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ClassicsOnline Home » VILLA-LOBOS: Cello Sonata No. 2 / Piano Trio No. 2
Sonata No. 2 for cello
Trio No. 2 for violin,
cello & piano
Heitor Villa-lobos was
born in Rio de Janeiro in 1887. His father, an employee of the National
Library, was also an amateur musician, enthusiastic enough to teach his son the
cello, using to begin with a viola, an instrument more suited to the child's
size. The boy went on to further instrumental study with the cellist Benno
Niederberger in Rio. Villa-Lobos was later to acquire a knowledge of the guitar
and, in adolescence, close acquaintance with the popular music of Rio, where
the chôro had become a favourite urban form for street serenaders. After his
father's death he soon deserted the medical studies proposed for him by his
mother in favour of music, an aim he pursued by travelling throughout Brazil,
learning at first hand the various folk traditions of the country and writing
music of his own that accorded fully with what he heard. After some years of
this irregular existence, attempts at a more consistent form of study were
abandoned in favour of greater freedom and the personal development of his own
impatient genius, which won more general acceptance with a series of concerts
devoted to his works.
It was largely through
the advocacy of Artur Rubinstein, who had been impressed by his earlier piano
music, that Villa-Lobos won the support of rich sponsors, which enabled him to
move in 1925 to Paris, where he spent the next five years. His return to Brazil
in 1930 proved permanent, although he had at the time every intention of
returning to Paris, a place congenial to his talent. It was during these Paris
years, interrupted by occasional voyages home, that he wrote his fourteen Chôros,
a series of works for various combinations of voices and instruments derived in
inspiration from the popular music of the streets of Rio de Janeiro.
On his return to
Brazil, Villa-Lobos brought with him music unknown at home, with the evident
intention of inspiring a change in musical taste, introducing works by Milhaud,
Florent Schmitt, Alfredo Casella and Debussy. The revolution of October brought
a change of government and a change in the destiny of Villa-Lobos, who found
himself charged with the task of organizing musical education throughout the
country, work that he accepted and continued with enthusiasm. His reputation
abroad grew rapidly, while at home he occupied an unassailable position as the
first composer of his generation, until his death in 1959.
Villa-Lobos had found
money for his earlier travels in Brazil through taking odd jobs in factories
and offices, and by selling books from his father's library. Settled once more
in Rio, and now concentrating more on composition, he earned a living as a
cellist in cafés and cinemas. It was natural that he should write music for an
instrument in which he had received professional training, his interest
reflected in a number of compositions, including three cello sonatas, the first
Pequeña Sonata written in 1914, followed by Sonata No. 1 in 1915
and Sonata No. 2 a year later. Of his four Piano Trios the first
was written in 1911 and the second in 1915, followed by a third in 1918 and the
fourth in 1945.
The Cello Sonata
No. 2 belongs to a period when Villa-Lobos, a composer ever receptive to new
ideas, had embraced an international style. This was to be replaced when he
discovered in Paris in the 1920s that a more national emphasis was acceptable.
It is a work that is romantic in conception and offers formidable difficulties
The first movement
opens with a sweepingly romantic piano melody rising in the bass, leading to
the entry of the cello, marked décisif and com veemencia and the
re-appearance of the yearning piano melody, now transposed, followed by a
second thematic element, with cello triplets. The principal theme, in its
original key, is to return again in the cello part, and to bring the movement
to an optimistic conclusion.
Memories of Faurè that
may have been aroused by the first movement of the sonata are even more evident
in the gentle slow movement, with its wistfully nostalgic cello melody that
gradually unwinds. There follows a scherzo of contrasted rhythms and relatively
simple texture with further references to earlier material from the first
movement, echoed again in melodic outline in the exciting finale, which brings
the work to an end with some modal ambiguity.
The Piano Trio No.
2 opens gently enough, the cello answering the melody proposed by the violin,
and the parts thereafter happily interwoven, but leading to music of greater
dramatic intensity in an idiom redolent of Paris rather than of Rio de Janeiro.
This is followed by the serenity of a Berceuse, merging with the peaceful
motion of the Barcarolle in a movement of great tranquillity, that allows the
cello a passing reference to a well known lullaby.
The third movement
scherzo presents a starker contour of opening melody, with a suggestion of jazz
about it, belied by its use of the whole-tone scale. The cello introduces the
finale, with a descending phrase imitated by the violin and going on to music
of strongly romantic feeling which, in its eclectic way, owes much to French
music of the period in its treatment of the instruments, its texture and its
musical content. The work ends somewhat abruptly.
Monique Duphil studied
in Paris at the Conservatoire National Supérieur with Marguerite Long, Jean
Doyen and Joseph Calvet, winning the Premier Prix in piano at the age of 15 and
completing her studies there the following year with the chamber music Grand
Prix. She undertook further study in Germany with Vladimir Horbowski and won
prizes in four international competitions, including the Warsaw Chopin
Competition, before embarking on a career that has taken her to more than fifty
countries. She has appeared as a soloist with major orchestras that include the
Cleveland, Philadelphia, Warsaw, Bern, Mexico State, Tokyo Metropolitan,
Bavarian Radio, Sydney and New Zealand orchestras, under conductors of the
distinction of Ormandy, Markevich, Dutoit, Maxim Shostakovich and Sanderling.
As a chamber music player she has appeared with Szeryng, Ricci, Rampal,
Fournier, and on many occasions in partnership with her husband, the cellist
principal cellist of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, is a graduate of the
Curtis Institute of Music and the New England Conservatory. He studied with
Leonard Rose, Mischa Schneider, Rudolf Kolisch, and in master classes with
Pablo Casals. He has appeared as a soloist with orchestra in North and South
East Asia, and has been a regular participant in the Marlboro Music Festival,
touring Europe and Israel with Music from Marlboro. With a Rockefeller grant he
performed for two years in the Carnegie Hall Evenings for New Music series in
New York and has toured widely with Boston Music Viva, of which he was a
founder member. He has recorded for Delos the Pulitzer prize-winner Joseph
Schwantner's in Aeternam, which was written for him, and Davidovsky's Synchronisms
No. 3, and for Marco Polo chamber music by Villa-Lobos.
Antonio Nuez was born
in Spain in 1945 and emigrated with his family to Uruguay three years later.
After completing his studies at Montevideo Conservatory, he won a scholarship
which allowed him to take lessons in Italy and in Germany, where his teachers
were Sandor Vegh and Yehudi Menuhin. At the age of 22 he was appointed
associate concertmaster of the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, later moving to Basel
as concertmaster of the Symphony Orchestra, a position he still holds, under
the music direction of Horst Stein. He has also served as concertmaster of the
Lucerne Festival Orchestra. Antonio Nuñez is active as a soloist and is the
founder and leader of the Swiss Chamber Orchestra, with which he has toured
Europe, the Americas and Japan.
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VILLA-LOBOS: Cello Sonata No. 2 / Piano Trio No. 2