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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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
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.