Sunday, March 11, 2018

Engaging and colourful music from Latin America

Villa-Lobos: Concerto Grosso, Fantasia em Tres Movimentos (en Forma de Choros); Chavez: Chapultepec; Rodrigo: Per la flor del lliri blau, Adagio

This is such a great release, with music we've needed on disc for such a long time. Of course, I'm most interested in the two Villa-Lobos works, both of which from his late period. Late Villa-Lobos is a bit of a hodgepodge; it includes a few less than inspired commissioned works, but also some of his greatest music: the last few String Quartets, the Magnificat Alleluia and Bendita sabedoria, and the operas Yerma and A Menina das Nuvens. The two pieces for wind orchestra are both standouts. The Concerto Grosso for Wind Quartet (flute, oboe, clarinet & bassoon) and Wind Orchestra is from Villa-Lobos's last year, 1959. There are a few recordings available, including a Latin Grammy-winner from Naxos with Jose Serebrier conducting "The President's Own" United States Marine Band. The 1958 Fantasia em Tres Movimentos (en Forma de Choros), a nostalgic final look back at a lifetime of music in the Choros form, has only a single recording, a world premiere available from the University of Pennsylvania Music Department. Both of the newly recorded pieces are beautifully played by the Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra under conductors Clark Rundell and Mark Heron, and well presented by the Chandos producer engineers. 2017 was the Villa-Lobos Symphonies Year, thanks to the completion of the Naxos series from OSESP under Isaac Karabtchevsky. Even though it's only March, I'm quite sure 2018 will be the Villa-Lobos Wind Orchestra Year, based on this release.

On Twitter I referred to these two works as Villa-Lobos's NAFTA music, after Marcelo Rodolfo of the Museu Villa-Lobos tweeted that the Concerto Grosso was written in Mexico, and the Fantasia in Canada:

As you can see from the scores, both works were written for The American Wind Symphony in Pittsburgh, and both were dedicated to Mindinha.

(Thanks for these, Marcelo!)

The other works on this disc are really interesting. The two pieces by Joaquin Rodrigo are about what I expected, colourful music with Iberian touches. With the title Chapultepec, I expected something more folkloric from Carlos Chavez's piece, but it's more about the municipal band in the town square playing military marches and Italian opera tunes than anything approaching the revolutionary modernism we connect with Chavez. The entire disc is full of colour and engaging tunes; it's completely delightful.

This disc will be released on April 23, 2018. This review also appears at Music for Several Instruments.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Bachianas Brasileiras no. 4 for Wind Ensemble, & more!

Here's another arrangement of a Villa-Lobos piece for wind ensemble, after yesterday's BB#5 Aria from DePauw University Band. It's from The University of Houston Wind Ensemble's 1999 album Enigma Variations, conducted by Eddie Green. The arrangement is by Merlin Patterson.

The 4th Bachianas Brasileiras went through a number of transformations by Villa-Lobos himself. It was originally written for piano in three chunks: the Dança (Miudinho), which became the finale, in 1930; the Ária (Cantiga), the 3rd movement, in 1935; and the Prelúdio (Introdução) and Coral (Canto do Sertão), the 1st two movements, in 1941.

Villa then orchestrated the piece in 1942.

Finally, he re-worked the first movement to become the opening Seed of God segment of his Broadway musical Magdalena. There's a recording of the Magdalena Suite on an amazing LP from 1974 called Andre Kostelanetz Plays Villa-Lobos. Unfortunately, this isn't available on Spotify, but you can listen to a 30 second clip at the Internet Archive. By the way, this disc is available on CD & MP3 from Klassic Haus Restorations.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

BB#5 Aria for Wind Ensemble

This is quite lovely: John Krance's arrangement for wind ensemble of the Aria of Bachianas Brasileiras no. 5. It's played beautifully by the DePauw University Band, conducted by Craig Paré. From their 2017 album Everything Beautiful.