Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Chôros XII for orchestra (1929)
Chôros VII for flute, clarinet, oboe, saxophone, bassoon, violin, cello and gong (1924)
Bachiana brasileira I for eight cellos (1930)
Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège
cond. Pierre Bartholomée (Chôros XII)
cond. Georges-Élie Octors (Chôros VII)
Cello Octet Conjunto Ibérico (Bachiana brasileira I)
rec: (Chôros XII): Conservatoire Royale de Liège 9-10 Sept 1980; (Chôros VII): 22 Dec 1986; (Bachiana Brasileira I): l'Abbaye de la Byloke, Ghent, 5 Sept 1999 DDD
CYPRÈS CYP 1623 [63.24]
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Between 1924 and 1929 Villa-Lobs wrote most of his Chôros. They run:-

Chôros No. II (flute and clarinet)
Chôros No. VII (Setemino)
Chôros No. III clarinet, alto sax, bassoon, three horns, trombone and male chorus
Chôros No. V (Alma Brasileira) for solo piano
No. VII for orchestra and two pianos
Chôros No. X for chorus and orchestra
Chôros No. IV for three French horns and trombone
Chôros No. VI for orchestra
Chôros bis for violin and cello
Chôros No. XI for piano and orchestra
Chôros No. XIV for orchestra, band and chorus
Chôros No. IX for orchestra
Chôros No. XII for orchestra
Chôros No. XIII for two orchestras and band 

As one famous sequence ended so another began:-

Bachianas brasileiras No. I for cellos
Bachianas brasileiras No. II for orchestra
Bachianas brasileiras No. IV for solo piano
Bachianas brasileiras No. III for piano and orchestra
Bachianas brasileiras No. V for voice and cellos
Bachianas brasileiras No. VI for flute and bassoon
Bachianas brasileiras No. VII for orchestra
Bachianas brasileiras No. VIII for orchestra
Bachianas brasileiras No. IX for string orchestra or human voices

This disc encompasses both sequences in which the warm enfolding glow of the cellos in the Bachianas contrasts with the feral unruly wanderlust of the Chôros.

For those with middling range memories for discographical trivia the provenance of the main work will be familiar scoring major league classical anorak points comparable with Robin Ray's memory for obscure opus numbers in BBC's 'Face the Music'. The life of this Chôros XII (there is no other competition as far as I know) began and (until now) ended with the Ricercar LP RIC 007. This was issued during the twilight years of the LP circa 1980/81.

Now Cyprès have obtained the rights to release the recording and have placed it with Chôros VII recorded in the wake of the Chôros XII disc. The cello work is a much more recent event.

The sequence of Chôros coincided with his Paris years from 1923 to 1930. 1930 saw his return to Brazil and widespread recognition of his standing as core figure in the vital musical life of the American continent. I say American rather than just South American because from 1940 onwards until his death many of his most illustrious triumphs were played out in front of audiences at New York, Philadelphia and Boston. Boston for example saw and heard the premiere 15 years after its completion, of Chôros XII. That event was given on 21 February 1945. It is an ambitious work playing 35 minutes though dwarfed by the CD sized Chôros XI (65 minutes) and, I suspect, by the Chôros XIII and XIV. The work has elements of the dangerous exuberance of Szymanowski's 1926 Harnasie, the fantasy of Bax's Third Symphony, the heady energy of Constant Lambert's Rio Grande and the lyrical zest of Howard Hanson's Romantic Symphony.

It is in a single movement in which the feral foliage flails Holst's Jupiter, Stravinsky's Rite and the celebratory swagger and dash of Bax's Symphony No. 4. The music touches off so many passing echoes: Roy Harris at 10.03, a spectacularly good Debussian long melody under mezzo voce barks from the horns and Debussy returns at 26.10. A frilly flighty staccato (28.10) gives place to Hansonian-Sibelian winged victory and after a little accelerando (31.54) to a Petrushka-like Easter Fair. The piano adds exclamation points and this kaleidoscopically motive mosaic ends in tawny uproar. The Liègois orchestra and Bartholomée are enthusiastic and well prepared. This is no run-through. The recording is acceptably clear if not as ample and affluent as the music would really demand. It will give much pleasure.

Settimino (Chôros VII) threads its way through Baxian undergrowth with even more tangible echoes of the Rite at 1.22. Chattering motor rhythms rap and scatter their shrapnel across these pages and the Ravelian glissandi are straight out of Jardin Féërique. This piece would go well, in its similarities and its contrasts, with the Ropartz's chamber works with harp and the Bax Nonet. As for the three movement Bachiana I this is launched with propulsive vigour and guttural brusqueness before melting into the sort of yearning song found in the Bax Cello Concerto. The Schubertian carefree Viennese nature of the music also echoes with the Bax First String Quartet. This is music by which to warm your heart and your hands. Treasurable stuff.

Good notes and design. Typically high marks for Cyprès.

Rob Barnett

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