A wonderful evening in celebration of Brazil 200 and the Keyboard Trust 30.It is the second concert in this series generously promoted by the Brazilian Embassy .A series in which the music of Brazil is part of the project ‘Brasil em Concerto’ developed by the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to promote music by Brazilian composers dating back to the 18th century.A marriage made on wings of song in the historic Cunard Hall now restored to its antique splendor and rechristened Sala Brazil. Damir Durmanovic and Can Arisoy filled this hallowed hall with sumptuous music of Alberto Nepomuceno ,Villa Lobos and a Brazil inspired Milhaud.
Playing with such superb performances by two pianist on the threshhold of a professional career having both been students of Marcel Baudet at the Menuhin School since their teens.Damir now a graduate of the class of Alexeev at the Royal College of Music and Can about to graduate from the class of Ronan O’Hora at the Guildhall, they both gave performances of such musicianship and technical command that made one wonder why these works of Nepomuceno have ,remained in obscurity for so long.
Le Boeuf sur Le Toit – Brazil inspired by Milhaud brought these two superb musicians together with a performance of irresistible elan and style …..it must be the longest encore piece ever.Milhaud said that he composed Le Bœuf sur le toit as “fifteen minutes of music, rapid and gay, as a background to any Charlie Chaplin silent movie”.The composer spent two years in Brazil in the French diplomatic service during the First World War , and was influenced by its music in his own compositions. There have been various explanations of the title: that the title was taken from the sign-board of a tavern, and another, that it is from an old Parisian legend of a man in a top-floor flat who insisted on keeping a calf, which grew into a large ox, too big to be removed. Milhaud himself said that it was the title of a Brazilian folk dance.The music cycles through all the major keys and some minor ones and Milhaud quoted extensively from Brazilian tunes. There are more than 20 pieces by 14 Brazilian composers referred to in the score but the lively opening motif is Milhaud’s own invention and recurs throughout.Jean Cocteau persuaded Milhaud to let the music be used for a ballet that made its first appearance in 1920 at the Teatre de Champs -Elysées
The only thing to do after such a scintillating performance was to open a bottle or two of superb Brazilian wine and toast to the next voyage of discovery of this treasure trove of Brazilian music
Alberto Nepomuceno (July 6, 1864 – October 16, 1920) began to study music with his father, a violinist, organist, teacher and chapel-master at the Fortaleza Cathedral. In 1872, he and his family moved to Recife, also in Northeastern Brazil, where he started to study the piano and violin. In 1888 he left for Europe where in Rome he took lessons from Sgambati and moving to Berlin in 1890 he studied composition with Heinrich von Herzogenberg and piano with Theodor Leschetizky. In Leschetizky’s class, he met Norwegian student Walborg Bang, whom he married in 1893. Bang had been a student and friend of Edvard Grieg and after the wedding, Nepomuceno moved to Bergen and lived in Grieg’s house. As Grieg was also an advocate for nationalism in composition, the friendship was instrumental in convincing Nepomuceno to write music which reflected Brazilian culture. Before leaving Europe, he visited Paris, where he met Saint-Saens and d’Indy and on his return to Brazil, he taught at the Instituto Nacional de Música (National Music Institute) in Rio de Janeiro.He returned to Europe in 1910 for a series of concerts in Brussels, Geneva and Paris and during this trip, he became friends with Claude Debussy. Back in Brazil, he championed the use of Portuguese in opera and song and remained the leading musical figure in the country until his death at age 56. Heitor Villa-Lobos was one of his students.
The Suite Antiga op 11
- Prélude (Allegro commodo G minor)
- Menuet (Minuet I. Allegro con spirito — Minuet II — Minuet I da capo; G major)
- Air (Andante espressivo; G minor)
- Rigaudon (Allegro con brio; G minor)
The first performance in 1893 was in Bergen (piano version)
The orchestral version which omits the Prélude was in 1894 with the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by the composer.An infectious sense of rhythmic energy invaded the Prelude,Minueto and Rigaudon.There was grandeur in the Rigaudon and sense of dance with flourishes of great effect in Damir’s musicianly hands.But there was a more reflective middle episode of great nostalgia before the final joyous eruption of dance.It was the sublime beauty of the Aria though,that made such a striking contrast, played with a great sense of colour where the melodic line glowed with a radiance that was most touching.
Damir’s improvisatory link joined the Suite to Valsa da dor by Nepomuceno’s pupil Villa Lobos.It was played with subtle seductive sounds with it’s central passionate outpouring before the gentle surrender of touching beauty.The Valse de la douleur was written in 1932 but not published until 1972 and is a very effective concert piece that deserves to be better known.Heitor Villa-Lobos (March 5, 1887 – November 17, 1959 ) underwent very little formal training in Brazil and after a few abortive harmony lessons, he learnt music by illicit observation from the top of the stairs of the regular musical evenings at his house arranged by his father. He learned to play cello,clarinet and guitar and when his father died suddenly in 1899 he earned a living for his family by playing in cinema and theatre orchestras in Rio.European influences inspired Villa-Lobos and in 1917 Diaghilev made an impact on tour in Brazil with his Ballets Russes.In that same year Villa-Lobos also met the French composer Darius Milhaud who was in Rio as secretary to Paul Claudel at the French Legation. Milhaud brought the music of Debussy,Satie and Stravinsky ; in return Villa-Lobos introduced Milhaud to Brazilian street music. In 1918, he also met the pianist Arthur Rubinstein , who became a lifelong friend and champion and prompted Villa-Lobos to write more piano music.
Nepomuceno’s Sonata in F minor, Opus 9, is the first such work by a Brazilian composer, its three movements suggesting at times the style of Brahms, a reminder that he had studied in Berlin with Brahms’s friend Herzogenberg. Composed in 1893, the sonata was first performed in Rio at the Instituto Nacional by the composer in August 1895 and not published until 2016!
Sonata in F Minor, Op. 9 Allegro con fuoco -Andante espressivo -Allegro con spirito
In Can Arisoy’s hands the sonata was give a performance of great rhythmic energy with its long Brahms like melodic lines in the tenor register played with a noble sense of architectural line.With great authority and technical command it was indeed very like Brahms with its thick almost orchestral texture.