BBC Symphony Orchestra's "Total Immersion" event in London

The BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Barbican have joined forces for a most impressive series of “Total Immersion” events in London focusing on Villa-Lobos.  All events took place on Saturday, March 8, 2014, for a full day of talks and concerts, including a film screening and a community outreach project inspired by the composer’s music.  In addition to the BBC SO conducted by Sakari Oramo, the same concert featured the BBC Symphony Chorus, pianists Martin Roscoe and Kathryn Stott, and soprano Anu Komsu.  Londoners also had the opportunity of hearing musicians from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in chamber selections and the BBC Singers conducted by Celso Antunes, among other performers and ensembles.  Noted Villa-Lobos scholar Simon Wright gave two talks, one introducing the music of Villa-Lobos and the other as a prelude to Humberto Mauro’s 1936 film Descobrimento do Brasil.  In this BBC Radio 3 video and this extended BBC Radio 3 clip from the "Music Matters" program, presenter Tom Service provides an overview of the event, while guitarist John Williams and the aforementioned Celso Antunes, Sakari Oramo, and Simon Wright discuss the composer and his music in context.

Some of the works performed included Bachianas brasileiras Nos. 5 and 9, Choros Nos. 8 and 10, Symphony No. 9, a selection from O Descobrimento do Brasil, Quinteto em forma de choros, Quinteto instrumental, Duas lendas ameríndias em nheengatu, and Bendita sabedoria, among many others.  As Tom Service remarked in his music blog at The Guardian, "Villa-Lobos's output is so gigantic that anything apart from about a month of total immersion couldn't get you close to his real achievement as a musician. "  But the "Total Immersion: Villa-Lobos" event went considerably beyond scratching the surface and was a unique opportunity to explore in one single day the variety of styles he embraced throughout his career, as well as his kaleidoscopic approaches to different genres, instruments, and voices.  Check out the Calendar section for more details.

The Total Immersion concerts were largely well received by London critics Simon Broughton (the arts Andrew Clements (The Guardian), Richard Fairman (Financial Standard), Ivan Hewett (The Telegraph), Nick Kimberley (London Evening Standard), and Richard Whitehouse (The Classical Source).  Referring to the orchestral performance conducted by Sakari Oramo, Kimberley concluded his review by stating, “Perhaps this concert signals a Villa-Lobos revival.”

Musical selections from the Total Immersion concerts were broadcast by BBC Radio 3 as part of its "Afternoon on 3" program on March 18-20, 2014, at 10 a.m. EST (2 p.m. London time).  The complete three episodes were available for seven days after each initial broadcast.  An additional fourth episode with chamber and vocal selections performed by the Guildhall New Music Ensemble was broadcast on April 4, 2014, and will also be available in full for seven days afterwards.  

 March 7, 2014 (w/ updates)