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ClassicsOnline Home » BRAZILIAN PORTRAIT: VILLA-LOBOS AND THE GUIITAR MUSIC OF BRAZIL
Classical Guitar Magazine
Classical Guitar Magazine
Villa-Lobos & The Guitar Music of Brazil
All of the music on this recording was written for the guitar or
inspired by its magical sound. In Brazil, the guitar is the solo instrument par
excellence and has been used in classical as well as popular music. It is a
traditional instrument of the chorões who were originally working class, mainly
amateur musicians. They formed groups very much like the jazz bands in New
Orleans and transformed the popular European music of the late nineteenth century
into something more vital and syncopated, reminiscent of the rhythms of the
African slaves (slavery was abolished in Brazil in 1888). Foremost among the
early chorões was João Pernambuco (1883- 1947), an untrained musician who
earned his living as an iron-worker, but supplemented his income by playing in
clubs and bars with his group Caxânga. It was on these occasions that he met
Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959), a towering figure in the history of Brazilian
music, who gained his musical training as a chorão in the streets of Rio de
Janeiro as much as in the Conservatoire in Paris. Villa-Lobos was responsible
for notating many of Pernambuco’s improvisations, and indeed was influenced by
them, as evidenced by the similarity of the opening of Sonha de Magia (Dreams
of magic) to that of Prelude No.5. The Chôro, Pô de Mico (translated roughly as
Itching Powder) must surely have affected the Chôros of Villa-Lobos, classical
versions of the popular form, for many and varied instrumental combinations.
The Preludes written in 1940 and dedicated to his wife, Mindinha, are on the
other hand, purely classical in form and were given titles by her. These are:
1. Lyrical melody. Homage to the Brazilian country dweller.
2. Melody from Capadocia. Homage to the Rascal of Rio.
3. Homage to Bach.
4. Homage to the Brazilian Indians.
5. Homage to social life, to the boys and girls who go to concerts at
the theatre in Rio.
Villa-Lobos was also outstanding as an educator and it was in his
capacity as Director of music education for Brazil that he met the Uruguayan
Isaias Savio (1902-1977) who was active as a concert guitarist and teacher in
the country villages of Brazil at the time. Sonha laia (Dream of laiá, a god of
the Macumba), Serões (a Modinha, slow and melancholy) and Batucada (a lively
dance of African origin) are all taken from his series, Scenas Brasileiras -
Brazilian Scenes, which were the inspiration for my own arrangements of the
Brazilian children's songs Como Pode O Peixe (How can you live like the fish?),
Nesta Rua (In our street) and Samba Lêle (Samba Lele). They are dedicated to
Ernesto Nazareth, Villa-Lobos and Savio, all avid collectors of folk music. It
was in the back streets of Rio that Savio met and taught a young guitarist who
was playing a new type of music which was a fusion of American jazz and the
Brazilian Samba. The guitarist was Luis Bonfá (b. 1922) and the musical style
was called Bossa Nova - New Beat. Bonfá's subtle harmonic language and
distinctive syncopated rhythms were brought to the notice of a wider audience
when he wrote and played the music for the cult film Black Orpheus, a modern
interpretation of Orpheus in the Underworld set in Rio de Janeiro at Carnaval
time. This recorded version of Manhã de Carnaval (Morning of the Carnival) from
Black Orpheus is an improvisation based on the playing of Bonfá himself.
Passeio no Rio (Walking in Rio) is a samba arranged by the fine guitarist
Pre-eminent among the composers who developed the Bossa into a
worldwide language is Antonio Carlos Jobim (b.1927), whose delicately chromatic
melodies owe much to the cool jazz lyricism of musicians like Stan Getz and
Miles Davis. All Jobim's music is conceived in terms of the sound of the
guitar, but it is usually heard as songs backed by a jazz band, not unlike the
songs of Schubert, many of which were first composed with guitar accompaniment.
It was guitar virtuosos like Roberto Baden-Powell (b.1937) whose recitals and
recordings restored the link between the guitar and Bossa Nova. He is
represented on this recording by his own evocative pieces Retrato Brasileiro
(Brazilian Portrait), Deve ser Amor (lt had to be Love) and Canto de Osanha as
weIl as the stunning arrangement of Samba do Avião (Airplane Samba), written by
Jobim as an ecstatic response to landing in Rio after a tour abroad.
Another virtuoso who set the scene for Brazilian-Jazz fusion as far
back as the 1940s is Laurindo Almeida (b.1917). He was not only a seminal
influence in Stan Kenton's orchestra, but is also a fine classical guitarist
who was the first person to record al1 of the Preludes of Villa-lobos, a
personal friend and admirer. One of Almeida’s best known pieces, Braziliance,
is a return to an older style of music, the Chôros. A similar return to the
roots of Brazilian music is the Xâranga do Vôvo by the young guitarist and
composer Celso Machado (b.1953). This is a maxixe, a dance which was one of the
original sources of the Chôros, the musical soul of Brazil, or as Villa-lobos
put it, Alma Brasileira.
At his 1979 Wigmore Hall debut in London, one critic hailed Gerald
Garcia as a performer of rare quality and he has been described by John
Williams as one of today's foremost guitarists. Garcia has made many tours of
the Far East and Europe and has appeared at the major international festivals
in Great Britain, including the Edinburgh, Aldeburgh and South Bank Festivals.
His concert engagements have included performances with many leading ensembles
and soloists, among them the London Sinfonietta, John Williams and Friends and
Paco Peña. As a teacher and lecturer he has been involved in workshops with the
English National Opera and Kent Opera, while the breadth of his musical
sympathies is evident in his arrangements of Chinese and Celtic music for
guitar and orchestra, a significant extension of the guitar repertoire. With
the flautist Clive Conway he has toured and broadcast extensively in Britain
and has played at the Glastonbury Pop Festival and on the ocean liner the QE
Gerald Garcia was born in Hong Kong, which he left for schooling at
Ratcliffe College, fol1owed by the study of chemistry at New College, Oxford,
where he graduated in 1971. He has remained in Oxford, his base for a busy
career as a recitalist, soloist and a conductor of chamber orchestras.
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