Friday, January 30, 2009

This is really, really cool: the Carnaval de Campos do Jordão yesterday announced the theme for this year's Carnaval street day on February 24th. In this Ano Villa-Lobos, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Villa's death, the theme will be the works of Villa-Lobos. Six Samba Schools will be in the parade this year, each with a special Villa-Lobos theme:

  • Jardim Márcia - “Uma homenagem a Villa-Lobos”
  • Jardim Imperial - “Uirapuru”
  • Vila Santo Antônio - “Bachianas”
  • Bloco dos Artistas (Vila Britânia) - “Choro”
  • Acadêmicos do Britador - “Amazônia Fauna”
  • Vai-Vai da Mantiqueira (Monte Carlo) - “O Trenzinho do Caipira”
I can't think what a comparable popular culture event in Europe would be to celebrate this year's Haydn or Schumann anniversaries.

More information at the Guiacampos website.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Antropofagia Musical

In connection with their new exhibit of art by the great Brazilian modernist painter Tarsila do Amaral, the Fundación Juan March in Madrid is presenting an important musical series entitled "Antropofagia Musical: Tres conciertos con motivo de la exposición Tarsila do Amaral." The three concerts take place on February 6, 11 and 18, 2009.

Oswald de Andrade was, with Tarsila do Amaral and others, a founder of the Brazilian modernist movement. His 1928 Manifesto Antropófago (Cannibal Manifesto) set out the major themes of the modernist agenda. The connection between de Andrade and Villa-Lobos was the latter's involvement in the Semana de Arte Moderna in Sao Paulo in 1923. Villa's modernism, forged in Paris in the 1920s, was the musical highlight of the week, and the performances of his music were the cause of much controversy. Controversy, of course, is the manifesto-writer's dearest wish.

The Antropofagia Musical series thus provides Villa-Lobos pride of place in the programs of the three concerts. On February 6, the featured works are Quinteto en forma de chôros (1928) and Chôros nº 3 (1925 - dedicated to Tarsila do Amaral). Three Villa-Lobos works are included in the February 11th concert, including the late Quintet instrumental (1957). The final concert on February 18th includes various vocal and solo piano works including Suite floral, portions of which were actually played (to the consternation of some audience members) during the Semana.

One of the great things about this series is that those of us outside of Madrid will have a chance to hear these concerts. They're being broadcast live on Radio Clásica, from Radio Nacional de España.

Both of the the excellent but short Wikipedia articles on Oswald de Andrade and Tarsila do Amaral feature a portrait of the former by the latter, noting that the image is copyrighted and unlicensed. Rather than posting it here, I will direct you to the superb site Tarsila do Amaral, which includes a large gallery of images, and lots of background and history relating to this great artist's work.

Instead I offer this image of a poster from February 17, 1922 (87 years before the upcoming series in Madrid) from the Semana de Arte. This is copyright Museu Villa-Lobos, who incidentally allow all of their images to be reproduced for non-commercial use, provided credit is given to the Museum.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

John Neschling's Departure

There's more fall-out from the announcement of John Neschling's departure from the Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo (Osesp). French critic Alain Lompech from Le Monde provides an absolute rave review of Neschling's legacy as conductor and (especially) as music director in São Paulo, comparing his orchestral development to that of George Szell in Cleveland and Simon Rattle in Birmingham. He concludes:

Daqui a 20 anos, daqui a 50 anos, o nome de John Neschling será conhecido como o de um músico que realizou um trabalho excepcional no Brasil, o mais excepcional desde Villa-Lobos.

If I understand this correctly, Lompech guesses that in the future when one thinks of musical development in Brazil, Neschling's name will come only after Villa-Lobos's. That is high praise indeed!

Villa-Lobos on the web: the dark side

Most of my connections as the "antenna of the Villa-Lobos blogosphere" (see the previous post) are very positive. I might find out about an awesome new recording of Villa's music, or another endearing anecdote from his life.

But every once in a while I come across a less than flattering reference to Villa-Lobos. In this case it's a whole series of less than flattering references, from Leandro Vieira's blog. His recent references to Villa-Lobos are here (and the Google machine translations into English, here).

Here's a representative sample, referring to Bachianas Brasileiras #5, a piece normally greeted with awe and adoration:

Oh coisa feia.
Vocálise insuportável.

or, according to Google Translate:

Oh ugly thing.
Vocálise unbearable.

All this is in the context of "A música erudita brasileira é um desastre" ("Brazilian classical music is a disaster"). Recently there have been some posts where Vieira responds to his predictably angry commenters who stick up for Villa-Lobos, a national icon as well as a composer.

Google Translate can give you a sense of a blog post in Portuguese, but I suspect that all the subtlety is missing. I get the feeling that Vieira's posts might have a mocking sub-text, but the first casualty of machine translation is probably humour. At the very least, he seems to be deliberately provocative, especially since he's launched his strongest missives into the blogosphere during the Ano Villa-Lobos. Considering Villa's rapidly rising reputation, both in Brazil and around the world, Vieira is rowing against the current. And in Brazil, the current of the Amazon is strong!

I'll keep an eye on this site!

Audições Brasileiras - blog-clipping

I had this comment posted yesterday:

Carlos Eduardo Amaral said...

Hi, Dean. I noticed today that my blog is in your list. Thank you for the kindness and I'm free for whatever you want to know here in Brazil (particularly in North-Eastern Region).

Best Regards.

Carlos's blog is Audições Brasileiras - blog-clipping. You can see the latest post from this exceptional resource in the right-hand column, under the heading "My Blog List". For someone like me with hardly any Portuguese language skills, it's great to have a single source for the latest news about classical music in Brazil.

Complimentary loops are are a staple of the blogging world, so I'll quote one of Carlos's posts about my own blog here:

"O blog do canadense Dean Frey é o mais antenado da blogosfera no que se refere a Villa-Lobos."

Monday, January 26, 2009

Cuarteto Degani plays Villa-Lobos's First Quartet

The Spanish string quartet Cuarteto Degani plays the second movement of String Quartet #1:

Links to the other movements are at the Cuarteto Degani's website.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cello Concerto #1

The first cello concerto was written in 1913 (or 1915 - there's some confusion about this). Here is a fairly old performance by William Molina Cestari. Enrique Arturo Diemecke conducts the Orquesta Sinfónica "Simón Bolívar". This performance at the Teatro Teresa Carreño, Sala Rios Reyna, is from 27-06-1995.

Here are the other video files: part II, part III, part IV.

New String Quartet recording

This brand new CD from the Quarteto Radamés Gnattali includes Villa-Lobos's sixth string quartet, and quartets by Gnattali, Santoro, and Guarnieri. I first heard about this disc last June, when there was a notice of a concert and CD launch in Sao Paulo. I'll go looking on the web for an online source to buy this CD, published by Selo Radio MEC.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Changes at Osesp

This somewhat puzzling news comes from Brazil: John Neschling is leaving his post as artistic director of the Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo (Osesp). Neschling has been one of the top Villa-Lobos stars on CD in the past few years, especially with his complete Choros series on BIS. Orchestra politics, as always, are a mystery to me. Let's hope, though, that the orchestra's future is as positive as its last 12 years has been under Neschling's leadership.

If you're in
São Paulo later this year, check out Neschling & Osesp's performances of the rarely performed Choros #09.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dia Nacional da Música Clássica

Brazilian president Lula da Silva once again declares March 5 National Classical Music Day:

Presidência da República
Casa Civil
Subchefia para Assuntos Jurídicos

Institui o Dia Nacional da Música Clássica.

O PRESIDENTE DA REPÚBLICA, no uso da atribuição que lhe confere o art. 84, inciso VI, alínea “a”, da Constituição,

Art. 1o Fica instituído o dia 5 de março como o Dia Nacional da Música Clássica.
Art. 2o Este Decreto entra em vigor na data de sua publicação.
Brasília, 13 de janeiro de 2009; 188o da Independência e 121o da República.

Alfredo Manevy de Pereira Mendes

March 5th is, of course, Villa-Lobos's birthday.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A 1956 portrait of the composer from Studio Harcourt in Paris, from Europeana, the digital library of the European community. © Ministère de la Culture - Médiathèque du Patrimoine, Dist. RMN - Studio Harcourt.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Broadcasts from Danish & Canadian Radio

Set your alarm for these broadcasts on BBC Radio 3's Euroclassic Notturno:

26 January 2009
Villa-Lobos, Heitor (1887-1959)
Kyrie and Gloria from 'Missa São Sebastião'
Danish National Girls Choir, Michael Bojesen (conductor) [recorded on 28th March 2004 at the Holmen Church, Copenhagen]

30 January 2009
Villa-Lobos, Heitor (1887-1959)
Bachiana brasileira no.5 vers. for soprano & cellos [1. Aria (Cantilena); 2. Dansa (Martelo)]
Isabel Bayrakdarian (soprano), Bryan Epperson, Maurizio Baccante, Roman Borys, Simon Fryer, David Hetherington, Roberta Jansen, Paul Widner, Thomas Wiebe, Winona Zelenka (cellos) [recorded at the Glenn Gould Studio CBC centre, Toronto in September 2001]

Or better yet, you'll be able to listen on the BBC iPlayer for 7 days after the broadcasts.

100 Greatest Musicans in Brazil

I've seen more than a few online discussions of this Rolling Stone Brasil cover story about Brazil's 100 greatest musicians, and though I miss a lot when I Google-translate the Portuguese, it's clear that music-mad Brazilians take this kind of thing pretty seriously. Here's the complete list from an excellent music blog I've recently discovered - Vermute com Amendoim (great name: "Vermouth with Peanuts").

Tom Jobim: #1 - no problem there. But here's the rub: Heitor Villa-Lobos clocks in at #23. Some angst about that in Brazil's blogosphere!

But no matter how they're ordered, this list demonstrates the greatness of Brazil as a musical country.

O Trenzinho do Caipira

O Trenzinho do Caipira: Projeto Villa-Lobos is a children's theatre project "para Crianças de Todas as Idades" - for children of all ages. Check out their blog for pictures, video, and stories about their many awards.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Choros #10 on New Year's Eve

From a gala New Year's Eve concert with the Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo, John Neschling conducts Choros #10.

Part II is here.

VL Concerts in 2009

I came across this story at the Audições Brasileiras blog; it's by Irineu Franco Perpetuo, from Folha de S.Paulo. It's about the 2009 celebrations connected to the 50th anniversary of Villa-Lobos's death. It mentions Friday's concert by Luis Carlos de Moura Castro in Rio, and many others around the world, from now to December. Watch out for new concerts at the Villa-Lobos Concerts Calendar. I'll make sure all of the concerts in this article are there; there's bound to be something coming soon to a concert or recital venue near you. It promises to be another banner year.

Besides the concerts, some publishing projects are highlighted, including new DVDs from Marcelo Bratke and the Sinfônica do Teatro da Paz in Belém. Also a new book by guitarist Fabio Zanon "Folha Explica Villa-Lobos", and a four-volume anthology of "Guia Prático" from the Academia Brasileira de Música.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Wayne Shorter's Alegria

Wayne Shorter's 2003 Grammy Award-winning jazz album Alegria includes my favourite arrangement (by Robert Sadin) of Bachianas Brasileiras #5 (my second favourite is Branford Marsalis's version on his Romances for Saxophone album). I wanted to feature this amazing album, since I've been listening to it lately, and also reading Michelle Mercer's excellent 2007 book Footprints: the life and work of Wayne Shorter. Mercer has this to say about the Bachianas performance:

On his version of the Heitor Villa-Lobos composition "Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5" a plucked cello chorus and layered Brazilian rhythms combined into a luxurious Baroque. Wayne's practice sessions with Coltrane on string exercises paid off in his saxophone solo, the tone of which showed an uncanny empathy for the cellos' delicate strength; like his work with Milton Nascimento, the Brazilian piece brought out Wayne's romantic side.
(p. 266). Mercer points out at another place in the book that Milton Nascimento's mother was a musician who played with Villa-Lobos - I'm not sure in what context, but I'll see if I can find out. I'm also anxious to listen again to Shorter's collaboration with Nascimento (1974's Native Dancer, for example).

Very highly recommended music, and book.

Wayne Shorter has another Villa-Lobos connection, that came to the fore last month with his (Wayne Shorter Quartet) concert in Los Angeles with the Imani Winds (which celebrated Shorter's 75th birthday). Read this review in Variety, and this one in the LA Times.

Monday, January 5, 2009

String Quartet video

From a concert in Kiel last November, here's the (audio from the) Matrix Quartett playing the 5th movement (Melancholia) from Villa's First String Quartet.

The Matrix Quartett's website is here.