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Music of Tribute, Volume 1: Villa-Lobos
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Two Cirandas: N’esta rua, n’esta rua (1926) [3:39]; Passa, passa, gavião (1926) [1:23]
Mario FICARELLI (b.1935)
Minimal Ciranda (1987) [3:09]
Gilberto MENDES (b.1922)
Viva-Villa (1987) [6:08]
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Choros No. 5 – Alma Brasileira (1925) [5:53]
Camargo GUARNIERI (1907-1993)
Improviso No.2: Homenagem a Villa-Lobos (1960) [3:56]
Almeida PRADO (b.1943)
Noturnas Saudades do Rio Solimões (1987) [6:28]
Wilhelm ZOBL (1950-1991)
Aria Brasileira: Bachianas Européias No. 1 (1987) [2:28]
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Ciclo Brasileiro (1936-7)
Plantio do Caboclo [7:56]
Impressões Seresteiras [7:00]
Festa no Sertão [5:26]
Dança do Indio branco [4:23]
Jorge PEIXINHO (1940-1995)
Villalbarosa: Homenagem a Villa-Lobos (1987) [5:11]
Aurélio DE LA VEGA (b.1925)
Homenagem (1987) [6:08]
José Eduardo Martins (piano)
Recorded Salle Bulgaria, Sofia, August 1996
LABOR RECORDS LAB 7031-2 [70:18]


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This is a delightful, thought-provoking CD, based on an excellent concept. In 1987, one hundred years after the birth of Villa-Lobos, the pianist and musicologist José Eduardo Martins invited a number of composers to write tributes in his honour. This CD contains some of the music written in response to that invitation by a number of Villa-Lobos’s fellow Brazilians (Ficarelli, Mendes and Prado), and by composers from Austria (Zobl), the U.S.A. (De La Vega) and  Portugal (Peixinho). An earlier homage by Camargo Guarnieri is also included. The spine, as it were, of the CD is provided by piano music by Villa-Lobos himself.

The idea was a good one and it has been well-executed. Martins understands this music very well and performs it with affection and sympathy. The recorded piano sound is pretty good. The programme on the CD has been intelligently arranged, so that light is shone on Villa-Lobos by his admirers and vice-versa.

The programme begins with two of Villa-Lobos’s set of sixteen cirandas, pieces based on materials from Brazilian nursery rhymes or playground songs in the form of rounds. The idiom thus established, it encounters a kind of staccato minimalism in Mario Ficarelli’s Minimal Ciranda which immediately succeeds them, the recurrent patterns which open the piece giving way to a charming ciranda-like melody and then returning to close the piece. An attractive vignette. A certain indebtedness to minimalism is perhaps also evident in the repeated figures of Mendes’ Viva-Villa, though it is a minimalism with more than a few echoes of Chick Corea or Keith Jarrett!

A second phase of the CD begins with Choros No. 5, Villa-Lobos well-known image of the ‘Brazilian soul’. Camargo Giuarnieri’s Homenagen was written soon after the death of Villa-Lobos. Although, like Choros No. 5, it evokes distinctly Brazilian rhythms, there is also something decidedly French about many of its harmonies and its pianistic effects – perhaps a recognition of the importance of Milhaud in particular, and early twentieth-century French music in general, as influences on the music of Villa- Lobos. Almeida Prado studied with Guarnieri – and with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen – and his beautiful piece, in effect a nocturne, is reminiscent both of French impressionism and of some of Villa-Lobos’ more quietly lyrical pieces. In the wittily entitled tribute by Wilhelm Zobl (of which Gilberto Mendes is one of the dedicatees) use is made of the aria from the second movement of Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5, which is placed above an ostinato in eighth-notes and gradually metamorphosed in a number of ways.

The final phase of the CD begins with a fine performance of the Ciclo Brasileiro, technically assured and affectionate; Ciclo Brasileiro’s four movements show much of Villa-Lobos characteristic eclecticism, in which rural dance rhythms from Brazil encounter Ravel and Debussy. This sequence stands at the heart of the CD, the point of reference for all that surrounds it.

Peixinho’s Villalbarosa extends Villa-Lobos’ modernism in ways that are more distinctly European and partially informed by musical idioms that belong to the decade after Villa-Lobos’ death. Lavish in glissandos and note-clusters it is a melodramatic piece – and I am not sure that Villa-Lobos would have liked it very much! De La Vega’s Homenagem, which closes the programme, inventively synthesises elements from Latin American music with some echoes of blues and jazz and some ‘classical’ features. The whole works rather better than such a rich mixture might suggest!

The spirit of the whole programme, the often witty musical cross-references, the avoidance of over rigid classifications and boundaries, is one that is entirely apt for Villa-Lobos. It is a fitting tribute and makes fascinating listening.

Glyn Pursglove



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