Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The great beasts of Villa-Lobos

In his liner essay for the third volume of The Guitar Manuscripts on Naxos, guitarist Andrea Bissoli quotes from the memoirs of the Spanish pianist Tomás Terán:
That year [1928] we spent the summer together in Lussac-les-Châteaux. We found a place to stay above a kind of pâtisserie that only opened on high days and holidays. Our rooms looked out over the garden at the back and were divided by a wooden panel that was so insubstantial we could chat to one another through the wall till the early hours. Villa planned to amuse himself by constructing a fleet of kites, so we’d arrived laden down with enormous lengths of bamboo, rope and sheets of paper: the lady who owned the shop below thought we must have been members of a circus ... The day he flew the first kite (designed in the shape of a huge fish), it was caught by a sudden gust of wind just as he was launching it, and went up like a rocket; it dragged Villa along for several metres before I managed to cut its ropes. The kite came down three or four kilometres away: after that experience his “great beasts” frightened me. I suggested to him that in future he should tie them to a tree, for safety’s sake, and he agreed. Those kites were great fun for the people of Lussac. Some days, Villa would play the guitar late into the night (I should point out we were the only people staying at the pâtisserie); that was when he had the idea of composing his studies for the instrument.
This is how Villa-Lobos came to write one of his most important creations: the 12 Etudes for guitar.



Naxos has just released a box set of the three volumes of The Guitar Manuscripts. I'll be writing a review Real Soon Now. In the meantime, here's a picture (from the Museu Villa-Lobos) of Villa-Lobos and Terán with one of Villa's Great Beasts; and via Spotify, the  “symphonic episode” O papagaio do moleque (The little boy’s kite), from the same disc. It's played by the Minas Gerais Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Fabio Mechetti.

I think that's Villa on the left, Terán in the middle, and I assume Lucilla on the right.


2 comments:

  1. Great post, Dean! As always! And beautiful photo. Im not a great fan of "Papagaio do Moleque'. It's a really dipersive work, in my opinion. There is not a lot of cohesion.

    One thing, I am pretty sure that the man in the middle it's Villa. Do you agree? There is something in his face that emanates Villaness without a doubt.

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    1. I think you're right! That's Villa in the middle. Looking at pictures of Terán on the web, & the guy on the left has his chin.

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