Brazil 200 celebrations with The Keyboard Charitable Trust – ‘On wings of song’

George Fu-Thomas Kelly -Simone Tavoni-Sasha Grynyuk

Some extraordinary performances in the Cunard Hall in Trafalgar Square now the distinguished ‘Sala Brazil’ of the Brazilian Embassy.The 200th anniversary of Brazil and the 30th of the Keyboard Trust and a celebration concert of four star pianists from the KCT stable.George Fu played music by Nepomuceno and the Saudades do Brasil by Milhaud ;Simone Tavoni played Bachianas Brasileiras n 4 by Villa Lobos ;Thomas Kelly the Sonata n.1 by Mignone and Sasha Grynyuk the monumental Rudepoema by Villa Lobos.After the wonderful celebration cake and champagne I did my homework to know more about these works .In particular the remarkably original Sonata by Mignone every bit as powerful as the better known Rudepoema .I share with you my voyage of discovery :

His Excellency the Brazilian Ambassador Fred Arruda
The celebration cake
Geoffrey Shindler – Chairman of the KCT.Thanking his Excellency Ambassador Arruda and also Minister – Counsellor Roberto Doring Pinho da Silva and Joao Paulo Tavares Fernandes,Head of the Cultural Section and of course Sarah Biggs General manager of the KCT- the orchestrators of this important partnership

The Saudades do Brasil (1920), Op. 67, are a suite of twelve dances for piano by Darius Milhaud.Composed after Milhaud’s visit to Brazil in 1917-1918, each dance is based on a duple tango or samba rhythm and bears the name of a place or neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro.The title of the suite uses the Portuguese term saudade.The work is well known for its use of polytonality though sections may also be considered extended tonality or, “harmonic colour”.George Fu played 1/3/7/8/6 with insinuating rhythms, rumbustious dance,sultry melodic meanderings and a startling freedom that brought this selection vividly to life

George Fu
  1. Sorocaba (dedicated to Madame Regis de Oliveira)
  2. Botafogo (dedicated to Oswald Guerra)
  3. Leme (dedicated to Nininha Velloso-Guerra)
  4. Copacabana (dedicated to Godofredo Leão Velloso)
  5. Ipanema (dedicated to Arthur Rubinstein)
  6. Gávea (dedicated to Madame Henrique Oswald)o
  7. Corcovado (dedicated to Madame Henri Hoppenot)
  8. Tijuca (dedicated to Ricardo Viñes)
  9. Sumaré (dedicated to Henri Hoppenot)
  10. Paineiras (dedicated to La Baronne Frachon)
  11. Laranjeiras (dedicated to Audrey Parr)
  12. Paysandu (dedicated to Paul Claudel)
Simone Tavonil

The Bachianas Brasileiras ( an approximate English translation might be Bach-inspired Brazilian pieces) are a series of nine suites by Heitor Villa Lobos written for various combinations of instruments and voices between 1930 and 1945. They represent a fusion of Brazilian folk and popular music on the one hand and the style of J.S. Bach on the other, as an attempt to freely adapt a number of Baroque harmonic and contrapuntal procedures to Brazilian music .Most of the movements in each suite have two titles: one “Bachian” (Preludio, Fuga, etc.), the other Brazilian (Embolada, O canto da nossa terra, etc.).Simone played with crystalline sounds of great beauty and child like simplicity with an explosion of temperament with clashes of drums and a mixture of excitement and mystery.

Simone Tavoni

Number 4 scored for piano (1930–41); orchestrated in 1942 (Preludio dedicated to Tomas Terán; Coral dedicated to José Vieira Brandao Ária dedicated to Sylvio Salem’s ; Dança dedicated to Antonieta Rudge Müller).

  • Prelúdio (Introdução)
  • Coral (Canto do Sertão)
  • Ária (Cantiga)
  • Danza (Miudinho)(a type of dance, the word itself meaning “choosy”, “niggling”) as spelled on p. 45 of the orchestra score,and, twice in the piano version and once for the orchestral version.
Thomas Kelly

Francisco Mignone composed Sonata No. 1 for piano in 1941, this being his first attempt to compose a solo piano piece in great form. It is dedicated to Magda Tagliaferro.James Melo states that this is the first Brazilian sonata for piano however, Alberto Nepomuceno’s sonata preceded it by almost 50 years (1894).Francisco Paulo Mignone (September 3, 1897, São Paulo – February 19, 1986, Rio de Janeiro ) was one of the most significant figures in Brazilian classical music ,and one of the most significant Brazilian composers after Villa – Lobos .In 1968 he was chosen as Brazilian composer of the year.Thomas gave a performance of virtuosity with a kaleidoscopic range of sounds.Some astonishingly original sounds in the second movement and extraordinary virtuosity in the third.A tour de force of resilience and invention from this recent top prize winner in the Leeds International Piano Competition

Thomas Kelly

Sonata Nº1 was premiered in Rio de Janeiro by pianist Arnaldo Estrella. Mignone’s wife, Liddy, wrote about the piece: “This sonata is a kind of example of the new Brazilian musical spirit”. Luiz Hector de Azevedo pointed out that Mignone was actually expressing orchestral timbres on the piano. Eurico Nogueira France talks about a “national atmosphere and Brazilian aroma”, but does not specify passages in which these characteristics can be found.

Structured in three movements, Moderato- Andantino/quasi Allegretto – Moderato The Sonata presents two brief references to Brazilian rhythmic figurations, one in the first and the other in the last movement. Its technical demands favor the aspects of subtlety rather than vigor. The melodic contours tend to be more conventional and provide a strong melodic orientation in all three movements. These are characterized by a certain emphasis on the third interval, although the treatment receives different features. Mignone develops his melodies (themes) through repetitions, sequential treatment, occasional inversions, and even the displacement from a previously highlighted melody to an internal voice.

The harmonic tension of the piece is established through the use of bitonal sonorities, fourth chords, augmented octaves,   tonal clusters , with the exception of maintaining a prevailing tonal orientation. Tension is also influenced by the recording of dissonances, dynamics and chord spacing.

The first movement has the indication of “ Moderato ” starting with an agitated figuration performed in both hands.

The figuration remains in the right hand while the left introduces the theme in octaves

The development section is brief and in the recap the themes are returned in reverse order. The key of C minor remains an important tonal center in this first movement.

The second movement is an “ Andantino, almost allegretto ” written in ABA form. The first melodic contour, as in the first movement emphasizes the third interval (S-D) and is very regular in its phraseology of sustained chords in clusters with staccato

– second movement

The sustained melody technique between staccato accompaniment is also used by Mignone in the second movement of Sonatina No. 3. The diatonic character of this theme moves into a more robust and more dramatic middle section in which bitonality and false relations add tension to the field.

The first melodic fragment of this “ Andantino, quasi allegretto ” always reappears with variations. The proximity to the melodic contour of the first movement becomes more pronounced with each reenactment. In the last bars the melodic contour of the first movement is briefly stated, consolidating an intentional relationship between the movements.

George Fu with Thomas Kelly

The third movement, again in sonata form, emphasizes the Scherzo character and uses the cross-hands feature in its first melodic contour. The second melodic contour emphasizes the samba rhythm, delineated by the upper notes played by the right hand.

The development and recap follow the traditional scheme and end with a codetta with bitonal chord sequences written in opposite motion

As in much of Mignone’s pianistic work, the figurations “fit” in the hands, allowing for fluency in the execution. The sonata principle is confirmed by a consolidated structural unit, both thematically and harmonically.

Sasha Grynyuk

Rudepoêma by Heitor Villa-Lobos,was written in Rio de Janeiro from 1921 to 1926 and is the largest and most challenging work Villa-Lobos wrote for the solo piano It has been described as “Le Sacre du printemps” meets the Brazilian jungle.The score’s dedicatee, Artur Rubinstein explained,the ‘Rude’ of the title did not have the English meaning. In Brazil it meant ‘savage’. When I asked him if he considered me a savage pianist, he said excitedly, ‘We are both savage! We don’t care much for pedantic detail. I compose and you play, off the heart, making the music live, and this is what I hope I expressed in this work'”. This is Rubinstein’s historic live recording :https://youtu.be/LW53963bf08.

Sasha played with total mastery. An impossibly ungrateful score that he devoured like a master and held us all in astonishment and admiration for the continuous outpouring of demonic sounds.

Sasha Grynyuk

The piece was intended as a tonal portrait Artur Rubinstein, who premiered the work at the Salle Gaveau in Paris on 24 October 1927, on the first of a pair of concerts devoted to Villa-Lobos’s compositions.The (Portuguese) dedication of the score to Rubinstein reads, “My true friend, I do not know if I can have fully assimilated your soul with this Rudepoema but I swear with all my heart that I have the impression in my mind of having recorded your temperament and of having mechanically transcribed it on paper, like an intimate Kodak.Therefore, if I have succeeded, you will be the true author of this work”.It is rhapsodic in style and elastic in its structure. It is filled with varied rhythms and dynamic tempo changes which are meant to portray Rubinstein’s brilliant and varied personality.

The two main themes of the work are presented at the outset, the first one in the bass register in the left hand, the second answering it in the right hand. Fragments of both themes are clearly audible throughout the composition, which reaches its climax only five bars from the end, with the right hand raining four fortissimo blows on three low notes, C, B, and A.

George Fu playing Folhas d’Album and Noturno by Alberto Nepomuceno

The son of a violinist, chapel master and music educator, Alberto Nepomuceno was born in the northeastern Brazilian city of Fortaleza in 1864. After completing his early music studies, in 1888 Nepomuceno left for Rome where he studied with Sgambati. Two years later he went to Berlin to study with Lechetizky. In 1893 he married Walborg Rendtler Bang, who had been one of Grieg’s pupils. Grieg, a proponent of musical nationalism, encouraged Nepomuceno to establish a Brazilian national school of composition. Several key works were composed during this time, including his third string quartet, which is one of the earliest works to incorporate Brazilian folklore into European musical forms. In 1894 Nepomuceno returned to Brazil where he taught at the National Institute of Music. In 1910 he gave a series of concerts in Belgium, France and Switzerland; during this trip he also became good friends with Debussy. After returning to Brazil he continued to fight for the use of Portuguese in opera and song. He also taught many students, including Villa-Lobos.Some charming salon pieces played by George Fu with all the charm and ravishing sounds of pieces by a disciple of Sgambati ( who is well known via his beautiful transcription of Orfeo by Gluck played by Rachmaninov and many others after him ).George is not only an illustrious graduate from Curtis in Philadelphia but also of our own Royal Academy in London.Not forgetting that he is an economics graduate from Harvard.Not only a marvellous brain but a heart of gold as he showed us with his great ease and charm today.

On the back of the letter of Mascagni that was given to me by our dear friend Licia Mancini,student of Guido Agosti who played many times in Siena for Giuranna and Brengola and also in the Ghione theatre in Rome.From Sgambati’s son in thanks to Licia’s father for helping his father win a competition in 1889 where Cavalleria Rusticana was born
Geoffrey Schindler with Noretta and John Leech
Richard and Elena Bridges – Katya and Sasha Grynyuk-Noretta and John Leech – Angela Ransley
Leslie Howard with Noretta Conci Leech
George Fu with Noretta
Roy Emerson – Simone Tavoni – Elena and Richard Bridges
Thomas Kelly – Canan Maxton- Sarah Biggs – Alberto Portugheis
Mario S F Silva Brazilian cultural project manager with Simone,George and Thomas
The ‘boys’ from the KCT
Letter from Mascagni that sits in my studio

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