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Blue Rose Duo | Villa-Lobos

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Classical: Chamber Music Classical: Impressionism Moods: Type: Lyrical
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by Blue Rose Duo

A secret Brazilian treasure trove of lyrical and charming miniatures, discover Villa-Lobos' collection of precious gems for cello and piano.
Genre: Classical: Chamber Music
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Preludio No. 2
4:53 $0.99
2. Capriccio
4:36 $0.99
3. Divagacao (Wandering)
3:00 $0.99
4. Improviso No. 7
2:32 $0.99
5. Pequena Suite: I. Romancette
2:40 $0.99
6. Pequena Suite: II. Legendaria
0:49 $0.99
7. Pequena Suite: III. Harmonias soltas
2:47 $0.99
8. Pequena Suite: IV. Fugato all'antica
1:07 $0.99
9. Pequena Suite: V. Melodia
2:43 $0.99
10. Pequena Suite: VI. Gavotte-Scherzo
3:11 $0.99
11. O Canto do Cisne Negro (Song of the Black Swan)
3:24 $0.99
12. Bachianas Brasileiras No. 2: I. Prelude: O Canto do Capadocio (Song of the Scoundrel)
6:17 $0.99
13. Bachianas Brasileiras No. 2: II. Aria: O Canto da Nossa Terra (The Song of Our Land)
4:42 $0.99
14. Bachianas Brasileiras No. 2: III. Toccata: O Trensinho do Caipira (The Little Country Train)
4:00 $0.99
15. Sonhar (Dreaming)
2:38 $0.99
16. Elegie
5:08 $0.99
17. Berceuse (Lullaby)
2:56 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Brazil, Bach, and the Cello: The Hidden Treasure of Heitor Villa-Lobos -by Lars Hoefs

Villa’s works for cello and piano are a collection of precious gems, a treasure trove of lyrical and charming miniatures. But unlike the emerald, amethyst, and cat's eye aquamarine culled from Brazil’s mines and disseminated to the far corners of the globe, this cache of cellistic jewels remains a tropical secret, hidden by dense rainforests and spectacular mountains, secured by ranks of cold-blooded caiman and giant Amazonian trees standing guard over the untold bounty…

Besides a substantial Cello Sonata, this disc represents the complete works for cello and piano of Villa-Lobos. With the exception of Bachianas Brasileiras No. 2 (1930) and Divagação (1946), all selections on this album come from the years 1913-17, pre-dating Villa’s 30th birthday. These late-romantic, quasi-impressionist pieces present the composer’s wild gift already in full flower. Wherever Rose and I perform these outside Brazil, audiences are left astounded, asking, “does anyone know about these?” We’re hoping that with this album, a few more people will!

At the age of 6 Villa first encountered what would always be his favorite instrument, the cello. His first lessons were on a converted viola and given by his father, respected author and assistant librarian of the Biblioteca Nacional, and amateur cellist as well. One year later he was improvising simple melodies based on the cantigas de roda, música sertaneja folk songs he’d absorbed in his family’s 6-month sojourn through the northeast countryside. (They were forced to flee Rio on account of his father’s polemical articles which antagonized the volatile vice-president, coupled with a misconstrued accusation of library book theft, long story… )

Back in a forgiving Rio de Janeiro, every Saturday night, after his chess match, Villa-Lobos père opened his home to any instrument-wielding friends for a chamber music soiree that would go late into the night. The father was constantly testing the son, drilling him on any musical work he heard, even demanding any mundane noise be described in musical pitches whether it was a bird’s call or a train’s whistle; everything was music.

At the age of 8 Villa discovered the composer who would always be his favorite, J.S. Bach. He listened enraptured at his Aunt Zizinha’s feet as she played through the preludes and fugues of The Well-Tempered Clavier. Instinctively, Villa drew an association between Bach and música caipira, the Brazilian folk music he’d been hearing all around him. (In his dissertation, David Chew demonstrates how Bach’s Cello Suite No. 2 Prelude becomes a modinha by moving the barline over by one quarter-note!)

Villa always showed great interest in folk and popular music, but his father routinely discouraged it. With his death in 1899, Raúl Villa-Lobos continued to further his son’s musical education from beyond the grave, albeit in a direction he wouldn’t have chosen. Paternal prohibitions lifted (though similar maternal ones persisted), Villa was able to seek out his heroes of Rio’s nightly jam sessions, the chorinhos. These guys would improvise music all night, in between drinks. To ingratiate himself with the circle of virtuosic instrumentistas, Villa sold off his father’s prized personal library and used the cash to buy cachaça (sugar-based rum) for the serenaders, imbibing all he could from the nocturnal nonpareil professors.

The greatest source of inspiration to Villa was always Brazil. The young man’s odysseys took him throughout the gigantic nation, from his home in the cidade maravilhosa (marvelous city) of Rio de Janeiro to the German- and Italian-colonized south, up to the radial point of the country’s African diaspora in the northeast and on into the interior, through the dusty sertão backlands and finally among only the indigenous indians in the heart of the Amazon jungle, revealing to him his homeland’s enormous wealth and diversity manifest in its folk music and culture. He played many of the works on this album with his first wife Lucilia at the piano on some of these tours, including O Trensinho do Caipira, inspired by the little country trains they rode. He sought in his quests freedom, new discoveries, and his own musical identity as a Brazilian. The largely self-taught composer was later fond of saying “The map of Brazil was my harmony textbook.”

As he had connected Bach with Brazilian music, Villa also conflated Bach with the cello. He arranged a number of preludes and fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier for cello and piano, and even more for cello orchestra (orquestra de violoncelos). An early expression of this fusion is the Pequena Suite, exhibiting the 6-movement suite form of Bach’s Cello Suites, and specifically two baroque-referencing movements, Fugato all’antica and Gavotte-Scherzo.

The Brazil/Bach/Cello trinity would reach maturity in Villa’s remarkable synthesis, the Bachianas Brasileiras (untranslatably, ‘Bachian Brazilians’). A genre of his own invention, consisting of 9 suites, this unique amalgam joins aspects of Brazilian traditional and popular music with elements of Bach’s musical language such as harmony, ornamentation, sequence, and counterpoint. Dedicated to that cello champion of Bach, Pablo Casals, Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1 started the series off with a bang as the first work in the history of music for cello ensemble. Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 for cello orchestra and soprano would become his most celebrated work, in particular the Aria (Cantilena). While most of the suites were scored for large ensembles, two of them are chamber works. Bachianas Brasileiras No. 6 is a duo for flute and bassoon, but in my obsession for Villa, and in what I fancy to be an extrapolation of his own penchant for cello arrangements, I detuned my C-string down to reach the bassoon’s B-flat and was the first to perform and record No. 6 on the cello, with the excellent flautista Claudia Ribeiro do Nascimento. The other chamber Bachianas is No. 2.

Bachianas Brasileiras No. 2 exists in two versions, one orchestral and one for cello and piano; scholars can’t agree on which came first. In all nine Bachianas each movement has two titles, one baroque and one Brazilian - Villa’s own brand of binomial nomenclature. Bachianas Brasileiras No. 2 begins with a Prelude also titled O Canto do Capadócio (Song of the Scoundrel). The scoundrel evoked here is characterized by a lingering, deceptive laziness (illustrated with numerous glissandi), traits of the homeless urbanite from Villa’s epoch who does what he can to survive. In the middle we get a genuine samba, the piano instigating the irresistible rhythm that the capadócio might shake on a box of matches, friends forming an impromptu circle, singing and dancing their miseries away. Bach elements are most pronounced in the 2nd movement, Aria: O Canto da Nossa Terra (The Song of our Land), with the chorinho’s guitar still prevalent in the left hand of the piano. The middle section of this song transports us to the blood-drinking, trance-inducing ceremonies of Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian animist religious cult involving violent drumming that calls the gods (orishas) to enter the bodies of the soon-to-be-possessed dancers. A Toccata brings the work to a close, O Trensinho do Caipira (The Little Country Train), one of Villa’s best-recognized melodies. The locomotive takes a while to get going, but eventually achieves a happy chugging (with a steep hill in the middle!). A gradual deceleration is brought to a halt by warning whistles, screeching brakes ( highly unconventional cello techniques), and finally a good thud.

O Canto do Cisne Negro (Song of the Black Swan) is in fact the excerpted ending from Villa’s ballet-pantomime O Naufrágio de Klionikos (The Sinking of the Klionikos). A turbulent orchestral score depicts a tempest and the vessel’s undoing, and after the shipwreck all that remains is a mysterious calm, the tragedy hidden from the world, like a black swan gliding over still water, the serene song of the cello, offering no clue as to what lies hidden beneath…

Astonishingly prolific, Villa considered composition a “biological necessity.” His catalog comprises more than 800 works, though evidence suggests there could have been as many as a few hundred more – some completed and lost (as in the Trio for flute, cello and piano), others perhaps conceived but never realized. His treatment of form couldn’t be further removed from the motivic-cell-development model perfected by the 19th century German masters. Like other great Latin American composers of his era (Chávez and Revueltas in Mexico, Ginastera in Argentina), Villa abandoned the German model in search of a simultaneously personal and national voice (though fin de siècle French music certainly left an ‘impression!’). In Villa’s music, there is very little development of material in the German sense, priority given instead to spontaneous invention, flashes of inspiration. His music reflects his own personal wanderlust and the improvisational nature at the heart of the folk and popular music he loved, and is evidenced in the titles themselves: Divagação (Wandering), Sonhar (Dreaming), Capriccio, and Improviso #7. Above all, this collection of early works highlights Villa’s gift for melody. The only possible answer as to why these pieces remain unknown in the USA must be the unfortunate unavailability of many of the scores outside Brazil.

We close this album with Berceuse, a lullaby. While a lullaby is usually sung mother to child, Villa naturally stands the model on its head and dedicates the piece á minha mãe (to my mother). Similarly, I would like to dedicate this album to my own mother, who started me on the cello at the age of 4 and always accompanied me on the piano. Armed with these hidden gems, through a cloud of rosin-dust and a flurry of horse-hair, I polish them to a gleaming shine and offer up these soaring melodies to meet her spirit above the dense forests and spectacular mountains of nossa terra… á minha mãe, à ma mère, für meine Mutter, to my mother…

-Lars Hoefs, Los Angeles, May 2010

Special thanks to:
The most Brazilian of Englishmen, the world’s foremost authority on Villa’s cello music, Principal Cellist of the Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira, Founder and Director of the Rio International Cello Encounters and Lars’ favorite stand partner, David Chew O.B.E.
The one-stop repository for all things Villa, the Museu Villa-Lobos, and Marcelo Rodolfo and his excellent staff.

Wisconsin-born cellist Lars Hoefs and Taiwanese pianist Rose Chen began playing together in 2003 at the University of Southern California In Los Angeles, where they both earned a Doctorate of Musical Arts. As a Duo and as two-thirds of the Blue Rose Trio, they have spellbound audiences in Alaska, France, Hong Kong, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, Oregon, Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco, Shanghai, Texas, and elsewhere. They won prizes at international competitions, commissioned new works, and curated their own series.
Lars was Assistant Principal Cellist of the Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira in Rio de Janeiro for the 2009 season, has been an annual guest at the Rio International Cello Encounters since 2004, and is cellist of the California Quartet and its Connections Chamber Music Series. Rose is staff accompanist and vocal coach at Biola University, has been a guest artist at the Fairbanks and Marble Falls summer music festivals since 2007, and plays in the tango band Haberdashery Ensemble.

Lars plays a Bernardel cello, Paris, 1855



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