selftaughtgirl has this to say about this wonderful concert, which most of the known guitar world in the UK at the time attended:
“John Williams gave a concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (UK) on 19th July 1989 which was broadcast live on the radio. I was at the concert so a friend pressed the record button for me. I remember JW limping onto the stage as he had hurt himself playing tennis and also him reading the Ponce from the score. I last heard him only a couple of weeks ago playing two concertos at the RFH (the main hall next door to the QEH) and still on fine form.
Villa-Lobos: 5 Preludes
Ponce: Variations and fugue on “La Folia”
Brouwer:Elogio de la Danza, Berceuse, Danza Characteristica
Barrios: La Ultima Cancion, Cueca, Aconquija, Choro de Saudade, Waltzes Op 8 Nos 3 & 4
Piazzolla: Verano Portena (as encore)”
This is a marvellous record of a great performance. Thank you, selftaughtgirl!
A few years earlier, the newly reformed “John Williams and Friends”, of which I was a part, toured the UK, Ireland and Italy. Unlike this concert, there were quite a few hi jinx on stage (including Brian Gulland, taking a break from his bassoon duties,dressed as a chef and making an omelette while JW and I played some duets!).
Selftaughtgirl is on the trail again!
First off, this recording of Gabriel Estarellas, introduced by Stephen Dodgson, who came to stay during these recordings. I was always fascinated by the network of well known guitarists in those days – he was a friend of Cheryl Grice, who was living in Oxford at the time.
This is a nice site in English hosted by Indiana University It is still quite new, but there are interesting sections, such as one on lost scores, probably quite a common occurrence with Villa Lobos.
The Guitar Prelude #6, A Prole do Bebe suite #3, and the two Choros are possibly amongst the scores Villa-Lobos left with his Parisian concierge when he left for Brazil in 1930. Anna Stella Schic tells the story on pp. 94-95 of Villa-Lobos,Souvenirs de l’indien blanc (Paris: Actes Sud, 1987.) Schic doesn’t seem too worried about the lost works, though.
“Mais la prolixité de Villa-Lobos était telle que ce véritable torrent de musique n’a jamais semblé s’en affecter outre mesure : il écrivait déjà les oeuvres suivantes…”
Sanctus’ Villa-Lobos plays Villa-Lobos focuses not on recordings composer Heitor Villa-Lobos made late in life already collected in the EMI box set Villa-Lobos par lui même, but on items belonging to the Villa-Lobos museum in Rio de Janiero. Recorded “between the mid-1920s to the early 1940s” although “no recording dates or venues could be found,” it appears the bulk of the collection was recorded by the Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft whileVilla-Lobos was visiting Berlin in 1936. German soprano Beate Rosenkreutzer sings a selection of Villa-Lobos‘ songs with the composer at the piano, he plays some piano solos that demonstrate his amazing, self-taught ability and, most importantly, plays a couple of guitar solos, an instrument on which Villa-Lobos considered himself skilled; this proves he certainly was so. The disc is filled out with a nearly 20-minute-long lecture in Portuguese that sounds like it is taken from the radio; as no transcription of the talk is provided, if you cannot speak Portuguese this will not be useful to you, although it can be interesting to hearVilla-Lobos‘ slow speech cadences. Rosenkreutzer delivers an amazingly idiomatic performance of Villa-Lobos‘ Portuguese songs, and it appears that these are the only recordings made of this mega-obscure singer.
There is a BIG disadvantage to this disc, and that is through the heavy-handed and amateurish use of noise reduction software in the restoration. These recordings — save the lecture — are in poor condition, and if they indeed originate from Villa-Lobos‘ private collection, apparently he — like George Gershwin — enjoyed listening to his own recordings over and over, gradually wearing them out. As in the case of Gershwin, the recreation of the composer has led to a sad sonic situation for posterity, and Sanctus processes these artifacts so heavily that irremovable pops and digs in the surfaces of these archival discs sound as though amplified 20 times and played back through the Palace of Versailles; it is a completely substandard and irresponsible transfer. Moreover, by virtue of a little exchange of data with others in the field of 78-era scholarship, Sanctus probably could have isolated even some general information that would have nailed down the approximate dates and likely provenance of these recordings, but they choose not to. The EMI set primarily emphasizes the aging Villa-Lobos as a haphazard conductor of his own massive orchestral works, which does little to dispel the view of him as an eccentric autodidact, often cultivated by those on the receiving end of Villa-Lobos‘ scores. The material here establishes Heitor Villa-Lobos as a highly skilled instrumentalis; however, such facility was gained, and the inept handling of the digital transfers, rather than sealing the deal, more or less completely blows it.
Have fun and do let me know if anyone finds the 6th guitar prelude, won’t you?
The following is the story
During his years in Uruguay Segovia made several trips to Brazil, where he was able to meet with Villa-Lobos and further strengthen their rapport. In a letter dated 22 October 1940 from Montevideo to his friend and composer Manuel Maria Ponce, Segovia wrote: “Villa-Lobos […] came to my home with six guitar preludes dedicated to me, which, together with the previous twelve studies, make a total of sixteen pieces. In all this bulge of compositions the only valid one, believe me, is the study in E major that you heard me studying when I was with you. One of this last batch that he tried to play himself is deathly boring. He tries to imitate Bach, and the third part of a descending sequence – in other words, a regression – at the beginning is truly ridiculous… At that point I couldn’t resist the temptation to show him the suite in A minor that you had written for me…” The Segovia-Ponce Letters, ed. Miguel Alcazar, trans. Peter Segal (Editions Orphée, Columbus, 1989, p. 211)
In the above-mentioned letter to Ponce, Segovia mentioned six preludes, thus sparking debate over the supposed existence of a Sixth Prelude. According to Turibio Santos, the Brazilian concert guitarist and since 1986 director of the Museu Villa-Lobos in Rio de Janeiro, Villa-Lobos had told him of the existence and eventual disappearence of this piece. In his book Santos also reproduces a list of Villa-Lobos’ works for and with the guitar compiled by musicologist Hermínio Bello de Carvalho, who confirms this claim and adds that pianist José Vieira Brandão had apparently even seen a copy of this Sixth Prelude: “A short time ago, I was utterly astonished when Vieira Brandão told me that he thought he had seen a copy of it. Maestro Villa-Lobos described the sixth prelude as ‘the finest of them all’.” José Vieira Brandão is the author of the piano transcription of Cinq Préludes for guitar.
Nonetheless these reports, largely originating many years after the death of Villa-Lobos, are anecdotal and lack documentation of any kind. Even the oldest of them, Segovia’s letter to Ponce from 1940, hardly proves the existence of a Sixth Prelude, since his reference to six preludes is surrounded by other unreliable statements, such as the mathematical sum of pieces (12 + 6 = 16!) and his completely unsubstained claim that they were dedicated to him.
He had two brothers, one named Verdi, the other Rossine, so it isn’t surprising that his parents had musical ambitions for Mozart Guarnieri. In an act of self effacement (and probably to ward off unkind comments) he changed his name to M.Camargo Guarnieri (Camargo was his mother’s maiden name, and M. stands, of course, for Mozart).
He is arguably the most important Brazilian composer after Heitor Villa-Lobos having written 6 symphonies, 6 piano concertos and many chamber works. Continue reading →
Here’s another clip of NYGE at Easter in Rugby School performing Villa Lobos Bachianas Brasileiras No.5 (arr.Chris Susans) with Belinda Evans.
This will be on the programme on Saturday 17th August at the Menuhin Hall and on Sunday 18th at West Dean Open Day
On the final leg of my summer school/teaching junket, it’s yet another acronym but one that many are familiar with – the National Youth Guitar Ensemble, which I have been conducting since 2005 when arranger and 19thC guitar supremo Chris Susans stepped down in order to be administrator.