilian Composer (1970).






Though it hasn't shown up at Amazon.com (or the other Amazon sites around the world), the new cpo CD of Symphonies 3 & 9 conducted by Carl St. Clair can be purchased from the European site JPC. Thanks to Bert Berenschot in the Netherlands for this update. Check here for all the information, including sound samples. I haven't ordered from JPC myself, but the CD is certainly a good buy at US$11.96 (13.99 Euros). As Mariz says, "The Ninth Symphony seems to have been composed in 1951 but has never been performed, and I have no data on it." So this release is certainly of world-wide interest to music lovers.

The early 3rd Symphony makes up the bulk of the rest of the disc, which has a nice filler in the "Ouverture de l'Homme Tel." I've often seen this work in lists of Max Eschig publications, and wondered what it sounded like. The short Real Audio excerpt on the JPC site includes only a fanfare, but you can tell from the clips that the orchestral playing from St. Clair's Stuttgart forces remains of the highest quality. I'm certainly looking forward to this one!

Thursday, August 29, 2002

September VL Listening on Cultura FM

Here are some radio programs you might want to watch out for on Sao Paulo's Cutural FM - listen here on the Internet. Times are local Sao Paulo times, one hour ahead of EDT.

Sept. 7, 1 p.m.: Marlos Nobre's Homenagem a Villa-Lobos is played by guitarist Joaquim Freire. This is from a Leman Classics CD.


Leman Classics CD: Marlos Nobre



Sept. 17, 11 a.m.: The 3rd Piano Trio is played by the Brazilian players Yara Bernette, piano, Ayrton Pinto, violin and Antonio del Claro, cello. On the same program, pianist Arnaldo Estrela plays the Poema singelo. I presume these are both from Brazilian CDs.

Sept. 18, 11 a.m.: The great bassoonist Noel Devos (who was born in France, but who has lived in Brazil since 1952) performs the Ciranda das sete notas for bassoon and strings with the Orquestra de Câmara Brasileira under the direction of Bernardo Bessler.

Sept. 23, 11 a.m.: Pianist Nahim Marun and violinist Claudio Cruz perform the Sonata Fantasia n° 2.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

New World Symphony Music of the Americas Festival

The New World Symphony, based in Miami Florida, bills itself as "America's Orchestral Academy." The NWS "trains the most gifted graduates of distinguished music programs for leadership positions in orchestras and ensembles around the world."

The New World Symphony is best known to Villa-Lobos lovers, of course, through their very successful 1997 CD Alma Brasileira, with NWS Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas. My review of that CD is here. I still enjoy this CD very much - especially Choros no. 10, which does credit to the capabilities of the orchestra and its conductor, to the producers and engineers at BMG for its amazing sound, and of course to Villa-Lobos - it's an amazing work!

In mid-September, the New World Symphony is presenting a free four-concert festival of North and Latin American works entitled "Music of the Americas." Two Villa-Lobos works will be included. The modernist Quintet em Forme de Choros, written in Paris in 1928, will be performed on September 13, in a Woodwind, Brass and Wind Ensembles Concert conducted by David Amado.

The following night, September 14, conductor Gisele Ben-Dor, best known in the VL world for her very well-reviewed recording of VL's Symphony no. 10 "Amerindia", will conduct the Bachianas Brasileiras no. 9.

Besides these two VL works, the four concerts include masterworks by Revueltas and Ginastera, and a really nice mix of works by such composers as VL's close friend Edgard Varèse, Samuel Barber, Michael Tilson Thomas and Joan Tower. Sounds like a really interesting festival, and the price is certainly right!

Monday, August 19, 2002

The Villa-Lobos Letters in Paperback

Martin Anderson at Toccata Press has let me know that Lisa Peppercorn's book The Villa-Lobos Letters is now available in paperback.





Complete information is available at the Toccata Press site. You can order the hardcover and paperback Letters from Amazon.co.uk, though only the hardcover version is listed at Amazon.com.

This really is an interesting book, containing valuable insights into Villa-Lobos's life at important times of his life. Peppercorn was for many years the main source of information about Villa-Lobos in English. Now that we have new sources of biographical information we can take Peppercorn's biases into account - notably her championship of VL's first wife Lucília over his eventual life-partner Arminda. Still, Peppercorn's intimate knowledge of VL's life - especially in the 1930's - and her access to source documents makes this volume an absolute must for those of us interested in this extraordinary, and very human, composer.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

August Villa-Lobos Listening on Cultura FM

Here are some interesting radio programs on Sao Paulo's Cutural FM - listen here on the Internet. Times are local Sao Paulo times, one hour ahead of EDT.

August 15: Cristina Ortiz plays the important piano part in Bachianas Brasileiras #3, with Vladimir Ashkenazy conducting the New Philharmonia Orchestra. Bonus solo pieces: A lenda do caboclo and Alma Brasileira (Choros #5).

August 19, 4 a.m.: The music for violin and piano isn't well known - the Sonata Fantasia no. 2 is an impressive work. This performance is by Claudio Cruz, violin, and Nahim Marun, piano, from a Brazilian CD that's not easily available in North America or Europe.

At 11:00 a.m. the same day, the program is "Ciranda - Academia brasileira da música," which includes some very interesting Brazilian music. Camargo Guarnieri's 3rd Symphony is played by the Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo, conducted by Johh Neschling. Next is a piece by the Villa-Lobos scholar turned composer Richard Tacuchian entitled Impulsos. Finally, Cristina Ortiz plays Impressões seresteiras from Villa-Lobos's Brazilian Cycle.

August 22, 11:00 a.m.: Pianist Martha Marchena performs the short but interesting Três Marias, and Cristina Ortiz plays A prole do bebê (I presume that's the first suite).

Sunday, August 11, 2002

New Villa-Lobos Email List

I'm testing a new feature on The Villa-Lobos Magazine - an email newsletter that will send Villa-Lobos Magazine postings to your email inbox. The service comes via Topica.com - to sign up just add your email address to the form below:

Subscribe!

Enter your email to join Villa-Lobos News today!

 


Hosted by Topica


Or, send a blank email message to: villa-lobos-subscribe@topica.com

Tuesday, August 6, 2002

New CDs from Brana Records

I've just received three new CDs from Mark Walmsley, Executive Producer at Brana Records. Most exciting is Villa-Lobos Live!, which includes two major works for piano and orchestra played by the legendary pianist Felicja Blumental.

Listen Now at Brana Records!

Though I've only had the chance for a quick listen, it's clear that this is an important issue, on musical as well as historical grounds. The 5th Piano Concerto was dedicated to Felicja Blumental (1908-1991), who was born in Poland but who lived in Brazil from 1942. This splendid pianist played the work at its premiere in London in 1955 with the composer at the podium. An version of of the work with Blumental and Villa-Lobos playing with the Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion Française has long been available as part of the 6-CD set Villa-Lobos par lui-meme. I'm anxious to hear these two works side by side.

The other major work is the excellent but underplayed Bachianas Brasileiras no. 3, written in 1938. This work matches Blumental with the Filarmonica Triestina. There's a trade-off here: this is a less accomplished orchestra, and certainly the work is less authoritatively interpreted by conductor Luigi Toffolo. However, I would argue this is a much greater work than the later, more flashy 5th Piano Concerto. More on this CD soon...

The other two CDs are interesting as well, and sound great. Felicja Blumental also plays piano in the CD Brazilian Forms. The big work here is Hekel Tavares Concerto in Brazilian Forms for Piano and Orchestra, a piece that sounds on first hearing surprisingly unlike Villa-Lobos. With conductor Anatole Fistoulari and the London Symphony Orchestra providing excellent support, the work is given the best possible presentation. Also on this CD are two works by Albeniz with Blumental accompanied by Italian orchestras.

On another CD soprano Annette Celine (Felicja Blumental's daughter) sings Cantigas - Brazilian Songs: music by Waldemar Henrique and Villa-Lobos, along with a sampling of the best South American composers of art songs. The three Villa-Lobos songs are all well-known, and among the composer's best: Cançâo Do Poeta Século XVIII, Nesta Rua, and Vióla Quebrada (one of my favourites, from the Chansons typiques bresiliennes, published in Paris in 1929). This is a marvellous recital - Celine's still strong voice combines with a completely solid grasp of the phrasing and rhythms of this music. Young pianist Christopher Gould provides excellent support, which is so important, since nearly every song has a piano accompaniment of some importance, and in some cases of distinction.

All three of these new CDs are warmly recommended.

The Brazilian Cycle in Concert

Pianist Seth Montfort plays the marvellous Brazilian Cycle at a concert coming up next weekend in San Francisco. The Ciclo brasileiro, according to Prof. Eero Tarasti, "represents the best in 'national romanticism' that he composed in the 1930s." Each of the pieces - Plantio do caboclo, Impressoes seresteiras, Festa no sertao and Danca do Indio Branco - is "extraordinarily well written for the piano, requiring a virtuoso technique." Representing scenes of Brazilian life, the cycle contains a wide variety of moods and technique. The final Dance of the White Indian is, according to a source I recently read, but can't put my finger on, a self-portrait of the composer.

Here's the information from Mark Pope:

The Englander House Victorian Mansion Concerts - Cathedral Hill Concerts benefiting the San Francisco Concerto Orchestra's International Competitions.
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA, Cathedral Hill/Opera Plaza at 807 Franklin St. (between Turk & Eddy)

The San Francisco Concerto Orchestra
Bach, Villa Lobos and Brazilian Bossa Novas
Saturday, August 10th, 2:00 PM (doors open at 1:30 PM)
$20 advance reservations ($25 at the door)

Seth Montfort will perform Villa-Lobos' Brazilian Cycle for solo piano. The San Francisco Concerto Orchestra performs Bossa Novas by Jobim and Bonfa, including The Girl from Ipanema and many other famous Brazilian songs, all beautifully arranged for orchestra by Mauro Correa and James Shallenberger, one of the founding members of the Kronos Quartet. The Orchestra will also perform Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2.

Gregory Barber, conductor, with soloists Victor Romasevich, violin, David Johnson, flute, Rob Chavez, clarinet, Roger Wiesmeyer, oboe, & Mauro Correa, guitar & vocals.

Call (415) 362 - 6080, write, or email englanderh@aol.com for more details. For reservations, send phone number or email address and check payable to San Francisco Concerto Orchestra, c/o Mark Pope, 807 Franklin St, San Francisco, CA 94102 USA.

Friday, June 28, 2002

Correspondência Musicológica Euro-Brasileira

I've recently come across an important scholarly resource on the web: the Correspondência Musicológica Euro-Brasileira. A project of the Institut für Studien der Musikkultur des portugiesischen Sprachraumes, this website is in Portuguese and German.





An example of the kind of research included on the site is this English abstract of a 2001 article by Ricardo Tacuchian, Academia Brasileira de Música, Universidade do Rio de Janeiro, entitled "Um Requiem para Villa-Lobos":

"An hermeneutic approach of the Second Suite for Chamber Orchestra by Villa-Lobos points it out not only as a swan-song but also as a requiem for the composer himself. This last work by Villa-Lobos is a synthesis of his artistic trajectory, with candidly European, caboclo and African ambiances. Despite its great simplicity the piece holds elements that characterize the musician’s style. Besides symbolizing the composer’s multiple aesthetic aims the piece imparts his ultimate self-biography and his current painful soul."

That short description makes one wish for an English translation (which I'll try to have done, and posted on the HVL Website). It also, of course, points to the fact that the Second Suite is presently without a current recording on CD. Prof. Tacuchian's article comes from the Brasil 2000 Colóquio/Kolloquium entitled "J.S.BACH-H.VILLA-LOBOS Interpretações e Perspectivas do Barroco / Deutungen und Perspektiven des Barock."

The ISMPS website itself, by the way, includes a useful bibliography of monographs and periodical articles in many languages, with a focus on German and Portuguese.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Upcoming Concerts

I've posted a number of new events on the Upcoming Villa-Lobos Concerts page, from the summer 2002 festival season, and some newly-announced 2002-03 symphony orchestra concert seasons.

A concert that Southern Californians should consider attending is the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra concert of January 18, 2003. Conductor Enrique Arturo Diemecke and violinist Marijn Simons will perform the rare Fantasia de Movimentos Mixtos. This work, which I've never heard, and never seen on any concert programme or discography, is a violin concerto in three movements. I'm not sure why they're "mixed", but movements are entitled "Alma Convulsa", "Serenidade", and "Contentamento". Dedicated to violinist Paulina d'Ambrozio, the work was written in 1922 in Rio. The second movement was premiered in September 1922 by d'Ambrozio at the Teatro Municipal, with the composer at the podium. The premiere of the entire work was in April 1941, with Oscar Borgerth playing the violin and Albert Wolff conducting the Orquestra do Teatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro.

Maestro Diemecke and the up-and-coming Dutch violinist Simons have performed the work before, with the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Mexico in March of 2001. Here's a review that seemed pretty positive judging by Google's English translation.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Listen to Villa-Lobos on Cultura FM

There are some interesting works you can hear on Cultura FM on the Internet in July. As usual, I'm listing works that are hard to find in North American and European record stores.

July 4: Right up there with the String Trio are two great modernist works from the 20's: the Nonetto and the Quarteto Simbólico. Both can be heard in a live concert from 1991, at 10 p.m. Sao Paulo time (that's 7 in the evening, prime time, in MDT Red Deer).

July 9: The complete string quartets have been recorded by the Quarteto Bessler-Reis on the Kuarup label. I purchased this set direct from Kuarup (and was very pleased with the price and the speed of delivery). You can sample the set by listening at 5 p.m. on the 5th to the Quartet #5.

July 31: One work that is quite rare is the Introdução ao Choros for guitar and orchestra. This is unexpected considering the huge number of CDs containing the Guitar Concerto and the solo works for guitar. Finnish guitarist Timo Korhonen has the piece included in his excellent Complete Works for Guitar series on the Ondine label. The piece is a kind of precis of the entire Choros series, with quotations from many of the works in this great 12-part saga. Here's what Bert Berenschot says about the piece:

"It is more an orchestral piece with some parts for guitar then that it is a guitar concerto. It's a 13 min. piece with themes from different Choros. It ends with an slow orchestral quote of the first bars of Choros 1 for guitar, so it can be connected with Choros 1 when all the Choros are performed in one concert. I cannot imagine it will ever happen........., well ok, maybe in 2059 or 2087..."

You can now relatively easily piece together all of the Choros from CDs with the exception of #6, so you can program just such a marathon in your own home. I think I'll do that myself...

New Symphonies Recording on its Way

Here is some interesting news from the very knowledgeable and well-connected Dutch Villa-Lobos fan Bert Berenschot:

"Some news from a spokesman of CPO: they will release the 3th and 9th symphony in september. In august they will release a cd with (a.o.) the amazing String Trio."

This is good news - the excellent Carl St. Clair Stuttgart Integral Symphonies series on cpo records is winding down. This release should be as interesting as any in the series: neither of these works is at all well-known. I've heard neither, and haven't heard of any recordings. It's also great to have a new version of the String Trio on CD.

Thanks, Bert, for this update.

Friday, May 31, 2002

Villa-Lobos on Cultura FM - June 2002

Here are some Villa-Lobos works you can listen to on Internet radio during the month of June on Cultura FM from Sao Paulo:

June 5: the second Cello Concerto, from the Dorian CD with Andrés Díaz and the Orquestra Sinfônica Simon Bolívar da Venezuela, conducted by Arturo Diemecke. This is repeated on June 12.

June 8: guitarist Joaquim Freire playing five Etudes.

June 10: the Pequena Suite and the quirky Choros #3 "Pica-Pao".

June 18: this one's interesting, since the CD isn't easily available in North America: the great tone poem Uirapuru played by the Orquestra Sinfônica Nacional da Universidade Federal Fluminense, conducted by Ligia Amadio. Later that same day, the Choros #7 with a chamber group conducted by Mário Tavares. Both programs are repeated June 25.

June 22: Choros #1 played by guitarist Carlos Farinas, with a prelude by Fabio Zanon.

June 25: Julian Bream's slick version of the Guitar Concerto, with the LSO under Andre Previn. This program includes some etudes performed by Fabio Zanon.

June 26: Here's a date to mark in your calendar. Choros #6 is by report a masterpiece, but it's unrepresented in the CD catalogue in North America or Europe. At 11:00 Sao Paulo time, on the program "Ciranda: Academia brasileira da música", you can hear the piece performed by the Sinfônica Brasileira, with conductor Isaac Karabatchevsky. Also on the program is Gnattali's Sinfonia Popular no. 1, with the OSB conducted by Cláudio Santoro. I'm not sure if these works are from Brazilian CDs or if they were recorded in concert.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

The Boeuf Chronicles

Speaking of Darius Milhaud and the music of Brazil, there's a really interesting series about just that on Daniella Thompson's Brazilian Music weblog. The "Boeuf Chronicles" tell the fascinating story of a sophisticated musical genius connecting with a vibrant popular music culture of early 20th century Brazil. Daniella's musical examples are really interesting. I'm looking forward to dusting off my old Milhaud MP3's and following along with this cutting-edge musical research.

New Villa-Lobos/Milhaud CD from CBC Records

As promised, here are the details on a new CD from CBC Records.





SCARAMOUCHE


Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra
Hans Graf, conductor

SMCD

TRACKING

Heitor Villa Lobos: Descobrimento do Brasil (The Discovery of Brazil) Suite #2 - 11:16

1. I. Impressao Moura 3:04
2. II. Adagio sentimental 6:04
3. III. Cascavel 2:08

Heitor Villa Lobos: Descobrimento do Brasil (The Discovery of Brazil) Suite #3 - 16:41
4. I. Impressao Ibertica 10:22
5. II. Festa mas selvas 3:42
6. III. Valaloce 2:37

Darius Milhaud: Scaramouche: Suite for Saxophone & Orchestra - 9:01
( Jeremy Brown, saxophone )

7. I. Vif 2:56
8. II. Modere 3:40
9. III. Brazileira 2:25

Darius Milhaud: Saudades do Brazil - 24:56

10. Overture :44
11. I. Sorocaba 1:45
12. II. Botofago 2:02
13. III. Leme 2:43
14. IV. Copacabana 2:42
15. V. Ipanema 2:11
16. VI. Gavea 1:40
17. VII. Corovado 2:11
18. VIII. Tijuca 2:14
19. IX. Sumare 1:49
20. X. Paineras 1:18
21. XI. Larenjeiras 1:11
22. XII. Paysandu 1:42
23. Reprise: Overture :44

TOTAL 61:54

CREDITS

Project Producers: HAROLD GILLIS
Recording Producer: KAREN WILSON
Recording Engineer: GEOFF ROWLAND
Technical Assistance: BOB DOBLE, PETER COOK
Digital Editing & Mastering: PETER COOK
Production Coordinator: PAULETTE BOURGET
Cover Design: CAROLINE BROWN

RECORDED AT JACK SINGER HALL, CALGARY, ALBERTA – SEPTEMBER 9, 10, 2001.

*****

The CD will be officially released next Tuesday, May 28. You can buy it directly from the CBC Records website, or from Amazon.com.

Wednesday, May 8, 2002

Bachianas Brasileiras no. 9 for an "Orchestra of Voices"

Villa-Lobos wrote his Bachianas Brasileiras no. 9 - the last in the series - in 1945. The work was originally written for an "orchestra of voices" in six parts, though most of us know this piece best in VL's version for strings. As David P. Appleby says in his excellent new book Heitor Villa-Lobos - A Life (1887-1959):

"Even though Bachianas brasileiras no. 9 is a short piece, the writing appears as formidable to today's singers as the vocal writing of Beethoven in the last movement of Symphony no. 9 must have appeared to sopranos of his time. It seems that both Beethoven and Villa-Lobos considered the human voice the ultimate musical instrument to conclude a series of important musical works. Villa-Lobos, concerned with a different vocal timbre for the various voices of the fugue in vocal performance, gave a different syllable to each of the voices. The various performances by stringed instruments are generally able to project the desired contrast of timbre much more easily."

I know of no currently available recordings of the vocal version of BB#9. For those who live in the Boston area, there's a chance to hear this piece live in concert with the Spectrum Singers. Here's the concert information from their website:

Music from the Americas
Friday, May 17, 2002 at 8:00 pm
First Church Congregational, 11 Garden Street, Harvard Square, Cambridge

Irving Fine - The Hour Glass
Heitor Villa-Lobos - Bachiana Brasileira No. 9 for Orchestra of Voices
Harry Somers - Songs of the Newfoundland Outports
William Schuman - Carols of Death
Ernst Bacon - Three American Songs
Conductor: John W. Ehrlich

Luckily, the concert is being recorded for later broadcast on WGBH radio. I will contact the station and try to find out the broadcast date, and post it here.

Saturday, April 27, 2002

Guitar Concerto in Concert

The Villa-Lobos Guitar Concerto will be performed this Sunday, April 28, by guitarist Fukuda Shin-ichi and the Japan Philharmonic under the direction of Toyama Yuzo.

For other Villa-Lobos concerts from around the world, check out the Upcoming Villa-Lobos Concerts Page.

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

New VL Piano Concerto CD

This News Release from Brana Records should excite Villa-Lobos lovers around the world:

NEWS RELEASE - For immediate use - Tuesday 22nd April 2002

LIVE VILLA-LOBOS RECORDING RESTORED

On 25th May 1955, Heitor Villa-Lobos conducted the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and soloist Felicja Blumental in a performance of his 5th Piano Concerto at the Musikverein in Vienna.

A recording of this performance has been restored by Brana Records and is to be released as a limited edition CD on Tuesday 2nd July, together with the composer’s Bachianas Brasileiras No. 3 for piano and orchestra and 4 further unaccompanied pieces for piano.

The edition will be limited to 500 and may be pre-ordered at http://www.branarecords.com/ or via sales@branarecords.com at $19.99 or £13.99 plus postage.

It was as a result of hearing an earlier performance of his Bachianas Brasileras No 3 that Villa-Lobos promised to write a piano concerto for Felicja Blumental. She performed the World Premier at the Royal Festival Hall in London with the London Symphony Orchestra under Anatole Fistoulari.

Brana Records will be releasing a series of restored Felicja Blumental recordings including the Albeniz Piano Concerto and Hekel Tavares’ Concerto in Brazilian Forms for Piano and Orchestra.

For Further Information contact:
Mark Walmsley, Executive Producer, Brana Records. 01737 768 127
mark@branarecords.com

*****

Thanks, Mark, for that information. I'm looking forward to hearing this music. The piano concertos (and BB #3) aren't as well known as they should be, and the artistry of Felicja Blumental is legendary. The abilities of Villa-Lobos as a conductor have been questioned by some, and admired by others. This recording, with a great orchestra, should help us decide.

Fans of Felicja Blumental should definitely check out Classical Discoveries - an interesting new website with lots of streaming audio.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Villa-Lobos Conference in Paris, pt. 2

Lee Boyd continues her commentary on the Villa-Lobos Conference in Paris:

Saturday April 13

NOEL DEVOS discussed the large amount of very expressive wind music produced by VL, which he pointed out was both idiomatic and often virtuosic, though never impossible to play. Moreover, he felt VL was more generous than most composers in giving orchestral winds juicy parts. [Here is an interesting interview with Noel Devos from Double Reed in PDF format].

MANUEL DE CORREA LAGO gave detailed analyses of the occurrence of the large number of children's folk songs in the Guia Pratica and other works, such as the Cirandas. He suggested some published sources which may have been used by VL, in addition to his own personal experience.

LUCIA SILVA BARRENECHEA gave the most thrilling presentation of the conference, in my opinion. First she read excerpts from her doctoral thesis, which described the background of VL's composing the "Hommage a Chopin," and analyzed his approach to combining Chopin's style with his own. She had to sing excerpts which she would have demonstrated on the piano, but we were in a room without one. For that reason, she also had to play a recording of the complete piece which she made 4 days earlier, rather than perform live. Her performance was simply masterful: total technical control and a breadth of expression rarely available in playing such virtuosic material. I am sure both Chopin and Villa-Lobos would have been delighted had they been present.

[A highlight later that day was] Benjamin Bunch's playing the de los Angeles recording of the Aria of Bachaianas Brasileiras No. 5 at the end of his talk. Which is
still haunting me.

In the afternoon there was a roundtable discussing some publishing background, and the possible ways in which the complete works of Villa-Lobos might be issued. Gandelman observed that electronic media have completely changed how things are done, so their effects might retard or speed up the process depending on goodness knows what. Maestro Duarte said at age 60 he knew he would never live to see the end of it, but proposed that a commission of young and brilliant musicologists (LF Lima immediately sprang to my mind) be appointed to address the work in an orderly and up to date manner.

Turibio Santos, as Director of the Villa-Lobos Museum, described how much music there actually is to cope with, and even more appearing. The Guimaraes family once drove up to the Museum in a Volkswagen, opened the trunk, and unloaded a number of boxes of scores and other materials. They have promised to look for more. He described the previous time in Museum history, during which Dona Arminda organized and promoted its work, as "The Heroic Period." I think he said his regime's main task is consolidation.

Gandelman told an interesting story of how he tried to track down the lost score of Villa-Lobos's 5th Symphony, which involved Ricordi of New York, which was bought by a medium size company and then by a very large publishing conglomerate. He said he thought he might be able to get help from the Mafia to obtain whatever was still in the old files. The panel asked him about that, and as he was talking about the Mafia, I suddenly blurted out, "But Mayor Giuliani killed the Mafia!" Perhaps I shouldn't be allowed out in public any more: I was surprised at myself and rather embarrassed. But life went on. The day came to a climax when someone said we should all give Professor Tarasti a standing ovation for organizing this historic First, but not last, International Villa-Lobos Conference. This was a very nice moment I'll never forget.

Something else I'll never forget is how I realized, in the moment of shocked silence after my weird comment, that everybody in the room knew who Mayor Giuliani was, and why that was so.

The best pleasure of the conference was just being with people who wanted to talk about their experiences with Villa-Lobos. Mostly, in my life, when I want to talk about this topic, I have been used to seeing my companion's eyes slowly go out of focus as attention drifts away. My husband attended the concert on Thursday night and will give me a paragraph on that soon.

*****

Thanks for that report, Lee. We'll all look forward to Jim's report on the concert. This is the first Mafia connection I've heard of to classical music - all that comes to mind is the opera in Godfather III). With Rudy Giuliani no longer in public life, we should perhaps be looking to Tony Soprano for help.

Monday, April 22, 2002

Gala VL Concert in Paris




Another of the performers invited to perform at the Gala Concert in Paris was guitarist Benjamin Bunch. His website includes an MP3 file of the second prelude, from the Etcetera CD "Villa-Lobos and Friends."

The field of Villa-Lobos guitar music - especially the five preludes - is especially crowded. One day I'll count up the CDs that are currently available, and the guitarists who have MP3s of one or more of the preludes available on the web. I first heard this music on an old Julian Bream LP, so that's how it sounds in my head. The Bunch version of the second prelude shows a mature and polished artist. I'd love to hear more of this disc, but unfortunately Etcetera distribution is spotty. I can't find this disk (KTC 1241) on Amazon.com or CDNow.com. Etcetera, an Amsterdam-based company, is the source of some of the most important Villa-Lobos discs, including many by Alfred Heller. Can anyone help me out with a website or North American web distributor?
Soprano Mai Israeli recently let us know about performances of Villa-Lobos songs in Tel Aviv and other venues in Israel. She was asked to perform at the recent Gala Concert, part of the First International Villa-Lobos Congress in Paris:

"dear Dean
i just got back from the conference. it was very successful. Musicians from all over the world meet for Villa-lobos conference.
As i promised i am writing to you about my experience in this conference.
the first villa lobos conference was very impresive and educating. great Musicians, musicologists and researchers took part in this conference. it was very interesting and educating to hear each research and the point of view of each of them. also, most of us did not knew each other, we felt like a big family, the villa lobos familiy.
The gala concert went very well. i was very flattered when Mr. Pierre Vidal, the president of the conference, told me that he was looking for the right villa lobos singer for a long time, and that now, finally, he found her. he had suggested to arrange recordings of the villa lobos songs with labels in Switzerland.
Prf. Tarasti, the vice president, told me that the interpretation were very accurate and that the style also were exactly the villa lobos style.
i was very honored to participate in such important event and to get such warm responses.
My planes for the future are- recording and performing my recital of brazilian songs all over the world.
i hope we will meet some time.
yours sincerely
mai israeli"

Thanks, Mai for this report. I'm certainly looking forward to hearing your interpretations.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Jean de Lery

Lee Boyd's latest report from the Villa-Lobos Conference in Paris makes reference (in her report on Emmanual Gorge's presentation "Influences indigenes sur le langage musical de Villa-Lobos") to the 16th Century French explorer Jean de Lery. In his Histoire d'un voyage faict en la terre du Bresil, autrement dite Amerique, published in 1578, Lery quotes a number of Indian melodies, which Villa-Lobos later used in some of his compositions.






Thanks to the excellent University of Virginia Library website "The Renaissance in Print: Sixteenth Century Books in the Douglas Gordon Collection", portions of Lery's book are available in facsimile on the web. The picture above shows a woodcut of a Tupi ceremonial dance pictured in the rare first edition of Jean de Lery's Brazilian book. Here's a larger version. Note the parrot, a common companion of many performers on album covers - see Benjamin Bunch's album above.

A modern translation of Lery's work is available in paperback from Amazon.com: the Amazon site includes sample pages.

Friday, April 12, 2002

Gala VL Concert in Paris

As the International Villa-Lobos Conference continues in Paris, a gala concert is planned for Friday evening. Here's the concert schedule:

Heitor Villa-Lobos - Un continent musical

Concert de gala

jeudi 11 avril 2002 a 19 heures

Maria Ines Guimaraes, piano
- Alma brasileira, Choros no. 5
- Sururu na cidade (Zequinha de Abreu)
- Beija-Flores (Maria Ines Guimaraes)

Mai Israeli, soprano and Efrat Peled, piano- Viola Quebrada
- Adeus Emma
- Saudades da Minha Vida
- Estrela e Lua Nova
- Xango
- Cancao do Poeta do Seculo 18
- Desejo
- Samba Classico

Benjaminn Bunch, guitar- Modinha (arr. Bunch)
- Prelude no. 1 (version enregistree par VL)
- Yara (Anacleto Augusto de Medeiros - arr. Bunch)
- Tango brasileiro (Chiquinha Gonzago - arr. Bunch)

Emil Holmstrom, piano- Rudepoema

VL Conference Report - Day two from Paris

Here are Lee Boy's reports from the second day of the Conference - Thursday, April 11.

Luis Fernando Lima - Choros no. 8 by Villa-Lobos: A Semiotic Analysis - "Lima presented an unusually lucid and insightful analysis of Choros No. 8, explaining the different levels of communication involved, as well as the components of the score. He made semiotic analysis seem exciting and useful, and not, as I have seen it described, 'frightful gobbledy gook'."

Cristina Bittencourt - Une hypothese de construction d'une interpretation - "Bittencourt is a pianist who explained how she arrived at a full interpretation of one of the Cirandas by examining the progressively complex relationships the composer invested in the simple elements of the sustained melodic notes and the constantly running cells of 16th notes. Maestro Duarte identified some fo the Brazilian folk sources in this piece and congratulated Cristina on her discoveries."

Anais Flechet - Entre musique et image: la reception des oeuvres de Villa-Lobos en France dans les annees 1920 - "Flechet examined French music criticism in the 1920's with respect to VL's music itself and the French thirst for exoticism in that period. Villa-Lobos was seen by Henry Pruniere, Florent Schmitt, and others as a 'bon sauvage' in some cases, and a 'sauvage sauvage' in others."

Flavia Toni - Amizade de Mario Andrade e Villa-Lobos - "Flavia Toni read several letters from an important correspondence between VL and Mario de Andrade, 'the Pope of Modernism,' revealing the great excitement both men felt at the birth of this new music and the strength they obtained through sharing these feelings with each other. Luis Fernando Lima pointed out that in the early 1920's the period of the letters Flavia Toni covered, Mario had not yet settled on his complete conception of Brazilian Modernism. Thus VL, far from not being 'one of them,' is shown to have exerted a strong influence."

Mario Rey - Narrative in the Chamber Works of Heitor Villa-Lobos's Bachianas Brasileiras - "Mario Rey applied the interpreative categories of a noted semiotician to 3 Cantigas, from BB's 4, 5 and 6. He used transparences of the music and CD excerpts to illustrate his insights. For example, in BB6, for flute and bassoon, the composer wants the listener to notice the virtuosity of the flute player, as well as the beauty of the notes. He explained how Bach's musical techniques were applied in non-Baroque ways. In the question period, he was asked why Bach, as opposed to, say, Mozart, was chosen to be synthesized with Brazilian materials. Dr. Rey reminded us all that VL was a cellist, and would have known the Bach cello suites intimately."

Emmanual Gorge - Influences indigenes sur le langage musical de Villa-Lobos - "Gorge was reading Jean de Lery's book about his trip to early Brazil and discovered the musical examples he collected. Gorge showed some examples of VL's use of this material, played some recordings, and discussed some French composers with an interest in this type of material. Maestro Vidal told us about Messiaen's enthusiasm for VL."

"More to Follow..."
As nice as it is right now in Red Deer (after a horrendously cold early spring), I'd still rather be in Paris right now, attending the first International Villa-Lobos Conference.

Here are some reports from our intrepid reporter on the scene: Lee Boyd.

From Wednesday's program:

Eero Tarasti - Villa-Lobos's Contribution to the XXth Century Music - "Professor Tarasti situated VL as a composer for audiences all over the world as well as Brazilians. He cited several composers who achieved international recognition in the 20th Century by applying their erudite musical skills to the folk and popular musics of their countries."

Roberto Duarte - The Revisions of VL's Orchestral Works - "Maestro Duarte explained how many details in VL's orchestral manuscripts needed to be corrected before musicans' parts could be distributed for his VL recording sessions. Some were the same as any composer's minor oversights, such as putting rests in the bassoon parts but not in the double bass, but one typical VL error roused sympathy in all of us - a performance instruction with phrases in both Portuguese and French."

"Our question periods are in French, English & Portuguese, also sometimes in the same sentences. Of special note, Maestro Duarte used his laptop and PowerPoint software to display and manipulate scanned manuscript excerpts, which worked very nicely."

Noel Devos - "Noel Devos is a bassoonist who has performed much VL music, some under the composer's direction. He described several occasions on which an orchestra member said his instrument couldn't execute the notes as written, whereupon VL took the instrument and played them."

"Unfortunately Ana Stella Schic could not appear a the afternoon sessions [her scheduled talk was Memoires of Villa-Lobos]."

Pierre Vidal - Villa-Lobos tel que je l'ai connu - "Maestro Vidal described his many experiences with the composer on and offstage, during VL's time in Paris."

Maria Teresa Madeira - Villa-Lobos and Jose Vierira Brandao - Madera is concentrating on documenting the life of the pianist Jose Vieiro Brandao, who permiered many of VL's piano works, and to whom some are dedicated."

Ronald Paz - In Memory of Heitor Villa-Lobos: Results of the Research - "Ronaldo Paz showed a film about his family's reminiscences of meeting VL in Berlin in the 1930's. The sound system of the Parisian equipment didn't cooperate with the Bolivian audio, but Sr. Paz read his paper in clear, well-paced Spanish that precisely matched the film speed, a fascinating performance."

Leah Arbelada Boyd - Truth & Justice for Dona Arminda, as well as for Dona Lucilia, and even Dona Lisa - "Leah Arbelada Boyd described the allegory on the life of Villa-Lobos which is embedded in Jorge Amado's Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, and discussed some of the circumstances surrounding it."

"Professor Tarasti fortunately obtained for us a restored copy of the film O Descobrimento do Brasil with VL's music, which he showed after the talks. Besides the music, there is some unusual anthropological material in this Brazilian government production from the 1930's."

Thanks so much, Lee, for these fascinating reports. Reports from Thursday's sessions are on their way!

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Choros #10 in San Francisco

To many, Villa-Lobos' masterwork is the Choros no. 10, written in 1926. This piece has been recorded a few times - most notably with Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony on the RCA CD "Alma Brasileira", and the classic performance conducted by the composer from the 6-CD set "Villa-Lobos par lui-meme".

For a recent performance of the Choros no. 10 that MTT performed with the San Francisco Symphony, Michael Steinberg has written one of the most in-depth and searching program notes I've ever read. This "note" includes impressive scholarship and points to all sorts of interesting further research. Better yet, it's fun to read. Here's a sample:

"The music of Chôros No. 10, a tidal wave of energy, engulfs us more and more until, as old Goethe said when young Mendelssohn played him the Beethoven Fifth on the piano, one thinks the house will fall down."

I'm looking forward to reading more of Steinberg's program notes on the excellent sfsymphony.org website.

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

VL Conference in Paris

The International Villa-Lobos Conference will take place soon - April 10-13 at the L'Institut Finlandais in Paris. Here is the tentative schedule of the Conference - I'll update this page as I receive new information. I'll also include reports from the Conference, from this Blog and on the HVL Website.

Monday, March 11, 2002

New CD from Calgary

A very interesting, and very welcome message from down Highway 2 a piece:

"I thought you might be interested to know that last fall the Calgary Philharmonic recorded music by Villa-Lobos for CBC Records. The works are his Suites #2 & 3 from his film score for The Discovery of Brazil. Also on the disc will be two works by Darius Milhaud influenced by the time he spent in Brazil during the first world war.

This CBC Records disc is being released in May 2002. I'll follow up with details when they become available.

Harold Gillis, Producer - CBC Radio Two, Calgary, AB"

This is really beautiful music, which deserves to be better known. The Discovery of Brazil suites have always been among my favourites on the standard Villa-Lobos par lui-meme 6 CD set on French EMI, and I enjoy the Naxos CD as well. I'll pass on the information on the new disc as I receive it from Harold.

Sonia Rubinsky CD

My mention of Sonia Rubinsky above sent me to the Brazilian pianist's website, at http://www.soniarubinsky.com. This is an excellent example of how good a performing artist's website can be. The site is kept up to date, and with the heavy international schedules of modern performers that can be a challenge. Here's a note about an upcoming event:

"Thursday, March 14th, 6:30 pm Villa-Lobos "release-party" of Volume II at Klavier-Haus, Address: 211 West 58th St., New York, NY 10019. RSVP at (212) 245-4535. Come and discover the music of Villa-Lobos. This evening I will be playing selections from Volume II of Villa-Lobos, and I will discuss specific elements of the project: the organization of the series, editions, the different genres of Villa-Lobos' music for the piano and its special challenges. The public will have a chance to purchase the newly released CD."

This CD is the second in the Naxos series of complete piano music. The series so far (2 of a planned 7, altogether) has been very well reviewed around the world - it's one in an absolutely amazing string of artistic and engineering successes from this amazing recording company. Once again, hats off to Naxos!

And when you listen to the CDs, I think you'll tip your hat to Sonia Rubinsky as well. Her interpretations are full of character, as are those of Alfred Heller (on Etcetera), Débora Halász (on BIS) and Marc-André Hamelin (on Hyperion), to name a few of the pianists who have recorded works included on the first two discs. Listening to some of these works side by side only increases my respect for Villa-Lobos as a composer of music for the piano.

Incidentally, while typing the above, I listened to the very generous RealAudio samples from the Hamelin CD "Villa-Lobos Piano Music," on the Hyperion label. It really is marvellous music!

And don't forget, speaking of the piano music, to check out the CDs of Ricardo Peres on the HVL Website.

Mai Israeli Sings VL Songs

A recent e-mail from Mai Israeli in Tel Aviv reports on last month's Villa-Lobos concert there:

"i am very happy to tell that the recital i gave in tel Aviv were a great success and we got very good critics in the newspapers. the audience were facinated, they said they never knew that this kind of music can be so excited and full of feelings. i also told some stories from the stories you have send me." The stories I sent Mai came from cronicas translated by Lee Boyd and Harold Lewis - most can be found at the "Essays" page on the HVL Website.

Mai goes on to say: "we have been invited already to perform in some other places in israel and in April we will perform in Paris in the first Villa lobos conference."

There will be an impressive list of people performing at the Paris Conference. Others scheduled to appear include guitarists Turíbio Santos and Benjamin Bunch, and pianist Sonia Rubinsky. I'll update this list when I hear more...

Paris Conference

Lee Boyd is one of the lucky people who will be attending the International Villa-Lobos Conference, to be held at the L'Institut Finlandais, Paris, April 10-13, 2002. Lee will be presenting a paper entitled "Truth and Justice for Dona Arminda, as well as for Dona Lucília, and even Dona Lisa." It's clear that Lee's presentation will add a great deal to our knowledge of Villa-Lobos' life. I'm looking forward to posting more information about this fascinating subject as I receive it.

I'll also pass on information about the Conference as I receive it, Dear Blog Reader. I'll try to post a bit more frequently in the next little while. This is an exciting time in Villa-Lobos scholarship!

Heitor Villa-Lobos: A Life

An important new book is just about to be published: David P. Appleby's Heitor Villa-Lobos: A Life (1887-1959).



You can buy the book from Amazon.com. I'll post more information once I receive my copy. Note that the Scarecrow Press website includes a Table of Contents.

I love the picture on the cover. Surely Villa-Lobos deserves to be on the cover of Cigar Aficionado!

Friday, February 22, 2002

George Hufsmith

It was great to hear again from Jackson Hole Symphony Conductor Eric Wenstrom, but unfortunately Eric's e-mail brought bad news. George's research into Villa-Lobos composition pupil George Hufsmith brought him close to this American composer:

"Unfortunately I must notify you that George passed away this morning. He had been having heart problems for the past couple of years and they took quite a toll on his general recent health. He died very peacefully with his wife, Ellie at his side. He was a great man and a great influence in my life. I will miss him greatly."

The first thing I did when I received this message was to re-read Hufsmith's story, as told to Eric, "Lorenzo Fernandez is Dead," a moving tale of friendship in music.

"George and I were planning to premiere a string quintet in the spring, but we will play it for our concert this Saturday. Ironically, it was composed for the death of his son. It seems appropriate for us to play it this Saturday."

I've only had a chance to hear a few piano and chamber works by George Hufsmith. They showed the characteristic mix of folklore and modernism one hears in many of Villa-Lobos' works, but written in a strongly individual way. I look forward to bringing you more of the fascinating stories - cronicas - that Eric has already presented to the world on the Heitor Villa-Lobos Website. I trust that Eric's championship of Hufsmith's music will bring this American original to a much wider audience.

Thursday, February 21, 2002

Semana de Arte Moderna

Eighty years ago this week in the city of São Paulo a group of revolutionary artists and intellectuals published a manifesto that brought modernism to Brazil. The Semana de Arte Moderna - Week of Modern Art - took place on February 13-17, 1922. The week caused a major stir amongst the conservative, academic critics and audiences who had not yet been exposed to modernism in a big way.

The prime mover of the festival was Mário de Andrade, one of Brazil's great intellectuals. But it was the young Heitor Villa-Lobos who probably made the biggest impression, at a series of concerts that were made up largely of his own compositions. Indeed, the week was called the "Apotheosis of Villa-Lobos".

To comemorate this event, the São Paulo radio station Cultura FM will be presenting a series of programs focussing on the music of the Semana. There is a last chance to hear one of the programs in this series, which is entitled "Juvenilidades Auriverdes - 80 anos da Semana de 22", on Feb. 27 at 21:00 São Paulo time - that's 4:00 p.m. here in Red Deer (MST). This program is repeated the following Saturday, March 3, at 12 noon São Paulo time (7:00 a.m. MST).

You can listen to Cultura FM online on the Windows Media Player, at http://www.tvcultura.com.br/radiofm/radiofm.asx.

Friday, February 8, 2002

Renee Fleming interview

A new interview by David Patrick Stearns with soprano Renée Fleming on the Andante.com website contained this interesting exchange:

'DPS: Some of your early recordings are coming back to haunt you. That Villa-Lobos film score, The Forest of the Amazon, in which you sang with the Chorus of the Moscow Physics and Engineering Institute, has just been re-released.'

'RF: Actually, I tracked [overdubbed] that in somebody's apartment in the Bronx. It's pretty music. This was before any kind of a recording contract. My feeling was, "Ohmygod! Somebody wants to record me?"'

Of course, this CD has been a favourite of Villa-Lobos lovers for years. The work, conducted by Alfred Heller, was put together by Villa-Lobos from the music he wrote for the MGM film Green Mansions, with Audrey Hepburn and Anthony Perkins. This indeed is pretty music, and very prettily sung!

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Erico Verissimo's Cronica translated

As promised, here are some excerpts from Lee Boyd's translation of Erico Verissimo's cronica:

'It's evening at our house. Mafalda is seated under the lamp, knitting. Through the big window in the study a light can be seen growing in the December sky, like a pale slice of watermelon.The breeze brings us the fragrance of roses from our little garden. A record is turning on the phonograph, and from its speaker flows the plangent music of violoncellos, in a long, languid, undulating phrase, with the sweetness of a serenade. I recognize the voice of Villa-Lobos, the greatest minstrel of our people. I feel his living, human presence in the room, and I begin to think about our many meetings, their places and times.

'The first time I read that name was in 1923, in the art column of the "Revista do Brasil" [Brazil Review]. I was 18, sitting dreaming in one of the squares in Cruz Alta, on a bench under some bamboos quivering in the breeze of a waning September. It was then that I became aware of a modern Brazilian musician who belonged to the group of rebel artists and writers responsible for the Week of Modern Art in Sao Paulo. Villa-Lobos --- according to the columnist --- had recently gone to Paris and on his arrival, when a reporter asked if he'd come to study composing, he replied, "No. I've come to teach it."'

*******

'There were 30 of us in the audience. Villa-Lobos climbed up on stage and went to the front, follwed by Mr. Foss, a young man with beautiful hair and a sculptured profile, exactly what one expects in an artist and intellectual (and rarely finds...). The Brazilian is holding a burning cigar stub. For the first time in my life, I see a man smoke while giving a public speech. In his fluent and picturesque French, Villa-Lobos, who didn't have a clear theme for his talk, tells stories about music and musicians, not bothering about coherence -- a sort of oral list of "diverse activities." It was as if he were seated at a cafe table in Montparnasse; chatting with friends, having a brandy, legs crossed, relaxed in gesture and speech. On the whole, I can't really recall why the speaker brought up the case of the famous Italian tenor who, shut in the bathroom, managed to break a glass with a high C. The audience laughed and the speaker laughed with them. After that, 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!"'

Great story! Thanks for bringing it to a wider audience, Lee. Here's the moving final portion of Verissimo's memoir:

'During their 1959-60 winter season the National Symphony in Washington played the Villa-Lobos "Choros No. 10" in Constitution Hall with the Howard University Chorus. We were in the audience. Right from the first chord, the presence of the composer filled that great space. And with him came the whole of Brazil, grandiose Brazil, sentimental Brazil, wrongheaded Brazil, rascally Brazil, disorganized Brazil, lyrical Brazil the streetsinger --- our indolence, our sensitivity, our romance, our sensuality, our hopes, yes, and our faults, too, all transformed into music. And when the chorus, at the finale of the Choros, began to sing "Rasga o Coracao," it was as if our own hearts were breaking, and then, deeply moved (nostalgia for Villa-Lobos, for Brazil, nostalgia for the Marching Band of the Cruz Alta 8th Infantry, nostalgia for that plaza of my youth, nostalgia for nostalgia, how do I know! --- ), I stifled a sob, but I couldn't prevent the tears from rolling down my cheeks. I didn't dare look at Mafalda beside me, who was also suffering in that moment of picquant beauty.'

Thursday, January 10, 2002

Italian guitar concert

I recently received news of an interesting concert in Italy, by guitarist Antonio Triolio. The concert will be held on January 19th at the Villa "Il Tasso" in Rimaggio (near Firenze), Italy. Included in the concert are the following pieces: Suite Populaire Bresilienne (Mazurka, Schottish, Valsa, Gavota), Choro n. 1, and 12 Etudes. This concert is a benefit for Terre des Hommes, an humanitarian world organization to help children in underdeveloped countries. For more information, you can contact Antonio by email, or his manager Stefano Manzini, Manzo Production, via Mattonaia 25, 50121 Firenze ITALY - e-mail: imanzini@libero.it

Ricardo Prado article translated

Back on October 27, 2001, I talked about an article by columnist Ricardo Prado, which discussed VL's Magdalena and its Broadway production in the late 1950's. The article was in Portuguese, but it was obvious (even to someone as unilingual as me) that there lots of interest here. Lee Boyd came to the rescue with a translation, and Ricardo Prado very kindly gave his permission for me to put the English version up on the web. So here it is - a fascinating story of a period in VL's life that's not especially well documented in English.

Ricardo's message was very nice: "...congratulations for your excellent work on the Heitor Villa-Lobos website. As a musician and a Brazilian, I'm always happy for every opportunity to confirm that my admiration for the master is not merely nationalist sentiment. I am honored by your invitation and it is with great pleasure that I and no.com.br authorize the publication of my article. Please let me know when it will be available for me to savor, once again, that most gratifying sensation I get from sharing my pleasure in Villa-Lobos' music. Please let me know of any news on your website and contact me should you need any further assistance from me."

I've loved working with Lee on this project, since besides providing the very readable translation, she is very much an expert on VL's life and music. I'm looking forward to providing more of Lee's work on the HVL Website - that will happen Real Soon Now.

Friday, January 4, 2002

Grammy Nominations

Happy New Year, Villa-Lobos lovers!

The Grammy nominations were released today, and there are few interesting bits of news.

Nominated in the Chamber Music category was the 6th volume in the excellent series of Villa-Lobos String Quartets on the Dorian label, by the Cuarteto Latinoamericano. This CD includes the 4th, 9th and 11th quartets.

As well, the nominations include recordings by some of VL's closest friends and musical associates. Also nominated in the Chamber Music category is the DGG recording of Messiaen's Quartet For The End Of Time. As well, Teldec's recording of Messiaen's Turangalili Symphony (with the Berliner Philharmonic and conductor Kent Nagano) was nominated in the Orchestral Music category. Also in the Orchestral Music category: music by Edgard Varèse, conducted by Pierre Boulez on DGG. The Varèse CD has also been nominated for Best Classical Recording.

Varese may have been the closest of VL's musical friends - they met a number of times in Paris and New York. I love the picture of the two earnest young men, together in Paris in 1927.

For complete information on the 44th Grammy Awards, go to http://www.grammy.com. The awards will be announced on Feb. 27.