Archive for December, 2005

Vinicius de Moraes: O Grande Encontro (1)


O Grande Encontro de
Vinicius de Moraes – Toquinho – Maria Creusa
Recorded probably 1972.Released in France 1975, Brazil1988.
Available at the Toca de Vinicius (Rua Vinicius de Moraes 129, Ipanema)

Vinicius de Moraes, poet, songwriter, and incorrigible romantic, was a major influence on Brazilian popular music from 1955 to 1980. A recent film “Vinicius” by Miguel Faria Jr is a wonderful mixture of poetry, song, recollections of those who knew him, old clips and new interpretations, while making up an engaging documentary about his life and times. Viewing Brazilian films in Brazil means no sub-titles – at least until the DVD comes out – which puts a strain on one’s understanding. However, just for the music alone, it’s well worthwhile – and for those who were here in the 60s and 70s, it’s just great to recall the way things were then.

To help the sense of revival, I have chosen a CD which is just one from Vinicius’s long (1969-1980) partnership with Toquinho, who is a very fine composer/guitarist/singer. It contains many of Vinicius’s best-known songs, and is embellished by the seductive, melodious voice of Maria Creusa.

The poet….
Marcus Vinicius da Cruz de Melo Moraes was born in Rio in October 1913, his father a public servant, poet and amateur musician, his mother an amateur pianist. He was brought up to participate in the upper echelons of respectable Brazilian Society – Colégio Santo Inácio, Graduate in Law, a steady job. As a teenager, he showed talent both for writing and for music, but he dedicated himself more to writing. Up to age 30 he had a respectable output of books and of poems, and gained distinction as a poet according to the traditional standards. At age 25 (in 1938) he won a grant to study at Oxford, at about the same time he fell for his first wife “Tati”. Married by proxy, she joined him in England, and they returned after the outbreak of War, to live in Ipanema. There they cultivated a wide circle of artists and intellectuals.

In 1943, at age 30 he passed the exams for Itamaraty and became a diplomat – thus being numbered amongst the Brazilian elite in culture and accomplishment. His first overseas posting was to Los Angeles, where he used the environment to become close to the cinema, its leading figures – and started to publish a magazine called Filme. During his first marriage, which lasted 13 years (two children), he took a year “off” to live out a passionate love affair, but in 1951 (at 38) he switched allegiance to Lila, half his age, and with whom he went to live in spartan conditions in Arpoador. To make ends meet, he wrote as a jornalist, film critic, and even a sentimental columnist (Dear Abbey type). Posted to Paris in 1953, he lived intensely among the artists and intellectuals, while continuing with his writings.

In 1956, he took leave of absence to come to Rio to locate a composer for his musical Orfeu da Conceição, which relives the legend of Orpheus and Euridice in a favela. Then, encouraged by mutual friends, began a partnership with Antonio Carlos Jobim. The musical show of Orfeu was produced with success in Rio, although it did not run for long, but the film version, by the French Director Marcel Camus, became Black Orpheus, a world-wide success, winning the Foreign Film Oscar in 1959.

In the partnership with Tom Jobim, perhaps we see the turning point, when instead of popular music influencing the writings of a cultured intellectual, we find Vinicius increasingly taking to popular music his culture, his romantic view of women and of love, and his sense of humour…..

The CD
Interrupting the story to talk about the CD, we must leap about 15 years forward, from 1957 to 1972, and to the partnership between Vinicius and Toquinho.

The opening track Tarde em Itapoã is sung by Vinicius himself in the first and third verses, Marilia Medalha (singing outside her range) in the second, and everyone in the chorus. There is a lazy lilt to it, just like sipping a coconut milk and watching the sun go down, as the words say. Vinicius’s voice is not a great singing voice, evidently, but it is melodious, accurately pitched, and – a constant in all his music – he scans the syllables across the music in an instinctive way which emphasizes the rhythm. For instance, when sung Ouvindo o mar de Itapoã / Falar de amor em Itapoã becomes Ouvindo mar dIta-po-ã / Fala damor ‘mIta-po-aaaaaan.

Eu sei que vou te amar is one of the classics of Brazilian popular music, words by Vinicius, music by Tom Jobim. In this recording, Toquinho plays the guitar introduction and then the lovely husky intimate voice of Maria Creusa whispers in one ear I know I’m going to love you / For all my life I’m going to love you / In each parting I’m going to love you / Desperately I know I’m going to love you…… After once through, she continues to hum the melody in the background, while Vinicius in the other ear recites the Sonnet to Fidelity (which finishes…….. Eu possa lhe dizer do amor (que tive)/Que não seja imortal, posto que é chama / Mas que seja infinito enquanto dure). Then they repeat the last four lines of the song together to finish. No sentimentalism, but a touching call to the possibilities of the human spirit.

Para viver um grande amor is a fun track…. With a strong afro-samba rhythm, Toquinho and Maria Creusa sing in the background I don’t go round by myself / I go in good company / With my guitar / My song and my poetry while Vinicius, talking, gives a wealth of good advice on how to maintain a great loving relationship, such as You should be a one-woman man…..a knight who is entirely of his lady, whatever happens…..without losing sight of the credit for roses at the florists…. or the value of little things like doing scrambled eggs…..or lovingly preparing a chicken with a rich and tasty farofinha… .it’s very important to always live together (and if possible, die together)….. you should be sweet and conciliatory without being a coward…..but all of this is worthless if you don’t know how to find a great partner!

These are just 3 tracks of the 13 on this good-humoured CD, with its lyrical, pulsing music. We’ll take another look next month – but in the meantime, go and see the film “Vinicius”, and…..

Good listening!

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