Monday, March 28, 2011

Villa-Lobos por uma Soprano

Ivy Goulart is a Brazilian documentary film-maker who lives in New York.  His new film "Villa-Lobos por uma Soprano" (Villa-Lobos by a Soprano), from the evidence of the trailer, looks like it will provide some new insights into a composer whose reputation continues to grow world-wide.  The 35-minute film features soprano Stela Brandão.  You can watch the trailer at YouTube, or at the Goulart Films website.  I'll post information about screenings or DVD availability when I find out more.  I'm anxious to see the whole film!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Victory Symphony in Caracas

Conductor Roberto Tibiriçá has sent me the links to new high-quality versions of video from his January 2011 concert with the Orquesta Sinfónica de la Juventud Venezolana "Simón Bolívar". Here is the rarely-played 4th Symphony (the "Victory", written in 1919). Villa-Lobos piled on the orchestration in this piece, which calls for a "fanfarra" of brass instruments, and a "conjunto interno" with even more brass. In this performance the Banda Sinfónica Juvenil Simón Bolívar provides more-than-capable support.

Having to bring this many musicians on-stage (and asking the percussionists to play such instruments as pratos, bombo, tambor, caixa clara, sinos, sistro, pandeiro, guizos, chocalho, and others) helps to explain why this work isn't in the standard repertoire.  But an exciting performance like this one points to a bit of a re-examination of the symphonies, which have always been damned with faint praise, especially in comparison with the orchestral Bachianas Brasileiras, Choros, ballets, and tone poems.

The highlight of that concert, though, was a real eye-opener: the pretty much never-performed secular cantata Mandú Çárárá, written in 1939.  Unlike the symphony, this is one of Villa's greatest works, nearly on the same level as Choros #10 and the Nonetto.  And once again, it's presented to best effect with the same high-flying orchestra, this time with the Sistema Nacional de Coros FESNOJIV (which includes a charming children's choir).  So here is the official video (much better than the shaky camera version I posted last month).

The last piece from the concert is the overture to Lo Schiavo, by Carlos Gomes.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Partimpim Dois: O Trenzinho do Caipira

Adriana Calcanhotto is a Brazilian singer and composer with an alter-ego, Adriana Partimpim, in whose guise she performs and records music for children.   The second Parimpim album was released in 2009, and it includes an amazing version of O Trenzinho do Caipira from Bachianas Brasileiras #2.  With words by the great Brazilian poet Ferreira Gullar, and support from a very tight band, this is a really exceptional version of a piece that's become a Brazilian pop/jazz standard, almost a second national anthem.  And it has an exceptional video (unfortunately embedding is disabled, but I encourage you to trek on over to YouTube to check it out).  I love the references to things Villa-Lobos loved: kites, trains, children, and cats.

You can listen to the album at this flash-based site; click on Partimpim Dois: CD.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Villa Lobos, o maestro

I just came across a new children's book from Brazil: Villa Lobos, o maestro, written by Lúcia Fidalgo, with illustrations by Fabiana Salomão (published by Ed.Paulus in 2011).  There are a couple of charming illustrations from the book at Salomão's blog.

I'm not sure of the best way to buy this book outside of Brazil.  The ISBN is 9788534928540, and here's an online store that stocks it.

Ivy Improta

I've been enjoying one of the Podcasts in the series Música e Músicos do Brasil, from Radio MEC-FM.  The February 12, 2011 program features the Brazilian pianist Ivy Improta.  This was a name I wasn't familiar with, but I was very impressed with her performances of Brazilian music by Villa-Lobos, Guarnieri, and others.  I was especially impressed with her Valsa da Dor, and a swinging Alma Brasileira (Choros #05).

Here's some information on Ivy Improta, which comes from a 2003 article by Bruce Gilman about the pianist's grandson, musician Gabriel Improta:
Ivy Improta was a child prodigy who Villa-Lobos brought to Rio de Janeiro from the interior São Paulo for studies with Tomás Teran. She worked with Villa-Lobos throughout her career and became recognized as the classical pianist who toured extensively, unveiling Brazilian classical music both solo and with orchestras. Tomás Teran introduced her to Eurico Nogueira França, a pianist, teacher of music history, and music journalist for Correio da Manhã, Jornal do Brasil, and O Estado de S. Paulo. He was a close friend of Villa-Lobos, and together they worked to establish the Academia Brasileira de Música (Brazilian Music Academy). When Ivy was 20 years old, they were married; their best man was Villa-Lobos. 
Teran was a close friend of Villa's, and the composer dedicated many great works to him.  By the way, he was one of Tom Jobim's teachers.

I've never seen any Villa-Lobos recordings by Ivy Improta, which is a shame.  She played the piano in the premiere of the Fantasia Concertante for piano, clarinet, and bassoon (a work which was dedicated to the pianist Eugene List.)  This seems to be the only picture of her on the web:

Make sure you listen to that podcast before it's gone (probably in a couple of weeks).  Can anyone tell me more about this excellent musician?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Chiquinha Gonzaga

Today is the 100th Anniversary of International Women's Day, and it's also Carnaval season, so that points to one amazing person: the composer and feminist pioner Chiquinha Gonzaga.  As I've posted previously, Chiquinha was born early enough to fight against slavery in Brazil (it was abolished in 1888), but lived long enough (1935) to be a major influence, friend and mentor to Villa-Lobos.

There are some good resources about Chiquinha online, from a basic English Wikipedia page to the official site (in Portuguese) at  The picture to the left, which shows Chiquinha at the time of her first success as a composer in 1877, is from that excellent site.  Also there are links to YouTube videos and PDF versions of sheet music.

A CD I highly recommend is Luciana Soares' Brasileira: Piano Music by Brazilian Women, on the Centaur label, from 2007.

Besides three pieces by Chiquinha, there are works by Nininha Gregori, Kilza Setti, Maria Luiza Priolli, Adelaide Pereira Silva, Clarisse Leite, Maria H. Rosas-Fernandes, and Branca Bilhar. The disc is available at The Naxos Music Library, catalogue #CRC2680.

Monday, March 7, 2011

De Batutas e Batucadas

With the recent interest in Villa-Lobos at the Rio Carnaval, it might be a good to remind people of this excellent flash-based site: De Batutas e Batucadas.  It tells the fascinating story about the 1940 encounter between Leopold Stokowski and Villa-Lobos.  Villa was Stokowski's entrance to the world of popular Brazilian music, and especially to the Choroes and the Samba.

The site includes streaming audio of the most important result of this project: Columbia's album Native Brazilian Music.  Highlights include the ground-breaking Pelo Telofone, with Donga and Pixinguinha, and a couple of Macumbas with amazing rhythms.  There are also some cool pictures, such as this one from the 1940 Sodade de Cordao, the Carnaval school visited by Villa-Lobos.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bloco Feitiço do Villa's Samba

It's Carnaval time in Brazil, and everyone will be humming this great samba, from the Bloco Feitiço do Villa. There's lots more information in an earlier post.

I love the allusion to the last great Villa-Lobos samba, from the samba school Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel's entry in the 1999 Carnaval, "Villa Lobos e a Apoteose Brasileira." Watch highlights here: