Posted by: rbbadger | May 1, 2009

Concerto para harmônica e orquestra

When you think of concertos, you often think of a violin concerto, or a piano concerto.  A harmonica concerto does not spring to mind.  However, there are a few of them and there are a few musicians around who are classical harmonica players.  Among them are the late Larry Adler, the late Tommy Reilly, Cham-ber Huang (who also makes harmonicas), Sigmund Groven, Robert Bonfiglio, and Gianluca Littera.

Back in the 1990s, I chanced upon a recording of the Villa-Lobos Concerto for Harmonica and Orchestra.  I couldn’t help but laugh a little and I did buy it.  And what I heard was very surprising.  Yes, it is possible for the harmonica to be taken seriously as a classical instrument and it does have a repertoire of its own.  But there are few classical harmonica players and I’m sure that even they have had to bear a bit of chortling at the very idea of a classical harmonica virtuoso.

Villa-Lobos is one of the greatest composers ever to come out of South America.  He was mostly self-taught as a musician.  Yet, he went on to conquer the world as a composer.  He drew upon the popular music of his native Rio de Janeiro and classical forms and styles as well.  He wrote a staggering number of works.  Some of them are still in the repertory today, especially the Bachianas Brasileiras, a sort of Brazilian homage to Bach.  In those works, he uses some of the forms that Bach used, but uses them in a definite Brazilian way.  The syncopated rhythms of Brazilian music are very much in evidence.

So without further ado, I bring you the third movement of the Villa-Lobos Concerto for Harmonica and Orchestra performed by Gianluca Littera.


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