Monday, March 18, 2013

Brazil: Week 3 - Concerts and Exploring Rio

This week, with pretty much all the bureaucratic things over with, I was finally able to get out and hear some good Brazilian music!  Last week I did go to my first concerts here in Brazil, but the first was an organ recital by a Frenchman playing all French music (which was pretty good) and the second was an extremely poor piano recital, both poor pieces (one was written by a composer who was in attendance, but sounded like something I would have written in middle school when I began composing) and poorly played, as the pianist had to stop and restart in the middle of a piece several times and made a whole host of mistakes.

The Choro group: flute, mandolin, 7-string guitar...
...cavaquinho, drums, plus there was a guy who only
 played  the tambourine (and man could he play it!)
But Tuesday night, I met up with some family friends who were here in Brazil on business/vacation and we went to a place and listened to a Choro band perform where I was invited by a flute player in the group who I got connected with thanks to a teacher I studied with last summer at the Bowdoin Music Festival in Maine.  It was really fantastic, and seemed pretty authentic as it looked like we were the only foreigners in the place.  The next day, I took a ferry across the Guarabara Bay to Niteroi, where I heard the National Symphony Orchestra of the Federal University of Fluminense play a great concert of Camargo Guarnieri (my favorite Brazilian composer), Villa-Lobos, Darius Milhaud's "Saudades do Brasil", and Astor Piazzolla.  It was in the municipal theatre of Niteroi, which was smaller than I expected, but very beautiful.  Then that night, I went to a recital and CD launch of a living Brazilian composer named Ronaldo Miranda at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (at least I wasn't there for banking this time!)  The recital was alright, the pieces ranged in quality and style, and I briefly met the composer afterwards.  Then Thursday night I saw a terrific tango group called Libertango play Brazilian and Argentine tangos.  It was a mother playing piano with her grown up sons, one who was a tremendous accordion player, and the other who played saxophones and flute.  Both sons also took turns singing.  It was so good, I even ended up buying a CD afterwards, which I almost never do!  Then today, I went to a solid piano recital of mostly Brazilian music by the pianist Eudoxia de Barros, who is the widow of the late Brazilian composer Osvaldo Lacerda.  She played an encore that reminded me a lot of a piece by American composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk that I've played called "The Union" which is a fun romp on the Star-Spangled Banner, Hail Columbia, and Yankee Doodle.  So, I approached her after the concert and asked her what it was, and of course it was by Gottschalk too, but instead it was his Grand Triumphant Fantasia on the Brazilian National Anthem!  It's amazing to think that "The Union" was written in 1862 and the Fantasia on the Brazilian National Anthem in 1869!
Flamengo beach, with the Sugarloaf in the background

Copacabana at night
I've also spent a lot of this week biking around and exploring the city.  I'm unsure of how long they have had it, but Rio has a public bike system of 60 stations and 600 bikes.  It is just R$10 (5 dollars) for a 30 day pass, then any ride under 60 minutes is free and R$5 an hour after 60 minutes.  You can unlock the bike by calling a number with your cell phone and then return it at any of the stations.  This works out perfect for me, as I love biking around cities to get around and explore, and I'm only spending about a month initially in Rio.  The downfalls are the bikes can sometimes be in need of repairs, and plenty of times I've seen a station empty with all its bikes out being used, and even once I arrived at a station to find that all the spots are already filled with bikes.  Plus, cariocas are crazy drivers (I don't know how I haven't witnessed an accident yet!  Bus and Taxi rides can be pretty terrifying) and I don't have a helmet, so I have been extra careful riding around and have mainly stuck to bike paths off of the road when possible.  It was really nice to bike down the Flamengo park, around the Lagoa, and right along the Leblon, Ipanema, and Copacabana beaches, especially at night.
View across the Lagoa (Lake) 
Ipanema beach

I'm very excited that I have made contact with an El Sistema-inspired program here in Rio called Ação Social pela Música (Social Action through Music) and I am hoping to be able to visit two of their nucleos (music centers) this week!  I've spent a bit of time this week creating release forms for taking pictures, videos, and recordings and creating a list of interview questions.  Hopefully I will have some interesting things to share on the blog next week after I visit!

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