- Title: Villa-Lobos, Alma de uma Terra.
- Musician: Carlé Costa, guitar.
- Identification: Club del Disco 7 798120 281517.
- Recording: August 2011, Genezarethkirche, Berlin, Germany.
- Year of Issue: 2011.
Prelude Nr. 4 by Heitor Villa-Lobos
Heitor Villa Lobos… It’s a name that I already heard on the Grammar School amongst my guitarist classmates before I picked up the guitar myself. The hit was Prelude Nr. 1 on three pages of sheet music by Max Eschig that cost the outrageous price of 13,50 in those days. Some pieces from Villa Lobos’ Suite Populaire Bresilienne were popular too, with their scores sold at the same high price. I had no idea about the reason why this music was so expensive, and I guess the late Villa Lobos himself had no clue either.
Heitor Villa Lobos… He became a composer that I got acquainted with on the guitar myself: Prelude Nr. 1, Prelude Nr. 4, Mazurka Choro, Valsa Choro en Choros Nr. 1. Strangely attractive music and quite a challenge for me as a player to develop technical skill in service of the music. Such a challenge indeed that I have not dared to play these pieces in public up till now. Maybe in the near future? Well, that will involve some work!
Heitor Villa Lobos… a name that struck me on many programmes of the preliminaries of the competitions of the Twenthe Guitar Festival and the Guitar Festival Nordhorn. His Etudes presented as display window for technical capability in the strife for the finals. Unfortunately, that often resulted in playing the pieces as a study rather than as music, some positive examples excluded. The people that actually hit the music often reached the finals!
Heitor Villa Lobos… one of the few composers from the beginning of the last century that dedicated his creativity to the guitar as well and enhanced the repertoire with a small but high quality oeuvre of Preludes, Etudes, a Suite and some individual pieces. That yielded the enigma of the lost manuscript (it is said that the publisher got it and never returned it), causing Villa Lobos to reconstruct the manuscript. Later this manuscript was found and could be used as the prime source to cancel Andres Segovia’s ruthless editing.
The Preludes and Etudes are the subject of performance on this CD by the Uruguayan guitarist Carlé Costa. The CD bears a striking subtitle: alma de uma terra, which translates as the soul of the earth. This looks surprising, but there is a relation with Villa Lobos himself, who regularly stated that his music is connected to the earth and the soil of Brazil.
This connection to the soul of the earth applies to Carlé Costa as well, he left the busy city of Montevideo with its guitar scene and went to the remote countryside to find peace and the serenity of nature, a move that had a clear influence on his playing style and interpretation.
As said, Carlé Costa’s recording covers two aspects of Villa Lobos’ guitar compositions, the Preludes and the Etudes. The Preludes are quite well-known, the Etudes are less heard and to be fair, I found it quite an effort to listen all 12 in a row with the recordings of the Etudes in my possession. I even remember a live-performance of the Villa Lobos studies that presented me with the same challenge!
The Preludes are Villa Lobos’ homage to aspects of life in Brazil. Costa plays them with mastery and a clear aim at musicality. It strikes me that he is in no hurry and gives the music time to unfold. Consequently, for instance Prelude Nr. 4 (Homage to the Brazilian Indian) becomes an oasis of tranquillity in the corner movements. Being in no hurry, however, does not mean that the passion is absent!
As far as I am concerned, the Etudes exhibit contrasts. There are a few studies that keep sounding academic and formal to me, even when played beautifully. I guess that you have to play (and struggle) with these pieces on the guitar to be able to understand them and I frankly admit that these pieces are too hard for me. These pieces were the minority, I heard beautiful performances of the others!
I heard Etude Nr. 1 often played in “speedway mode”, even I used the arpeggio and chord pattern myself to try to play as fast as possible. Yet in Costa’s performance I notice the serene atmosphere and the detail of a Bach Prelude. In Etude Nr. 2, Costa plays a beautiful wave motion that reminds me of some of Chopin’s Preludes. Carle Costa gives Etude Nr. 5 an exciting transparency of theme and accompaniment that is quite different from the academic stepping forward that I noticed with a performance on another CD. I heard Etude Nr. 7 on various preliminaries in super-speed-mode. Costa’s performance, however, is a breath of fresh air, there is breathing space at the top of the scales and the middle section Modere-Lent becomes a song rather than a study.
I remembering being utterly concentrated during a live performance of Carlé Costa’s Villa Lobos Etudes and this record brought back the atmosphere. The major feat of this recording is that it teaches me to recognize the music in the study.
The recording technique benefits from the space of the room, I guess that you only use the natural reverb of a building like a church rather than adding it artificially. What stroke me pleasantly was the detail of the sound that remained even with the fast passages. From my own experience as a player I remember that this is a challenge indeed!
The CD cover is in accordance with the subtitle alma de uma terra: a beautiful photograph emphasizes matters even more. Inside I read a quote from Villa Lobos concerning his connection with nature, plus a very nice photo of the Maestro himself, just alive with his music. The CD booklet has no additional data, no theoretical discussions, it enables the music to speak freely. A few remarks about the player complete the CD cover.
There is a clear message at the back of the cover: With hope for the day we respect the soul of the earth. Quite a message indeed for a world that is wasting its resources on a terrible scale!
My final conclusion: This CD gave me a unique view on Villa Lobos’ guitar music. It’s a performance with an almost natural atmosphere and a tidal rhythm. Well recommendable!