Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

New arrangements of Villa's music, beautifully played

From January 28, 2011:

The music of Villa-Lobos has always attracted arrangers, including the composer himself. Villa adapted his own works in a multitude of formats; his first thoughts about musical ideas were rarely his last. There is so much interesting music to adapt beyond the usual Aria from Bachianas Brasileiras #5 (which is out there in so many versions, including harmonica, saxophone, and percussion) and the Little Train movement from BB #2 (a favourite of marching bands and even reggae groups).

The Brazilian Guitar Quartet included an arrangement of the entire Bachianas Brasileiras #1 in a previous CD "Essencia do Brasil" which I thought worked out very well. The new BGQ Plays Villa-Lobos CD includes a wide selection of music originally written for piano and chamber ensemble, arranged by Tadeu do Amaral for four guitars. The music is selected and presented to show off Villa's music and the group's musicianship to best advantage. There are a variety of infectious rhythms, some sweet and sad melodies, moments of modernist angularity, and transcendent beauty from one of Villa's greatest chamber works.

While Villa-Lobos often composed at the piano, and he wrote a host of amazing, idiomatic pieces for the instrument, his native instrument was the guitar. His nickname as a member of a choroes group was "classical guitar". His few pieces for guitar loom so large in the music for guitar, and he often imitates the guitar in his piano works and even his orchestral music. When he wrote music for harp (besides his 1953 Harp Concerto, he wrote some very important chamber works with harp, especially in the 1920s) he was often thinking of the guitar: "I played the harp from my experience with the guitar", he once said. I mention the harp because the four guitars of the BGQ often evoke this instrument in Amaral's Villa-Lobos arrangements.

It's interesting, then, to listen to the BCG version of the early modernist piano work Suite Floral, written under the influence of Debussy, Faure, and Ravel. The sound of the guitars evokes the sound-world of Parisian chamber music with harp as much as it does the piano music of the impressionist masters. This is definitely transatlantic music, though, since Brazilian rhythms are an important part of the work. Another piece on this disc which stands out is Amaral's adaptation of the Twelfth String Quartet, one of Villa's greatest chamber works, a piece of great subtlety and power. This disc is very highly recommended!

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