2009: the Ano Villa-Lobos

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The year of the 50th Anniversary of the death of Villa-Lobos - dubbed the Ano Villa-Lobos in Brazil - marks the high-water mark (so far) for the reputation of the composer.  Here are some of the highlights of the Villa-Lobos Year, as seen from the Villa-Lobos Eyrie, high atop the city of Red Deer, Alberta.

January: with 47 concerts in the Villa-Lobos Website database, including one with Choros #06 in Warsaw.  The big news in Brazil was the firing of conductor John Neschling from the Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo (Osesp).  I was sad to learn about the death of Villa-Lobos scholar and pianist Ana Stella Schic .

February: 57 concerts.  The 2009 Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro had a Villa-Lobos theme.  Concert highlights included Uirapuru in Porto, Momoprecoce in McLean VA, Piano Concerto #1 in Curitiba, and the Piano Trios in Miami Beach.

March: 119 concerts, with many on the 5th, Villa's birthday, which was once again officially proclaimed in Brazil as the Dia da Música Clássica.  There was a major Villa-Lobos Celebration at the New England Conservatory, and a rare performance of Nonetto in Mendoza, Argentina.

April: 74 concerts, including Genesis in Rio, another performance of the Nonetto in Brasilia (we desperately need a new recording of this great chamber work), and Choros #10 in Mainz.  Another highlight was the Aldo Parisot Celebration at Yale [left], while the inclusion of the 9th Bachianas Brasileiras in the massively-promoted YouTube Symphony Orchestra's concert at Carnegie Hall was a major event in Villa-Lobos lore. Marcelo Bratke had lots of Villa-Lobos irons in the fire in 2009, though we haven't seen too much of them on the web.

May: 87 concerts.  Choros #06 was performed in Buenos Aires; Choros #10 in New York, and Choros #06 and 09 in Porto; Amazonas in Rio; and Forest of the Amazon ballet in Recife.  The Quinteto Villa-Lobos launched a new CD, “Villa-Lobos – Um Clássico Popular”.

June: 60 concerts.  Michael Tilson Thomas conducted the London SO in a well-received performance of Choros #10 in London.  The month also included tragedy, though, with the death of the Brazilian conductor Silvio Barbato aboard Air France Flight 447.

July: 64 concerts.  July saw the centennial of the Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro, where Villa-Lobos had many triumphs.  Musical highlights included Uirapuru in Buenos Aires, and the Sexteto Mistico and the Quatuor in Campinas.  July was the 50th Anniversary of the recording sessions for the great Miles Davis album Sketches of Spain, which included Gil Evans' arrangement of the second movement from Bachianas Brasileiras #2.  In July 2009 Robert Irving III, who worked closely with Miles Davis, presented his Villa-Lobos hommage, the Sketches of Brazil suite, in Chicago.

August: 107 concerts.  Two complete cycles included the Bachianas Brasileiras in Tokyo, and the String Quartets in Mexico City, with the Cuarteto Latinoamericano.  August also saw the XVth Rio International Cello Encounter.  The Discovery of Brazil was performed in Buenos Aires.  The Argentines were lucky to hear so many important Villa-Lobos performances in 2009.  A big story in August was the discovery of a lost score by Villa-Lobos.

September: 83 concerts.  Roberto Bonfiglio performed the Harmonica Concerto a number of times in 2009, as he has so many times over the years.  His September concert was special though, since it was at the Opera House in Manaus.  Other highlights included Choros #09 in Sao Paulo, and A Menina das Nuvens in Belo Horizonte.  The thrilling performance of Choros #10 at the Last Night of the Proms introduced so many people to what is perhaps Villa's greatest work.  I was thrilled myself to experience it live on High Definition video via satellite.

October: 65 concerts.  Another performance of Choros #09 in Brasilia; this work seems to be entering the standard orchestral repertoire, in South America at any rate.  Another highlight was the concert at Lincoln Center with Dave Brubeck and João Carlos Martins.  The major exhibit Viva Villa! organized by the Arquivo Nacional opened; it closes on January 5, 2010.

November: the Anniversary month, with 151 concerts.  Alfred Heller and the Villa-Lobos Music Society gave an important concert in New York, which included the premiere of a Violin Concerto adapted from the Harmonica Concerto, and a performance of Rudepoema by Heller.  There were also concert performances of Yerma in Lisbon and Paris; Uirapuru in Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, & Goiânia; Missa São Sebastião in Paris; Erosao in Warsaw; the complete String Quartet cycle with Quarteto Radamés Gnattali at the Museu Villa-Lobos; and Momoprecoce & Forest of the Amazon in Miami.  Important jazz projects included those by Projeto B and the Steve Griggs Ensemble.   The 47th Festival Villa-Lobos was a major success.

December: 60 concerts.  There was lots of Villa-Lobos in Paris: Le Week-end Villa-Lobos at France Musique, and the International Conference "Hommage a Villa-Lobos".  There was a performance of Choros #10 in Rio de Janeiro, and the Sexteto Mistico & Quarteto Simbolico in Sao Paulo.

All in all it's been a major year for Villa-Lobos: a total of 974 concerts in the database (and, of course, I always miss quite a few).  I'll add a post about 2009 recordings real soon.