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8.223527 - VILLA-LOBOS: Pequena Suite / Bachianas brasileiras Nos. 2, 5 and 6
English 

Heitor Villa-Lobos occupies an unrivalled position in the music of his native Brazil

Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959)

 

Pequena suite  

      I        Romancette: Molto lento

      II       Legendária: Allegretto

      III     Harmonias soltas: Moderato

      IV     Fugato (all'antica): Allegro (leggiero)

      V      Melodia: Andantino

      VI     Gavotte-Scherzo: Tempo de gavotte - più mosso - Allegro vivace

Bachianas brasileiras No. 6

      Ária (Chôro)

      Fantasia

Capriccio, Op. 49

Prelúdio (No. 2), Op. 20

Bachianas brasileiras No. 2

      O trenzinho do caipira (The Countryman's Little Train)

Elégie, Op. 87

Bachianas brasileiras No. 5

      Ária (Cantilena)

Assobio a jato (Jet Whistle)

      Allegro non troppo

      Adagio

      Vivo

 

Heitor Villa-Lobos occupies an unrivalled position in the music of his native Brazil. Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1887, son of a senior official at the Brazilian National Library, he began cello lessons as a child with his father, using a viola. By the time of his father's death in 1898 he had a reasonable knowledge of music theory and could play the clarinet and cello, and went on to take guitar lessons from a neighbour, hiding the fact from his mother, who wanted him to be a doctor. It was in part through the early influence of his father that Villa-Lobos became fascinated by the varied folk-music of Brazil, while the city itself provided opportunities to hear and later to join in the music of the chôro, the popular street serenade of Rio de Janeiro. At the age of sixteen he left home, giving up any idea of medical study and finding a more sympathetic lodging at the house of an aunt, an amateur pianist with a particular love of Bach. He now earned a living as best he could, helping to support his family as a jobbing musician, playing the cello at the Recreio Theatre and performing in hotels and night clubs.

 

From the age of eighteen Villa-Lobos spent some seven years of intermittent travel to the remoter regions of Brazil, interrupted by a brief period of study at the National Institute of Music in Rio. To keep himself he first sold the remaining books of his father's library and then look casual employment, whenever possible, experiencing, as he travelled, the indigenous music of the country, although never encountering cannibals, as falsely related subsequently in Paris, to the annoyance of the Brazilian colony there. He had already turned his hand to compositions of a relatively undemanding kind. Settled once again in Rio in 1912, he began to tackle music of greater complexity, with an opera, Izath, piano trios and the completion of a work on which he had been intermittently engaged for some years, the guitar Suite populaire brésilienne. In 1915 he began a series of concerts of his works, arousing the anger of critics and occasionally of performers, while attracting support from a group of young sympathizers. Although his style of writing was not influenced by European trends of the time, it was nevertheless original and alarming enough. An influential critic in Rio, writing of the Dança frenética of 1919, remarked that the work had the wrong title and should have been called St. Vitus's Dance with an explanatory note advising that it should be performed by epileptic musicians and heard by paranoiacs. 75 years later it is difficult to understand such criticism, although there might be some sympathy for the same critic's jibe at the prolific nature of the talent of Villa-Lobos. At this early stage of his career he was already writing a great deal of music, and was to continue to do so.

 

The work of Villa-Lobos had already attracted the attention of Darius Milhaud, employed by Paul Claudel at the French Embassy in Rio during the war of 1914 to 1918, but it was the virtuoso Artur Rubinstein who did as much as anyone to persuade the Brazilian Congress and private patrons to a measure of sponsorship for a journey to Paris, allowing Villa-Lobos to introduce his music to the French public and at the same time to profit from the stimulating intellectual climate of the city. Through Rubinstein he was introduced to the publishing house of Max Eschig, the sponsor of his first Paris concert in 1924. As in Rio, his music was acceptable to those with more progressive ideas on the nature of music and to an even wider public by the time of concerts of his works given on a much larger scale in 1927, although there were still voices raised in objection. In Paris Villa-Lobos was associated with leading musicians and artists of the time, helped by Roger-Ducasse, praised by Paul Le Flem and Florent Schmitt, and commissioned to provide a ballet for Dyagilev. During a period of seven years, he also found it possible to travel to Africa and to return to South America for concerts, not isolating himself from the cultural life of his own country.

 

In 1930 Villa-Lobos returned to Brazil, intending to fulfil a series of concert engagements before returning to Paris. The October Revolution forced a change of plan and brought unforeseen opportunities, as he found himself now in a leading position as a composer whose music fully represented the spirit of Brazil and the nationalist mood of the time. He was entrusted with establishing a scheme of music education at every level and this led later to the setting up of a conservatory in Rio in 1942, followed by the establishment of similar institutions in regional capitals. When this work came to an end in 1945, with its political changes, he began to win a regular place for himself in the concert life of the United States and, with the war now over, was able to renew his ties with Europe. He died in Rio de Janeiro in 1959, his death an occasion of national mourning.

 

The Pequena suite (Little Suite) for cello and piano was written in 1913. It consists of a series of six short pieces, admirably suited, of course, to his own instrument, the cello, and in a relatively conventional style, influenced, it has been suggested, by his admiration for the cellist and composer David Popper. The suite is testimony to the technical assurance of Villa-Lobos at this period. The same quality and lyrical command is shown in other pieces of these earlier years, the Capriccio, Opus 49, of 1915 for violin or cello and piano, the romantic Prelúdio of 1913 and the wistful Elegie of 1916. These works do nothing to shock but are in a late romantic idiom with relatively little trace of specifically Brazilian inspiration and nothing of the primitivism of Rudepoema, seeming often akin rather to French music of the period.

 

The nine Bachianas brasileiras explore a very different vein, although there is a hint of what is to come in the Fugato all'antica of the Pequena suite. The admiration of Villa-Lobos for Bach had been fostered by his aunt Zizinha and in the Bachianas brasileiras Villa-Lobos draws double inspiration from both Bach and Brazil, although technical indebtedness to the former may be relatively superficial or at other times pervasive. It is, however, always the spirit of Bach that is evoked, the ultimate source of inspiration. The series, variously scored, began in 1930 with a work for an orchestra consisting of at least eight cellos and ended in 1945 with the ninth of the series, for string orchestra. From the second of the Bachianas brasileiras comes O trenzinho do caipira (The Countryman's Little Train), the fourth and last movement, a Tocata, arranged by the composer for cello and piano and used by him in this version during concert tours over a period of nine months after his return to Brazil in 1930. The little train represents the ancient steam-train of the interior of Brazil and suggests both the train itself and the Brazilian hinterland through which it passes.

 

The Ária, the first of the two movements of the fifth of the Bachianas brasileiras, originally scored for soprano and orchestra of cellos, was written in 1938. A second movement Dança was added in 1945. The first of these two movements is among the best known of all and is more demonstrably indebted to Bach than O trenzinho, which is a world away from eighteenth century Leipzig. The Ária offers a very Brazilian melodic contour over a Bachian accompaniment for the eight cellos of the original scoring, with the first cello shadowing the soprano melodic line. The movement, one of particular lyrical beauty, is equally effective in the arrangement for cello and piano.

 

The sixth of the Bachianas brasileiras for flute and bassoon was written in 1938 and first performed in Rio de Janeiro in 1945. In the first of the two movements the style of the chôro, declared in the title, is combined with an element of contrapuntal Bach. The limitations of the medium are triumphantly overcome in the second movement Fantasia, again in the chôro tradition. The Ária presents an opening melodic contour that allows the flute to suggest the counterpoint of Bach, while the bassoon enters with a melody that seems at first more overtly Brazilian. The Fantasia, marked Allegro after the first movement Largo, is one of lively invention calling for considerable virtuosity in performance, both in the chromatic sequences of the upper part and the answering figuration for the bassoon.

 

Assobio a jato (Jet Whistle), for flute and cello, was written in 1950, the year of the eighth of the eleven symphonies of Villa-Lobos and the twelfth of the seventeen string quartets. It comes at a time when the composer was more overtly concerned with instrumental virtuosity, particularly in a series of concertos for guitar, for harp and for harmonica, his five piano concertos, and the famous Fantasia concertante for 32 cellos. Assobio a jato provides an attractive addition to unusual repertoire. The first movement seems to echo in its texture the Bachianas brasileiras. It is followed by a poignant Adagio in which the accompanying texture is filled by the double- and multiple-stopping of the cello. The final Vivo opens with the ostinato of the cello, to which the flute adds an angular and sequential melodic line in a movement that allows both instruments brief moments of relaxation into a more lyrical mood.

 

Rebecca Rust

 

The American cellist Rebecca Rust was born in San Francisco and had her first piano lessons at the age of five from her mother. Four years later she began her study of the cello, winning an award in the Mendelssohn Competition at the age of thirteen. After study with Bernard Greenhouse at the University of New York, and with Paul Szabo at the Cologne Musikhochschule, and master courses with Mstislav Rostropovich in America and Switzerland, she settled in Munich, with a career in Europe, America and Japan as a soloist and chamber-music player. Rebecca Rust plays an Italian cello of the seventeenth century, the work of the Florentine Giovanni Gaetano Pazzini, a pupil of Maggini.

 

David Apter

 

The pianist David Apter was born in New York and studied at the famous Juilliard School, at Manhattan School and at Yale University, as a pupil of teachers who included Rosina Lhevinne, Nadia Boulanger and Paul Badura-Skoda. A concert tour of South America led to a Fulbright Scholarship to Munich, where he met Rebecca Rust.

 

Emmanuel Pahud

 

Emmanuel Pahud was born in Geneva in 1970 of Swiss and French parentage. In 1989 he was appointed principal flautist with the Basle Radio Symphony Orchestra, moving to a similar position with the Munich Philharmonic in 1992 and in 1993 to the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. He had his first flute lessons at the age of six, studying in Rome, Brussels, Basle and at the Conservatoire National Supérieur in Paris, where he won first prize for flute and chamber music in 1990. Other awards include a series of prizes between 1988 and 1992 at Scheveningen, Duino, Kobe and Geneva, and his career has brought concert appearances throughout Europe, in the United States of America and Japan.

 

 

Friedrich Edelmann

 

Friedrich Edelmann was born in Baden-Württemberg and studied the bassoon with Alfred Rinderspacher. After winning first prize in the Federal Jugend Musiziert Competition, he studied with Klaus Thunemann in Hamburg and with Milan Turkovic in Vienna. In 1977 he became principal bassoonist with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, under Sergiu Celibidache, and from 1987 to 1992 was a member of the board of administration. Friedrich Edelmann has travelled widely as a soloist and player of chamber music, with concerts, recitals and master-classes in Europe, the Americas and Japan.


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