Anmeldelse fra Classical Guitar Magazine af “Letters to Posterity”

From the Winter 2016 issue of Classical Guitar | BY PAUL FOWLES

Julian Bream’s 1978 release of all 12 of Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Etudes is an event many recall. It had two precedents: Turibio Santos (1968/9) and Narciso Yepes (1971). Santos’ was a landmark recording, but not easy to get. Yepes’ never caught on, possibly due to his trademark leaden sound combined with such eccentricities as the mezzo-staccato lower voice in No.5. So Bream’s became the one every guitarist owned and many endeavored to emulate. By that time, recordings of the Five Preludes and Chôros No.1 were plentiful, and Suite Populaire Brésilienne was gaining ground. Then came the post-millennium wave of Complete Works, four of which I listened to again when these new contenders arrived.

Portuguese guitarist Mickael Viegas names his sources as “Villa-Lobos’ manuscripts” and the “piano transcriptions of José Brandão,” which presumably means Brandão’s settings of the Five Preludes. Mention of the manuscripts takes us into what was once unknown terrain, with Etude No.1 shorn of its repeats, and Nos.10 and 11 containing material absent from the 1953 published scores. However, Viegas’ chief innovation is to add “melodic and harmonic material… which the composer may have removed or altered because of the instrument’s inherent limitations.” This he does by the extensive use of overdubs, generating textures beyond the range of a single guitar, and kaleidoscopic flourishes sounding midway between a grand piano and a concert harp. Having established his credentials by citing the manuscripts and Brandão, there can be little doubt Viegas also allowed himself free artistic rein. And so he should, because this astonishing studio creation offers Villa-Lobos as we never imagined it. It also establishes Mickael Viegas as a world-class guitarist. (Here’s a link to a nicely made promo piece about the making of Viegas’ CD.)

Denmark’s Thomas Lyng Poulsen thus has a tough act to follow. No notes are provided, but it soon emerges that Poulsen, in the Etudes at least, has also made use of the manuscript versions, most likely by consulting material contained in the game-changing 2008 edition by Frédéric Zigante. Unlike Viegas, Poulsen’s program omits the Valse-Chôro, a worthy reject that didn’t make the cut for the original published edition of Suite Populaire Brésilienne. Otherwise, all expected items are present, including Valsa Concerto No.2. Unfortunately, not all is secure on the playing front, with a worrying number of occasions when Poulsen’s technique appears at its limit. There’s also the recurring issue of a sharp and “naily” tone, most notably in Etude No.4, parts of which can only be described as unduly harsh. On these grounds alone, I hesitate to recommend Poulsen’s version. (Poulson’s versions of the Etudes can be heard individually on YouTube; here’s an audio version of No.5.)

Letters to Posterity (Heitor Villa-Lobos—The Solo Guitar Works)
Thomas Lyng Poulsen

The Complete Guitar Works of Heitor Villa-Lobos
Mickael Viegas
(Paraty/Harmonia Mundi)

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Thomas Lyng Poulsen Letters To Posterity Heitor Villa-Lobos – The Solo Guitar Works
CVM 002

“Jag ser mina verk som brev till eftervärlden (letters to posterity), utan förväntan om svar” är ett ofta återgivet citat från Heitor Villa-Lobos, som bildar bakgrund till den här skivans titel. Danske Thomas Lyng Poulsen har tagit sig an uppgiften att spela in Villa-Lobos gitarrmusik, vilket är ett stort och respektingivande projekt – det är ett omfattande material att tränga in i och bitvis rejält svårspelat. Resultatet är denna egenproducerade dubbelCD. Arbetet med albumet finns beskrivet på en blogg (guitarconfessions. och det är rolig och givande läsning om glädjen och våndan i att spela gitarr och vara sin egen producent.

Poulsen har dykit djupt in i Villa-Lobos musikaliska värld och framför överlag styckena fint. Ibland levereras versioner som avviker en del från de tolkningar som brukar höras. Så görs t. ex. den uttrycksfulla adagio-delen i det tredje preludiet (Hommage à Bach), som ofta spelas med ett romantiskt präglat legato, här med mer accentuerade anslag. En detalj kan tyckas, men i ett så här pass känsloladdat parti ger det en annan upplevelse av hela kompositionen. Ibland hade jag önskat mer variation i spelet. Det är bitvis ganska långa stycken, med flera repriser och talrika upprepningar av sekvenser, varför större dynamisk spännvidd och ett vidare nyttjande av gitarrens olika klangfärger hade varit värdefullt. Det finns också några passager där större omsorg om tekniska detaljer skulle verkat välgörande.

Men Poulsen är uppenbarligen en mycket kompetent gitarrist och till nästa skiva kan ett frimodigare men likväl disciplinerat spel lyfta fram hans kapacitet än mer. Ljudbilden är en smula platt och basregistret lider här och var av en viss ”boomighet”, vilket leder till att ackord grumlas och kan upplevas som något orena, även då de i själva verket inte är det. Men detta bör ses som en randanmärkning. Det är mycket glädjande att alltfler gitarrister spelar in sig själva och ger ut resultatet. Det bidrar till mångfalden av tillgänglig klassisk gitarrmusik. Detta album är ett intressant tillskott till utbudet av Villa-Lobos-tolkningar.


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Letters to Posterity

The guitar music of Villa-Lobos is popular. Of 541 Villa-Lobos CDs available at ArkivMusic, 156 include music for guitar, and new ones show up pretty regularly. It’s relatively inexpensive music to record, with a single artist who brings his or her instrument, and not impossibly difficult engineering requirements.  And this understates the broader popularity of this music in the Classical Guitar (CG) community. Back in 2009 I analyzed ten years of Villa-Lobos concerts, and found that music for guitar near the top in popularity (139 performances for Bachianas Brasileiras #5, against 30 for Choros #1, 29 for the Preludes, 25 for the Suite Populaire Bresilienne, 20 for the Etudes, and 49 for ‘Works for Guitar’). I mentioned then that a search of YouTube would show how ubiquitous these works were. Here are the current YouTube stats:

Villa-Lobos Preludes:  about 216,000 results
Villa-Lobos Etudes: about 124,000 results
Villa-Lobos Choros 1: about 87,900 results

This is core CG repertoire, partly because of early championship by artists like Segovia, Abel Carlevaro and Julian Bream, but also because the music is so accessible, with elements of popular and erudite music intertwined. In the end, though, it’s because this music is so damn good.

How, then, does a guitarist position a new Villa-Lobos CD, and get the music heard? In last year’s excellent recital CD, Kazu Suwa chose to include three Villa-Lobos pieces. I quote frommy review:

He’s picked three Villa-Lobos pieces with great character, and more importantly he plays each of them in a character-ful way. And he puts them in the penultimate spot, as they deserve, with just a sad, beautiful little piece by Mompou as a coda.

This seems an excellent way to introduce more Villa-Lobos into such a crowded marketplace. That CD, by the way, ended up on my Top 10 Albums list for 2015.

Now we come to Thomas Lyng Poulsen’s Letters to Posterity, which includes pretty much the full solo music for guitar on two CDs. This includes music of a very broad range, from salon pieces and dances Villa remembered from his days playing in chorões bands, to the more-than-pedological Etudes of the late 1920s, and on to the great Preludes of the 1940s. I wouldn’t expect a single guitarist to excel in all three areas, but Poulsen provides credible versions of pretty much all of the music. His technique is strong, and the music is clearly communicated. He’s strongest, I think, in the Preludes, which are all five really excellent. This is maybe a bit of a surprise considering Poulsen’s teaching experience; I would have expected the Etudes to be the sweet spot for a guitar teacher. Choros no. 1 didn’t quite swing the way I like it to (I prefer the Brazilians Fabio Zanon, Manuel Barrueco and Turibio Santos), and parts of the Suite Populaire Bresilienne seemed over-thought, over-serious.

But Thomas certainly did his homework. It was fun following his process from his original plan to the publication of this recording in his blog My Villa-Lobos Journey. He grappled with just this issue many times. Here he is, from August 2014, working on the Schottisch (Choro):

A word that has filled my thoughts this past week is rubato. Another one is pulse. It appears to me, that the balancing of these two mighty musical weapons is the key, to succesfully solving the pieces I have worked on so far, on this blog. Finding that balance means – I believe – searching territory bordering absurdity. Absurdly rigid and on-time, and absurdly fluid to the point of incomprehensible. When you’ve been there, I guess it’s all a matter of relaxing, and just playing… But as always, easier said, than done.

This is music which takes an interesting route between simplicity and complexity. When the issues are technical – and even Segovia had his troubles with Villa’s music – solving the technical issues won’t ‘solve’ the music by itself. When the music seems simple an artist can bring out subtleties that aren’t immediately apparent, but were clearly put there by the composer. Leonard B. Meyer called this Grammatical Simplicity and Relational Richness, in a key paper about (of course) Mozart. I value Thomas’s journey as much as his destination; both demonstrate a significant subset of the Relational Richness of the music of Villa-Lobos.

Mikael Krarup i “Kultur set fra Fyn” om “Letters to Posterity”

Brasiliansk for danske fingre

I mere end et år har guitaristen Thomas Lyng Poulsen bevæget sig rundt i den Brasilianske komponist Villa-Lobos’ (1887-1959) guitarunivers med denne udgivelse for øje.

Den bærer præg af et imponende stykke arbejde, seriøst og omfattende. En aflytning medfører samtidig en genkendelsens glæde over de særdeles kendte “5 præludier”, hvor Thomas Lyng Poulsen viser mod til at give sin het personlige, næsten meditativt rolige version af f.eks. det mest berømte af dem, nr. 3.

Men det er en ligeså stor fornøjelse at lytte til de knapt så kendte, mere komplicerede og eksperimenterende “12 etuder”. Udgivelsen burde, sin bredde, sin dybde og alsidighed taget i betragtning, have været ledsaget af en booklet med mere information om arbejdet med Villa-Lobos’ værker.

Mikael Krarup

Bruce Reader (the Classical Reviewer) om “Letters to Posterity”

Thomas Lyng Poulsen shows himself to be a particularly fine guitarist on his new release of solo guitar works by Villa-Lobos

Danish guitarist Thomas Lyng Poulsen  is a versatile musician who feels at home in many genres. He has appeared on several albums ranging from contemporary music to tango and pop. He has also been featured on national radio and has participated in a Swedish TV film about the guitar.

Thomas Lyng Poulsen graduated from the Music Academy of Jesper Sivebæk and Jan-Inge Wijk and has participated in numerous master classes with the world’s leading guitarists. He is a laureate of international guitar competitions and made his debut with Berio’s monumental Sequenza XI for solo guitar. He is active as a chamber musician. His repertoire spans from Renaissance to the present day with a particular interest in 20th and 21st century music, especially from Latin America.

During August 2014 and most of 2015 Thomas Lyng Poulsen worked intensively on the solo guitar works of the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, the result of which is the release of a recording of these works available as CD or download from

Of Villa-Lobos’ Five Preludes (1940), Prelude No. 1 in E minor: Andantino espressivo Più mosso is finely phrased with Poulsen bringing a sultry Latin flavour. He is fully in control of all the rhythmic changes and brings out some lovely details, not to mention some lovely poetic moments. He brings a real flair toPrelude No. 2 in E major: Andantino – Più mosso, a freedom and panache as the music shifts around, whilst finding many varied sonorities.

Rich, darker tones open the Prelude No. 3 in A minor: Andante – Molto adagio e dolorido with Poulsen delivering a lovely rich tone. He is fully inside Villa-Lobos’ sound world in the way he paces and phrases the music with some quite exquisite moments. Poulsen brings a glorious sound to Prelude No. 4 in E minor: Lento – Animato – Moderato, beautifully paced and sensitively controlled with some fine fluency in the faster passages. Prelude No. 5 in D major: Poco animato—Meno—Più mosso brings a light, sunny brilliance, revealing further aspects of Poulsen’s fine tone and fluency. Of Villa-Lobos’

Poulsen reveals all the reticent charm of the Mazurka-Chôro that opens the Suíte Populaire Brésilienna (1928, rev. 1947–48) with subtle, varied dynamics and a fine clarity. Schottisch-Chôro brings some exceptionally fine detail and fluency with beautiful phrasing. There is never a harsh note, Poulsen always finding a lovely tone.

Valsa-Chôro has a lovely rhythm and flow and some fine harmonies. This guitarist finds new textures at every turn and brings a great fluency in the faster passages. Gavotta-Chôro is beautifully paced with Poulsen finding some lovely textures, revealing a touch of melancholy in this beautiful performance, sensitive to every nuance. Chôrinho brings some fine rhythms, again superbly phrased with subtle control of tempi. There are some terrific faster passages as it develops with a particularly lovely coda.

The Valsa Concerto No. 2 (1904) is one of Villa-Lobos’s very first compositions to survive. Thomas Lyng Poulsen brings some lovely flourishes to this work before picking up a fine rhythmic quality. Poulsen provides a fine clarity of musical line and extracts many fine timbres and textures from his instrument.

Chôro no. 1, “Chôro típico” (1920) brings lovely phrasing and rhythms combined with a terrific fluency. There are passages of fine forward propulsion as well as more variety of timbres and textures.

Poulsen provides some beautiful arpeggios in the Étude No. 1 in E minor – Étude des arpèges: Allegro non Troppo of Douze études (1929; rev. 1948/53), with a beautifully done little coda. Étude No. 2 in A major – Des arpèges: Allegro finds this guitarist bringing a great fluency and dexterity to the rising and falling motif.

There is great fluency and dexterity in the Étude No. 3 in D major: Allegro moderato revealing much detail in this intricate piece, brilliantly played. Étude No. 4 in G major – Des accords répétés: Un peu modéré – Grandioso brings some really fine textures, finely phrased.

The gentle Étude No. 5 in C major: Andantino—Poco meno receives an exquisite performance, sensitive to every little detail and nuance before a lively, finely accented Étude No. 6 in E minor: Poco Allegro.

There is a finely shaped Étude No. 7 in E major: Tres animé – Moins with Poulsen’s lovely phrasing and attention to subtle dynamics revealing so many facets of this music. He finds a gentle tempo out of which to draw Villa-Lobos’ lovely little theme for Étude No. 8 in C sharp minor: Modéré with moments of faster, fluent playing as the works develops, occasionally finding a darker atmosphere.

Poulsen provides a fine delicacy in the Étude No. 9 in F sharp minor: Tres peu animé, full of fluent, free flowing passages. Étude No. 10 in B minor: Tres animé – Un peu animé – Vif receives much fire and passion with passages of more thoughtful intimacy in this finely shaped performance with a terrific coda.

There is a sultry Étude No. 11 in E minor: Lent—Poco meno – Animé with Poulsen finding so many textures and timbres as the work develops and becomes more animated. Finely there is a lovely Étude No. 12 in A minor: Animé – Più mosso  – a tempo primo – Un peu plus animé with Poulsen delivering a performance of great dexterity and clarity, finely phrased. A terrific way to round off this disc.

Here we have a particularly fine guitarist. It is his ability to shape and phrase, to find new textures and timbres that brings these works alive. My HiRes download is full of detail placing the soloist right there in one’s room.

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Heitor Villa-Lobos once said he thought of his music as letters written to posterity without expecting an answer. And appropriately guitarist Thomas Lyng Poulsen has entitled his recent two-CD set of Villa-Lobos guitar works as Letters to Posterity (CVM 002).

The program consists of Villa-Lobos’ major works for solo guitar: The “Preludes,” the “Etudes,” his “Suite Populaire Bresilienne,” “Valse Concerto No. 2,” and his “Choro No. 1.”

Thomas Lyng Poulsen has an abundance of technique which he puts to good use throughout, but perhaps most importantly he gives us a very musical reading of these wonderful works. There is expressiveness, a lyrical quality that includes a bit of rubato and a kind of lingering over the poignant aspects of the works. So the “Etudes,” for example, show technical flourish but also a tenderness not always present when the music has a horserace-hurtling-to-the-finish-line freneticism.

This may not be how Segovia played the music. It is more matter-of-fact modern, with technique harnessed to the significant form of each piece, highlighting the hugely inventive and touching brilliance of the composer in a kind of directly lyrical sense.

It is for that reason a program that wears well, bringing out the nuances of the music so that you find yourself enmeshed in all its subtle and dynamic details, in the sheer visceral sonics of Villa-Lobos’ intimate love of the classical guitar and its capabilities.

And so I recommend this to you without hesitation. These are essential works in Villa-Lobos’ cannon and so too they are essential works for the modern guitar as we have come to understand it. Bravo.


Grego Applegate Edwards

Villa-lobos samlede sologuitarværker


Heitor Villa-lobos er, udover at være ophavsmand til klassiske monsterhits som Bachianas Brasileiras no 5, en af de komponister man som klassisk guitarist ikke kan komme uden om at beskæftige sig med. Hans guitarværker er en integreret del af standardrepertoiret, og det er en yndet sport blandt guitarister, at hade at elske dem – eller omvendt.

I denne koncert spilles samtlige solostykker, og publikum føres vi musikken gennem komponistens liv, fra gademusikant i Rio, til internationalt anerkendt komponist og Brasiliens nationalkomponist.

Jan-Inge Wijk, om fremførelse af værket Jord

Thomas Poulsen har ved flere lejligheder fremført mit værk for sologuitar med forstærkning, Jord. Det meget krævende stykke er skrevet på hans foranledning og han har i den grad gjort det til sit. Ved en koncert på musikkonservatoriet i Odense i 2012 var hans opførelse ikke blot uklanderlig; med sin personlighed belyste han nye facetter og de mest subtile nuancer i værket.