6th November 2013: 'Brazil Three Centuries of Music' at the Bolivar Hall

6th November 2013: 'Brazil Three Centuries of Music' at the Bolivar Hall


The third concert, in a series curated by the pianist Clelia Iruzun, was presented to an enthusiastic audience at the Bolivar Hall on 6th November. The series has been an exciting journey through the rich variety of Brazilian music, and the culminating concert explored a well balanced selection of rarely heard instrumental and chamber music.

Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) was a larger than life character, and whilst his best known pieces have achieved a permanent place in the repertoire, there is much more that deserves our attention. The String Quartet as a form achieved a remarkable renaissance in the 20th Century, and Villa-Lobos contributed 17 to the genre, written throughout his compositional life. His natural affinity, as a string player, is self-evident with its well written parts. So despite being seldom played it was a bold stroke for the Coull Quartet to open the concert with his first essay in the medium. An unconventional 6 movement work, written in 1915, it engagingly explored folk-like elements underlined by colourfully titled movements. The musicians responded to the music’s charm and serenade-like character, with a warm and spontaneous performance which was very well received. It can only be hoped that this response will encourage these fine musicians to program more into future concerts.

Villa-Lobos undoubtedly set the stage for an explosion of new music within Brazil, and showed the next generation what was possible as composers with diverse compositional styles grappled with a dominant European legacy. The composers selected by the violin and piano duo Nadia Myerscough and Clelia Iruzun all had well developed compositional voices with a recognisable Brazilian accent. Almeida Prado (1943-2010) presented a more avant garde voice with his Balada, his pungent style echoing the diverse influences of Messiaen and Ligeti. The work’s alternating moments of drama and melodic reflectivity were superbly handled by the duo and they created a superb momentum in what was a technically challenging piece.

The mellifluous tones of Ronaldo Miranda’s (b1948) Moderato Cantabile acted as a perfect foil, a romantically styled song without words, superbly written for these instruments and played with a perfect appreciation of the idiom.

Surely one of the most illustrious of living composers, Marlos Nobre (b1939) has produced an amazingly consistent body of music, which avoids nationalistic cliches whilst sounding true to his country. Clelia’s empathy with Nobre’s music was self evident, in the ardent Poema, as she revealed its emotional heart, and Nadia tapped into a deeply lyrical vein. This was a truly memorable performance and one which the audience were quick to recognise.

Alongside Villa-Lobos and Camargo Guarnieri (who had just been very served by a performance of his 4th Symphony in London), Franciso Mignone (1897-1986) was at the forefront of the nationalist movement in Brazilian music. The Noturno Sertanejo for violin and piano was inspired by the folkloric tradition of North Eastern Brazil, and this performance perfectly captured its songlike simplicity. and ushered the first half of the concert to a close.

After a break the concert continued where we left off, exploring the oeuvre of Mignone. This is a composer close to Clelia’s heart, and she took centre stage to present the pianistically varied, 6 Transcendental Studies. These pieces expressed colour and abstract effects rather than pianistic virtuosity. Apart from a solemn Bachian introduction, they were like miniature tone poems, which explored fascinating and individual Brazilian worlds, to which Clelia responded with a heartfelt warmth.
Marlos Nobre’s appreciation of the music of Bela Bartok manifests itself brilliantly in his Sonata on a Theme of Bartok, and the final movement, a short but pianistically demanding Toccata, stood alone most effectively. The piece is propelled by an obsessive repeated pattern, with occasional pauses for breath before declamatory Bartokian chords bring it to close. Clelia clearly revelled in this pianistic tour de force, which she executed with great elan.

How to follow that? On came the smiling face of percussionist Anselmo Netto who with Clelia who showed us new horizons in arrangements of music by Villa-Lobos and Ernesto Nazareth (1863-1934), who’s 150th anniversary is being celebrated this year. The additional instrumental accompaniment never overwhelmed or jazzed up the music, but gave it a very atmospheric tinge and enhanced the rhythmic content. The Aria from Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No.4 has a very solemn opening and a plaintiff melody which is interrupted by central dance-inspired section, and is perhaps one of the composer’s most glorious creations. This was captured well and would probably have delighted the composer, taking his music back to its native origins. Nazareth is considered to be the Grandfather of Brazilian national music and wrote numerous dance-inspired piano pieces. The delightful and unpretentious Bambino and Brejeiro worked very well with added instrumental colour and positively sparkled.

As the applause died away on walked Nadia Myerscough and the Coull Quartet for an encore, the evergreen Tico Tico, which was given a sparkling and toe-tapping rendition, and proved to be the perfect conclusion to delightful evening.


If your appetite was whetted by this musical feast or you are just curious to hear more I’d like to strongly recommend these CDs, which include the music heard in the concert and the composers.

Villa-Lobos: String Quartets Complete. Quarteto LatinoAmericano. Brilliant Classics (6Cds)

Brazilian Mosaic (music by Mignone, Netto, Krieger, Villa-Lobos, Nobre & Miranda) Clelia Iruzun with Lontano conducted by Odaline de la Martinez. Lorelt

Franciso Mignone: Piano Music played by Clelia Iruzun. Lorelt

Marlos Nobre: Piano Music played by Clelia Iruzun. Lorelt




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