Heitor Villa-Lobos was by all accounts a prodigious, larger than life figure, explosively passionate, often impossibly difficult, uncompromising in his demands, and prolifically creative. His works for solo piano are not so well known as, say, his compositions for guitar or orchestra. But his output for piano was quite extensive, and much of it is among his best work, as the selections on this CD will make clear.
Alma Brasileira - a slow, yearning melody floats above a murmuring, syncopated accompaniment. A passionate rhythmic outburst interrupts, but gradually calms and leads to a return of the opening.
A Lenda do Caboclo – one of Villa-Lobos’ most popular works, it has been arranged for many instrumental combinations. Lenda is roughly equivalent to ballad, and caboclo refers to a native person, often aboriginal or of mixed race.
Ciranda means “circle dance,” and the Cirandas are based on simple Brazilian tunes sung by children while playing circle games, roughly the equivalent of American children’s “London Bridge is Falling Down,” “Farmer in the Dell,” “Ring Around the Rosy,” and the like. The melodies are quite prominent in each piece, but they serve only as points of departure for a tour de force of invention, which uses the piano to create an amazing variety of textures and sonorities. Each of the 16 Cirandas is entirely distinct from the rest, and each stands on its own as a jewel of the piano literature. This set of pieces is justly seen by many as a pinnacle of Villa-Lobos’ output.
Ciclo Brasileiro can be viewed as a day in the life of a group of Brazilian musicians. In the morning, they congregate by a field in the country, singing a “planting song.” The languorous melody is accompanied by a bass, a strummed guitar, and a “cavaquinho” (small, high-pitched guitar) playing rapid figurations.
At siesta time, they return to the city, where they are joined by a larger group and wander the neighborhoods serenading. A beautifully simple waltz tune leads to bursts of virtuosity and passion, somewhat reminiscent of Ravel’s La Valse, but with a Brazilian flavor.
In the evening, they return to the country for a large party, where their wild rhythms and syncopation accompany dancing. At the height of the festivities, the sound of drums is heard in the shadows, and the White Indian (perhaps Villa-Lobos himself) emerges to show what real dancing is all about.
Reviewer David Noble described Sturm’s performance of Ciclo Brasileiro as “glorious to the max.”
Reviewer Margaret Barela praised Sturm’s interpretation of the Cirandas for its “wonderful transparency.”
Fred Sturm was not a child prodigy, did not attend a prestigious conservatory, has not performed at Carnegie Hall, and has never won nor even entered a major or minor competition. He lives in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, New Mexico, with his wife and two cats, and supports himself as a piano technician. His predilection for Brazilian music may stem from the fact that an important formative period of his life - from conception to a month before birth - was spent in Brazil.
Recorded and mastered by Manny Rettinger, UBIK Sound LLC
Recorded in Keller Hall, University of New Mexico, May, September, October 2005
Also by Fred Sturm: American Rags, Brazilian Tangos, and Afrocuban Dances; Piano Music of Ginastera and Villa-Lobos; Spanish Dances.
Alma Brasileira (1925) [5:10]
A Lenda do Caboclo (1920) [3:11]
Cirandas (1926) [41:11]
(Coleçao de 16 peças sobre temas populares brasileiros)
1 Terezinha de Jesus
2 A Condessa
3 Senhora Dona Sancha
4 O Cravo Brigou Com a Rosa / Sapo Jururu
5 Pobre Cega / Toada da Rede
6 Passa, Passa, Gavião
7 Xô, Xô, Passarinho
8 Vamos Atras da Serra Calunga
9 Fui no Tororó
10 O Pintor de Cannahy
11 Nesta Rua, Nesta Rua
12 Olha o Passarinho Dominé
13 À Procura de Uma Agulha
14 A Canoa Virou
15 Que Lindos Olhos
16 Có, Có, Có
Ciclo Brasieiro (1936-37) [19:57]
1 Plantio do Caboclo
2 Impressões Seresteiras
3 Festa no Sertão
4 Dansa do Indio Branco
Total playing time, [69:45]
© 2008, Fred S. Sturm
Produced by Sturm und Drang Productions, Albuquerque, NM