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Brazil Plus 1 & 2

Brazil Plus 1
Programme (not in concert order)...
Heitor Villa-Lobos
Branquinha, Moreninha, Caboclinha, Pobrezinha, Polichinelo from Prole do Bebê Suite No.1;
Francisco Mignone 6 Prelúdios: Andantino, Allegro, Allegro, Calmo e serno, Moderato, Caiçaras-Solene Dança do Botocudo
Chris Sansom The Bossa Nova Variations (World première)
Silvina Milstein
Cristales y Susurros (UK première of quintet version)
Heitor Villa-Lobos Sexteto Mistico; Choros VII; Choros II bis

Flute: Rowland Sutherland Oboe/Cor Anglais: Chris O'Neal Clarinets: Andrew Sparling Saxophone: Duncan Ashby Bassoon: Dick Skinner Harp: Helen Cole Piano Richard Casey Guitar: Alan Thomas Violin: Caroline Balding Cello: Robin Michael

Clélia Iruzun (piano solo); Lontano, conductor Odaline de la Martinez

Purcell Room, 2 April 2008

An enjoyable celebration of mainly Villa-Lobos, with pieces from his vast catalogue ringing the changes on the timbral scope available from ten top-line free-lancers under the direction of Odaline de la Martinez [pictured].

Before Lontano took the stage after the interval, there had been a short 'set' of Brazilian piano pieces, beginning with Prole do Bebê which used to be championed by Rubinstein, to put us into the right mood, given with idiomatic perfection by pianist specialist Clélia Iruzun.

de la Martinez is a famous expert on Brazilian music, of which we in UK are woefully ignorant and, as she conducted, she visibly danced the rhythms of tonight's selection, before inviting the whole audience to come and help her pop the corks and drink bubbly with the performers afterwards.

Each Villa-Lobos work was for a different piquant line-up, the most surprising maybe Chôros Bis for violin & cello (1928), which deserves to hold a repertoire place alongside the innovative Ravel duo sonata.

From two UK based composers, Silvina Milstein's delicate reduction for quintet of Cristales y Susurros (whispering crystals) repeated its evocation of "ripples left by the pleasures and intimacy of a magical night" as in a Lontano at 30 concert in 2006. Chris Sansom's The Bossa Nova Variations played all sorts of tricks on the idiom, with a parodic tune subjected to a 'recipe' of dislocating treatments; a considerable hit with the audience, who made up for their numbers with enthusiastic responses.

The Purcell Room was the place to be last night, but only about 100 people made it there so it was about 2/3 empty. Don't miss next week's Brazil Plus 2.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Brazil Plus 2

Clélia Iruzun (piano solo) pictured

Francisco Mignone Lenda Sertaneja No.2; Valsa de Esquina No.8; Congada
Ernesto Nazareth Carioca; Odeon
Ameno Resedá; Correcta and Brejeiro (with Andrew Sparling, clarinet)

Lontano, conductor Odaline de la Martinez...

Drew Wilson A Prenda (World première)
Heitor Villa-Lobos Danças Africanas
(European and UK première of recently discovered score)
Jeroen Speak lingua e realidade (World première)
Francisco Mignone Fantasia no. 3 for solo piano (Clélia Iruzun) and strings
Heitor Villa-Lobos Bachianas no.9

Rowland Sutherland Andrew Sparling Richard Casey Caroline Balding Andrew Roberts Marcus Barcham-Stevens
Fiona McCapra Ruth Ehrlich Gordon MacKay Jane Atkins Rose Redgrave Marina Ascherson Robin Michael
Bozidar Vukotic Richard Pryce Ben Russell

Purcell Room 9 April 2008

Whether or not some had been alerted by our report above (I have seen no others) the second of these La Linea 08/Lontano events was better attended.

Formally, the concert was more satisfactory, with Andrew Sparling of Lontano joining Clélia Iruzun in the first half, and she contributing a dashing solo performance in the Mignone Fantasia with string orchestra. But the chosen works of Mignone and Nazareth did little to persuade us that these are composers of enduring interest, nor was Villa-Lobos' originality well represented by his unknown African Dances or by the baroque take on JSB in his Bachianas no.9.

The two recent novelties, however, were each well worth a hearing. Drew Wilson's samba-inspired A Prenda featured flutes and clarinets in their various sizes, and New Zealand born composer Jeroen Speak's piece for piano trio was the highlight, exploiting extended techniques, subtle timbres and silences to good effect; both works to hear again, Speak's lingua e realidade especially warranting wider currency.*

A word about presentation of these two concerts; the programme sheets were supplied with rather limited information and in miniscule print - some programme changes had to be announced (not very clearly) from the platform leaving a degree of confusion - I only realised after hearing it which had been Sansom's attractive piece in the first concert...

For the second concert there were interminable platform arrangement changes between the items, during which the audience was left in sepulchral darkness, unable to read their programme notes (this is a frequently misconceived attempt to provide 'atmosphere')... q.v. my Let there be light!


* Jeroen Speak’s clarinet piece “Epeisodos” was visually as well as aurally compelling, as the clarinettist, Gretchen Dunsmore, moved slowly along an elongated music-score supported by four music-stands, giving us a very palpable sense of a journey. Composer and performer elicit an extraordinary range of sounds during the course of this piece, Speak equating its somewhat tortured progress with the “condition of artists and their need to push the boundaries”, parameters whose boundaries were unequivocally, and at times uncomfortably explored. (Victoria University School of Music, 2001)

Do explore the links above, and see also recent reviews of large-scale Villa-Lobos on disc