Villa-Lobos Plays Villa-Lobos. An important musical document

Excerpts from the CD Booklet

Arminda Villa-Lobos conceived and produced this fine record (LP), now reissued by SanctuS.
Unfortunately, information regarding venues and recording dates was never registered but,
despite this shortcoming, we welcome this initiative which has the full support of the Villa-Lobos Museum.

Turíbio Santos
Director of the Villa-Lobos Museum

The original recordings on this CD were privately made between the mid-1920 and theearly 1940s. Unfortunately, no information on recording dates or venues could be found, despite a thorough search by individuals and thorough search by individuals and through institutions. It might seem surprising for us today that such na important figure in the music world as Villa-Lobos – who lived during a period when comercial recordings were becoming in creasingly common – should not have left us a professionally-made recorded legacy of his art as na interpreter. This is even more curious when we consider that he travelled regularly to Europe and the United States and that his music was, at that time, published on three continents. Though the recordings which are now reissued on this disc were not professionally produced, I felt that the performances should bem ade available on CD because of their significant historical and artistic importance. The inadequacies that derive from the original amateurish recordings are, however, far outweighed by the fresh light which has been thrown on na outstanding musical document. The opportunity of listening to the composer himself performing his compositions on diferente intruments will give both musicians and music lovers a unique insight into Villa-Lobos the performer. I am confidente that listeners will enjoy the astonishing technical abilities of the composer and will appreciate the great musical value of his interpretations.

Betina Maag Santos

This CD, compiled by the Villa-Lobos Museum in Rio de Janeiro, is a precious release because it presentes the greatest Brazilian composer playing the piano. The author of these short notes had the privilegie to accompany the `artistic caravan´ tour which Villa-Lobos led through the North-East of Brazil in 1951 and to have been personally presente at a concert given in the city of João pessoa in the State og=f Paraíba. Villa-Lobos himself went on stage and played A Lenda do Caboclo (the legend of a Brazilian half-breed of white and Indian blood) on the piano. On that occasion, he also made the short speech wich is included at the endo f this records. His interpretation and the sound he produced were inimitable, with the music surging forward. His phrasing was subtle with deep sentiment. His entirely poetic interpretations seemed to recreate the piece, almost as though he were improvising. As soon as he touched the keyboard he would draw people´s sense of hearing. With what charm he once interpreted, in a playful manner, a few bars of Chopin´s Waltz in G sharp minor (No.7), during a class on the occasion of the Formation Course for Teachers. Not only did he lack regular piano training, however, but he never claimed to be a pianista. He did play other intruments – such as the cello, the guitar and the clarinet and he was considered, without any doubt, a very accomplished player of the first two. On this record he plays Chôro No.1 and Prelude No.1 on the guitar. Despite his lack of piano training, he plays some of his own compostions and manages to develop a distinctive Villa-Lobos technique with his piano music which has its own sound characteristics. His piano style presentes on the one hand na unmistakable instrumental treatment with Strong sonorous results and on the other hand arduous rhythmic problems; he reveals to us a personal harmonic language which gives the folkloristic theme – whenever present – its true significance, laid bare and intensified by the composer. A Lenda do Caboclo, one if the items included on this CD, was recorded at the Reichrunfunk (Berlin, Germany) in 1936. In its simplicity, it is one of the composer´s most penetratingly spontaneous, inspirational pieces; and also one which Brazilians may regard as one of the best and most charming in their piano literature. This piece seems to bring together the especial sorrow and poetic languor which exist in Brazilian musical feeling. Chôro No 5, also recorded by Villa-Lobos, and which is subtitled `Alma Brasileira´ (Brazilian Soul), is a work of art which underlines certain psychological peculiarities of human nature. It is impossible to remain indiferente to the palpitation of the first musical phrase, which develops over the vague rhythm of the bass and which sums up the dreamy tendency of the Brazilian spirit, indecisive and obscure, although not lacking in noble amplitude. There follows an escape toward a contrasting área of continuous happiness which, suddenly, returns to the theme which, by its serenity and interior balance, draws the listener towards its unforgettable sound. Except for the bautiful and slow Pobrezinha, the individual pieces from the Prôle do Bebê No.1 are characterized by turbulent and unexpected rhythms. The most brilliant of these is Polichinelo, a piece which has achieved international renown. Though we know that Villa-Lobos neither was nor wished to be a famous pianista, listen to his rendering of this piece, bearing in mind the virtuoso characteristics of the sole masculine representative inthe Prôle. The study of Villa-Lobos´s pieces for voice (of which there are over a hundred compositions) is very interesting, because of the extraordinary diversity of inspiration in his pursuit of self-expression whilst experiencing a wide range of influences. If a predecessor of the importance of Nepomuceno had successfully fought to introduce the tradition of singing in Portuguese, Villa-Lobos managed to establish it on a permanent basis. He went further than simply contributing to the establishment of Brazilian song in Brazil, however, since he was the first artist to break the limitations of the Brazilian idiom – the political and geographical limitis of the language which led many people to classify it emphatically as a `tombo f thought´ − since he had managed to transport the Brazilian language, on the music, to domains which had previously only been reached by songs sung in French, German, Italian, English na Russian , thus giving it a new dimensiono f universatily. Accompanying the soprano Beate Rosenkreutzer on the piano (recorded in 1936 in Berlin) Villa-Lobos here performs one of this best harmonizations, one of this most dramatic and moving vocal compositions, Nhapôpé from the collection Modinhas e canções. Two other of this better-known harmonizations have also been included on this CD, with the composer at the piano: Guriatã do Coqueiro, with a theme from Pernambuco, and Xangô, both from Canções típicas brasileiras (1919). In his book Heitor Villa-Lobos (Éditions Seghers, Paris), Vasco Mariz pointed out that Xangô originated from a macumba song which Villa-Lobos had encountered. There had previously been numerous other arrangements, all of which are in bad taste. The presente one by the great composer from Rio is very effective, with delirious rhythms. The interpretation consistis of a permanente crescendo which should be well controlled in order to arrive at a dramatic and vibrant clímax. The words should be sung twice and the final ad libitum `ualelê´ should be shouted as if in a state of possessed fetishism.

Eurico Nogueira França

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