BRAZILIAN PORTRAIT: VILLA-LOBOS AND THE GUIITAR MUSIC OF BRAZILÂ (Gerald Garcia) (Naxos: 8.550226)
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Villa-Lobos & The Guitar Music of Brazil
All of the music on this recording was written for the guitar orinspired by its magical sound. In Brazil, the guitar is the solo instrument parexcellence and has been used in classical as well as popular music. It is atraditional instrument of the chor?Áes who were originally working class, mainlyamateur musicians. They formed groups very much like the jazz bands in NewOrleans and transformed the popular European music of the late nineteenth centuryinto something more vital and syncopated, reminiscent of the rhythms of theAfrican slaves (slavery was abolished in Brazil in 1888). Foremost among theearly chor?Áes was Jo?úo Pernambuco (1883- 1947), an untrained musician whoearned his living as an iron-worker, but supplemented his income by playing inclubs and bars with his group Cax?ónga. It was on these occasions that he metHeitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959), a towering figure in the history of Brazilianmusic, who gained his musical training as a chor?úo in the streets of Rio deJaneiro as much as in the Conservatoire in Paris. Villa-Lobos was responsiblefor notating many of Pernambuco's improvisations, and indeed was influenced bythem, as evidenced by the similarity of the opening of Sonha de Magia (Dreamsof magic) to that of Prelude No.5. The Ch??ro, P?? de Mico (translated roughly asItching Powder) must surely have affected the Ch??ros of Villa-Lobos, classicalversions of the popular form, for many and varied instrumental combinations.
The Preludes written in 1940 and dedicated to his wife, Mindinha, are on theother 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 atthe theatre in Rio.
Villa-Lobos was also outstanding as an educator and it was in hiscapacity as Director of music education for Brazil that he met the UruguayanIsaias Savio (1902-1977) who was active as a concert guitarist and teacher inthe country villages of Brazil at the time. Sonha laia (Dream of laia, a god ofthe Macumba), Ser?Áes (a Modinha, slow and melancholy) and Batucada (a livelydance of African origin) are all taken from his series, Scenas Brasileiras -Brazilian Scenes, which were the inspiration for my own arrangements of theBrazilian children's songs Como Pode O Peixe (How can you live like the fish?),Nesta Rua (In our street) and Samba L?¬le (Samba Lele). They are dedicated toErnesto Nazareth, Villa-Lobos and Savio, all avid collectors of folk music. Itwas in the back streets of Rio that Savio met and taught a young guitarist whowas playing a new type of music which was a fusion of American jazz and theBrazilian Samba. The guitarist was Luis Bonfa (b. 1922) and the musical stylewas called Bossa Nova - New Beat. Bonfa's subtle harmonic language anddistinctive syncopated rhythms were brought to the notice of a wider audiencewhen he wrote and played the music for the cult film Black Orpheus, a moderninterpretation of Orpheus in the Underworld set in Rio de Janeiro at Carnavaltime. This recorded version of Manh?ú de Carnaval (Morning of the Carnival) fromBlack Orpheus is an improvisation based on the playing of Bonfa himself.
Passeio no Rio (Walking in Rio) is a samba arranged by the fine guitaristCarlos Barbosa-Lima.
Pre-eminent among the composers who developed the Bossa into aworldwide language is Antonio Carlos Jobim (b.1927), whose delicately chromaticmelodies owe much to the cool jazz lyricism of musicians like Stan Getz andMiles Davis. All Jobim's music is conceived in terms of the sound of theguitar, but it is usually heard as songs backed by a jazz band, not unlike thesongs of Schubert, many of which were first composed with guitar accompaniment.
It was guitar virtuosos like Roberto Baden-Powell (b.1937) whose recitals andrecordings restored the link between the guitar and Bossa Nova. He isrepresented on this recording by his own evocative pieces Retrato Brasileiro(Brazilian Portrait), Deve ser Amor (lt had to be Love) and Canto de Osanha asweIl as the stunning arrangement of Samba do Avi?úo (Airplane Samba), written byJobim as an ecstatic response to landing in Rio after a tour abroad.
Another virtuoso who set the scene for Brazilian-Jazz fusion as farback as the 1940s is Laurindo Almeida (b.1917). He was not only a seminalinfluence in Stan Kenton's orchestra, but is also a fine classical guitaristwho was the first person to record al1 of the Preludes of Villa-lobos, apersonal friend and admirer. One of Almeida's best known pieces, Braziliance,is a return to an older style of music, the Ch??ros. A similar return to theroots of Brazilian music is the X?óranga do V??vo by the young guitarist andcomposer Celso Machado (b.1953). This is a maxixe, a dance which was one of theoriginal sources of the Ch??ros, the musical soul of Brazil, or as Villa-lobosput it, Alma Brasileira.
At his 1979 Wigmore Hall debut in London, one critic hailed GeraldGarcia as a performer of rare quality and he has been described by JohnWilliams as one of today's foremost guitarists. Garcia has made many tours ofthe Far East and Europe and has appeared at the major international festivalsin Great Britain, including the Edinburgh, Aldeburgh and South Bank Festivals.
His concert engagements have included performances with many leading ensemblesand soloists, among them the London Sinfonietta, John Williams and Friends andPaco Pena. As a teacher and lecturer he has been involved in workshops with theEnglish National Opera and Kent Opera, while the breadth of his musicalsympathies is evident in his arrangements of Chinese and Celtic music forguitar and orchestra, a significant extension of the guitar repertoire. Withthe flautist Clive Conway he has toured and broadcast extensively in Britainand has played at the Glastonbury Pop Festival and on the ocean liner the QEII.
Gerald Garcia was born in Hong Kong, which he left for schooling atRatcliffe 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 busycareer as a recitalist, soloist and a conductor of chamber orchestras.