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BRAZILIAN POPULAR SONGS FOR DOUBLE BASS AND PIANO

recital presented by Ricardo Vasconcellos (bassist) and Francisca Aquino (pianist) at the 1999´s International Society of Bassists in Iowa City, IO - USA

                          This is quite an unusual repertoire, composed exclusively of Brazilian pop music themes written in the form of classical chamber music.
                         Working with themes that hold strong popular appeal and going through a wide range of Brazilian Popular Music (MPB) genres and rhythms, the arrangers sought to take advantage of their instruments´ resources of expression and technique, keeping the characteristics of simplicity and beauty present in Brazilian music. On the other hand, strict standards of western music traditional writing were complied with, hence assuring a better understanding of the text for its record and making these works understandable   worldwide, which will contribute to the dissemination of Brazilian culture.
                         Here is a brief comment on each of the themes chosen to make up this program:

  1. Feira de Mangaio/ Mangaio Fair (Sivuca/G.Gadelha) – its origins are with three northeastern rhythms: the xaxado, the baião and the xote. Originally, the singer sings to the accompaniment of an accordion (concertina), a zabumba (big bass drum), and a triangle – the characteristic composition of the Brazilian northeastern trios. Musicians like Luís Gonzaga, Dominguinhos and Sivuca himself have become famous in Brazil and abroad as virtuoso accordionists. The sustained sound produced by the use of double bass with bow, is similar to that produced by the concertina´s pipe or by the human voice. With its strong percussion character, the piano generates the necessary harmonious and rhythmical basis. New colors and timbres are obtained when the piano takes on the melody and the double bass conducts and accompanies.
  2. Saudades de Matão/ Missing Matão ( Galati/Torres/Silva) – A waltz of great beauty and simplicity, made eternal in the voice of caipira (original country) duos, so significant in the Brazilian musical culture throughout this century. The double bass is taken advantage of in several capacities, such as: performing melodies in 4 different octaves, using double steps and harmonics and, still, producing effects like the ponticello. The piano is the basis for the development of the idea, intervening melodically and creating the contrasts of color and dynamics necessary for the successive changes in registry. This piece presents the traditional form of the Brazilian choro, a descendent of the old minuet.
  3. Conversa de Botequim/ Bar talk (Noel Rosa) – A breque samba, of a merry, fun nature. It pictures the typical carioca samba musician verve. In spite of the every-day troubles, he manages to talk of himself with surprisingly good humor. The melody is displayed alternately by the double bass and the piano; they also take turns in the rhythm and harmony base. The pizzicatos in chords single out the role of the traditional Spanish guitar. Phrases and choruses in the style of jazz improvisations come one after the other, both on the piano and on the double bass, showing the rich harmony of the piece.
  4. A Felicidade/Happiness (Tom Jobim/V. de Morais ) – Tom Jobim is synonimous of bossa-nova in the whole world. Joining in the same musical genre the legitimate Brazilian samba and the jazz´s richness of melody and harmony, our eminent composer took the Brazilian music everywhere in the world. In this rendition, A Felicidade receives a slightly progressive treatment, with some alterations of harmony and rhythm that confer to the piece a fusion/funk character. The alternation between this new color and the characteristics of the original arrangement are evident. The parts with written "improvisations" that succeed the evolution of the themes can be substituted for live improvisation, at the choice of the musicians.
  5. Palhaço/Clown (Egberto Gismonti) – Considered one of the best representatives of the Brazilian instrumental music at the moment, Gismonti moves with ease from the popular to the classical music, producing modern work of a comprehensive nature. He may surprise both for the structural and harmonious complexity and for the simplicity and the lyricism of his melodies. The initial exposition, quite restrained, is performed by the solo piano. In a brighter atmosphere, the double bass takes over the melody and improvises on a succession of twelve modulations. After this cycle, the piano elaborates on the theme brilliantly and virtuoso-like. Next, by the superposing of melody fragments, the piano and the double bass blend in the final re-exposition.
  6. Rosa/Rose ( Pixinguinha) – Multi-instrumentalist composer and maestro, Pixinguinha has bequeathed us countless compositions – choros, waltzes, songs and other genres – of incomparable melody and harmony richness, which came to be true classics of the Brazilian Popular Music. With his group Oito Batutas, already in 1919, he revolutionized musical interpretation, blending urban and rural elements without restriction and, moreover, using the instrumental group composition known today as "regional". Rosa, a waltz-choro of serenade nature, is considered a work-of-art both for the richness of its music and its lyrics, which praise the woman figure. A true declaration of love!
  7. Aquele Abraço/I´ll Be Seeing you (Gilberto Gil) – One of the most expressive artistic movements of the Brazilian Music of the ´60s and ´70s was, undoubtedly, the Tropicália. Having a character of protest and irreverence, Aquele Abraço is one of Gilberto Gil´s most famous sambas. Right at the introduction, the piano reveals the main characteristics of the arrangement: strong rhythmic beat permeated with interventions and swing in the blues style. The double bass makes use of the bow, the pizzicato, appoggiaturas and double steps to display the themes. In the central part, the piano presents the theme, completed by jazz-like elements. At the end, on an ostinato sustained by the piano, the double bass performs a long solo using variations and rhythms plenty of swing and blue notes.
  8. Samambaia / Fern(César Camargo Mariano) – A classic of the Brazilian instrumental music of the ´80s. The composer, pianist and also expert arranger, combines moments of rich melodious inventiveness with a harmony plenty of unexpected sequences in addition to an unmistakable style of accompaniment. The rhapsodic introduction, at parallel intervals of tenths between the piano and the double bass, does not even hint at what is to come: two contrastive themes in a contagious bossa-nova rhythm. The alternating between the piano and the double bass in the rendition of the melodies occurs in short fragments, enabling the upsurge of other elements of color and rhythm.
  9. Cabecinha no Ombro/Head on My Shoulder (Paulo Borges) – Having an outstanding popularity, this simple, romantic waltz, which has tender lyrics dear to the hearts of Brazilians, was changed into a guarânia interspersed with incidental music. The introduction and some parts remind us of "San Vicente", by Milton Nascimento, while elements of "Palhaço", by Egberto Gismonti, permeate other parts. The guarânia usually bears a vibrant, quick soul and, if rendered more quickly, conveys into music the sensation of a gallop. Moments of extreme lyricism, with a central piano solo, make up the contrasting element of the arrangement which reaches its climax in the final part, like a great choir of voices.
  10. Stone Flower (Tom Jobim) – Instrumental theme based on the Brazilian folk song "Na Corda da Viola" , which was also used for inspiration by Villa Lobos in his "Guia Prático para piano". Tom Jobim makes use of rhythmic motives drawn from the maracatú and the baião to create a genuine atmosphere of Brazilian dance. The double bass highlights the significance of rhythmic elements through harmonics, the "spiccato", the bow "col legno" and the "pizzicato". The piano frequently draws on the use of chords in parallel fifths in the bass region, in a rhythmic ostinato over which the melodies, of a lyrical or percussive nature, are superposed.
  11. Gente Humilde/ Ordinary People (Garoto/Vinicius de Morais/Chico Buarque) – A song whose melody and poetry is full of beauty and simplicity. Like in a typical classical aria, the bass displays the theme in recitative form, while the piano harmonizes and leads unobtrusively. In the central part, more full of movement and lyrical, the piano performs a great solo, accompanied by the double bass on "walking bass". The re-exposition of the melody in a more treble region, to a more rhythmically cadenced accompaniment, brings back the recitative character, this time, however, in a less inner-soul and melancholic form.
  12. O Trenzinho do Caipira/ The Little Train of the Caipira (Heitor Villa Lobos) – Undoubtedly, if anyone has been capable of blending the richness of folk elements with the sophisticated technique of classical music, that was Villa Lobos. From constantly diving into his pieces, we emerge more able to do this work and with a clearer view of how dedicated he was to the recovery and preservation of Brazilian folk themes, redeeming them from oblivion and preventing them from disappearing with time. The inclusion of Villa Lobos in this collection – a just and well-deserved homage – is justified in the character of his work, which sustains all of our line of thought and forms the basis for our argumentation. O Trenzinho do Caipira, originally written for Symphonic Orchestra, describes a trip by train, from departure to arrival, through the hinterlands of Brazil. The melody is constructed in such a simplistic way that it uses only the 7 notes of the major scale; however, the way by which Villa Lobos develops the piece as a whole, suggesting the movement and the sounds which are characteristic of a train, shows his genius and exceptional creativity in the management of orchestral resources. (One may perceive, for example, that, even with the tempo kept constant from beginning to end, the musical notation is sufficient to express the sensation of acceleration /deceleration). The arrangement for double bass and piano, as best as possible, searches to express the composer´s intentions accurately.