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

Friday, February 8, 2002

Renee Fleming interview

A new interview by David Patrick Stearns with soprano Renée Fleming on the 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!