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Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Bachianas Brasileiras No. 2 for orchestra (1933)
Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4 for orchestra (1930-1936)
Bachianas Brasileiras No. 8 for flute and bassoon (1944)
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra/Jesus Lopez-Cobos
rec. Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio, 23-24 April 1995
TELARC CD-80393 [70:00]
Experience Classicsonline

2 and 4: São Paolo Symphony Orchestra/Roberto Minczuk BIS 1250-CD (w/3)
8: São Paolo Symphony Orchestra/Roberto Minczuk BIS 1400-CD (w/7 & 9) (see review)
The engineering on this Telarc reissue is too upfront and artificial compared with the latest Bachianas Brasileiras cycle from BIS. BIS’s natural microphone placements better captures a living concert hall acoustic and thereby the dynamic range and internal balances of Villa-Lobos's imaginative colourful music.
Jesus Lopez-Cobos draws a bright and singing response from the Cincinnati strings in the opening Preludio of Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4 with flexible tempi, including a pronounced drop at the start of the violin solo. Roberto Minczuk’s São Paolo strings are slower, notably more serene and occasionally tender. Minczuk also conducts more naturally about a basic pulse which, combined with the bass-up São Paolo orchestra's colouring, creates a sense of space and mystery. Lopez-Cobos opens out repeats.
Telarc's drums are particularly weak in the Coral (Canta do Sertao) and the movement’s cumulation point at 3:52 is underwhelming. Villa-Lobos’s Brazilian forests are directly evoked through the araponga bird’s repeated note which Telarc predictably brings further forward than BIS where she is nestled within the forest foliage.
In the opening bars of the Aria (Cantiga) the BIS bass drum and tam-tam resonate darkly in the descent towards the haunting corale whereas the Telarc's flatter perspective deadens their impact. Telarc's miking follows the coral theme as it is passed about the orchestra and again the timpani lacks presence in the central dance where, in any event, Lopez-Cobos misses Minczuk's robust energy.
For all the expert playing and characterisation of the Cincinnati playing in the final movement Dansa (Miudinho) the São Paolo orchestra are definitely more alive to influences of native Brazilian dances. Such dances are autobiographical in Villa-Lobos's scores as they are influenced by music heard by the headstrong young composer as he was lured from the business career his family intended towards street music and smoke-filled dance halls.
The Fuga of Bachianas Brasileiras No. 8 ends with impressive punch on Telarc but, once again, the BIS recording boasts a richness and impact which really excite. Beware, headphone listeners! Telarc's upfront sound does pay dividends as Villas-Lobos' “Little train of the Caipira” clatters its way into the interior in Bachianas Brasileiras No. 2 with brilliant tooting and shots of steam from the Cincinnati woodwind and brass. The chugging São Paolo piano and percussion are somewhat obscured by the heavy strings in the main theme. In both recordings the final bars of number 2 are sinister, with the last loud steam-blast on BIS especially menacing. Did Villa-Lobos know that such trains were also a threat to the landscape he loved?
David Harbin


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