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Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Villa-Lobos Live!

Piano Concerto No. 5 (1954) [19.42]
Bachianas Brasileiras No. 3 for piano and orchestra (1938) [29.31]
Garibaldi foi a Missa [1.24]
Dança do Indio Branco [3.24]
Camargo GUARNIERI (1907-1993)

Dança Brasileira [2.13]
Francisco MIGNONE (1897-1990?)

Serenata Humoristica [1.59]
Felicja Blumental (piano)
Vienna SO/composer (concerto); Filarmonica Triestina/Luigi Toffolo (Bachianas Brasileiras)
rec live Musikverein, Vienna, 25 May 1955 (concerto); AAD
BRANA RECORDS BR0001 [58.27]


Mark Walmsley
Brana Records
Suites 6 and 7
Meridian House
28 Station Road


Villa-Lobos and Blumental buffs will need no second bidding to add this disc to their collections. It contains some exceedingly rare recordings.

I am indebted to Brana's notes for the following information. Blumental was born in Warsaw on 28 December 1908 studying composition with Szymanowski. She emigrated to Brazil in 1942 and there toured extensively. She is the dedicatee of the Villa-Lobos Fifth Piano Concerto which the composer wrote for her after hearing her performing the Bachianas Brasileiras No. 3 in São Paulo in 1954. The Fifth Concerto was premiered by her at the Royal Festival Hall, London on 8 May 1955. The live performance here took place just a over a fortnight later. For the recording studio her fach was the work of the early romantics such as Ries, Czerny, Paisiello, Viotti, Field, Kozeluch, Hummel and Clementi. She died in Tel Aviv on 31 December 1991. In 1999 the Tel Aviv Museum of Arts named its International Music Festival after her.

The recording of the Bachianas Brasileiras No. 3 shows signs of blasting distortion. There is some rather stilted brass playing from the Filharmonia Triestina. Some of the motor rhythms of the work denote a nationalism absent from the piano concerto. The Aria [1.43] sounds rather like a cross between de Falla’s Generalife and the famous variation from the Paganini Rhapsody. There is also some end of side distortion in the toccata finale.

The rare recording of the Piano Concerto No. 5 is from a concert that took place at the Musikverein. The sound is clean and without waver. There are coughs and the strings are pretty thin but the woodwind sound well enough. This is not a thing of audio splendour but its preservation of one of Blumental's earliest performances of the work is of high documentary value. The work itself is rather old-fashioned aping Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky with nary a sign of Brazilian local colour. though the composer's obsession with Bach is touched on in the poco adagio. It is, overall, a pretty diffuse work if entertaining enough.

On the evidence of the low whiskery burble, the Garibaldi piece must be from a 78. It is part nocturne and part music-hall song. The Dança do indio Branco is volcanically eruptive and very tense. It compares very favourably with the mundanity of the Garibaldi piece. Guarnieri’s Dança Brasileira is a little charmer. The Mignone is a humorous ballet scene.

I am not clear on the point but it seems that these recordings of solo piano pieces were made at the Anglo-Brazilian Society concert in London on 15 November 1949.

I am not sure who designed these sleeves but they look superb and deserve an industry award for combining eye-catching attraction with legibility.

This disc represents a must for piano fanciers everywhere and its charms are intensified by the juxtaposition of two works that are inextricably associated with Blumental.

Rob Barnett


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