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Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Bachiana Brasileira No. 5 (1938) *
I. Aria (Cantilena): Adagio [6:18]
II. Dança (Martelo): Allegretto [4:23]
Chôro No.1 in e minor ** [4:54]
Bachiana Brasileira No. 4 ***
I. Prelúdio (Introdução): Lento [3:47]
Bachiana Brasileira No. 2 ***
IV. Tocata (O Trezinho do Caipira): Un poco moderato [4:19]
Five Preludes: No.1 in e minor (1940) ^ [4:43]
Fantasia for soprano saxophone and chamber orchestra (1948) ^^ [10:12]
Alma Brasileira (Chôro No. 5) ^^^ [4:50]
Guia pratica: 2. A maré encheu (1932) ^^^ [1:48]
Bachiana Brasileira No. 3
IV. Tocata (Picapau): Allegro *** [5:31]
Etude No. 1 in E minor (1929) ^ [2:03]
Bachiana Brasileira No. 1: I. Introdução (Embolada): Animato ***
Forest of the Amazon (Floresta do Amazonas) (1958) +
Love Song (Sentimental Melody) [4:04]
Forest Fire [3:46]
Finale [2:39]
* Victoria de los Angeles; French National Radio Orchestra/Heitor Villa-Lobos;
** Manuel Barrueco (guitar);
*** (Jorge Federico Osorio, piano, in Bachiana Brasileira 3); Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Enrique Bátiz
^ Oscar Ghiglia (guitar);
^^ John Harle (soprano saxophone); Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields/Neville Marriner;
^^^ Magda Tagliaferro (piano);
+ Bidú Sayão (soprano); Symphony of the Air/Heitor Villa-Lobos
* rec. mono,1957, ADD; ** (P) 1989 DDD; *** (P) 1987 DDD; ^ (P) 1992 DDD; ^^ (P) 1991 DDD; ^^^ (P) 1972 ADD; + (P) 1960 ADD
CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE 2283762 [71:52] 

 

Experience Classicsonline


The best-known music and the best performances open the CD – unfortunately, excellent as are
Victoria de los Angeles’ accounts of the two section of Bachiana No.5 (tracks 1 and 2) these are also the oldest recordings – 1957 mono and rather thin.  The booklet does admit that they are mono but rather disingenuously lists them as (P) 1987; the CFP website admits to the 1957 date.  For all my reservations, these two tracks are worth the cost of the CD alone: it was for them that I bought an almost identical compilation on HMV’s now defunct in-house label some years ago – it even had the same painting on the cover.  With Villa-Lobos himself conducting eight cellists from the French National Radio Orchestra, this recording is authoritative; more to the point, it’s also entrancing and it tempts me to buy their recording of Nos. 1, 2, 5 and 9 on mid-price EMI Classics GROC  5 66912 2.

Bidú Sayão, of whom more anon, has become something of a cult figure in Villa-Lobos – she can be heard singing this cantilena on You Tube, perhaps a shade more soulfully – but I’ll gladly accept the sprightlier de los Angeles version.  And by the end of Dança (track 2) I’d even forgotten that this was a thin mono recording.  The sub-title martelo means ‘hammer’ and this is certainly a suitably energetic account. If you want more modern recordings of Bachianas 1 and 5, try Jill Gomez with the Pleeth Cello Octet on budget-price Hyperion/Heliodor (CDH55316). 

Manuel Barrueco is almost as fine – and much better recorded - on track 3 in the guitar Chôro No.1; this is followed by the Preludio of Bachiana No.4 and the Tocata of Bachiana No.2, the ever-popular Little Train of the Caipira in the capable hands of the RPO and Enrique Bátiz.  In the latter, only the memories of an old World Record Club LP, emanating from Everest – conducted by Eugene Goossens – intrude slightly.  (Now available again at budget price on EVERCD012, coupled with music by Ginastera).  Both these items are well recorded, as are these performers’ reappearances on tracks 12 (Tocata from Bachiana No.3) and 14 (Introduction to Bachiana No.1).  Osorio emulates the woodpecker of the subtitle of the Tocata (Picapau) in the piano solo role on track 12 without overdoing the effect. 

The excerpt from Bachiana 1 is an ear-catching piece – there’s something very attractive in the sound of eight cellos, here and in No.5, though it’s a combination that one wouldn’t normally expect to succeed. 

Oscar Ghiglia’s accounts of Prelude No.1 (tr.6) and Etude No.1 (tr.13) are idiomatic and well recorded – a trifle thin by comparison with the recording accorded to Barrueco on tr.3, but that fits the quieter mood of the music well.  Segovia’s recording of the Etude (Bescol BSCD117, 4 CDs) is slightly brisker than Ghiglia’s, thereby bringing the music to life a little more. 

The Saxophone Fantasia (trs.7-9) is less well known than most of the other music here.  Marriner’s ASMF may not seem on paper the most obvious performers of Villa-Lobos but with Harle’s able assistance they acquit themselves very well in the rhapsodic first movement and the darkly meditative slow movement; I found that the très animé finale caught my interest slightly less, but I suspect that is more to do with the music itself than the performance, which is well recorded.  Listening a second time endeared me more to the music, even to the finale: never judge a piece of music on first hearing. 

I suspect that Magda Tagliaferro’s two tracks (10 and 11) are rather older than the (P) 1972/1996 given in the booklet; they are both listed as ADD, though the sound is more than acceptable.  The Alma brasileira, or soul of Brazil, represented in Chôro 5, is dark and moody (Chôro means ‘crying’) and Tagliaferro captures this mood well.  The subtitle of Guia pratica 2, A maré encheu (‘at flood tide’), led me to expect a depiction of a swelling sea, an expectation not realised by the piece itself. 

The disc ends as it began, with an authoritative performance in an elderly ADD recording – at least this time it’s in stereo, but it sounds rather dry – of three movements from the suite which Villa-Lobos made from his film music.  Bidú Sayão may not be in best voice – she tends to sound forced on the loud top notes – but this colourful music is vintage Villa-Lobos.  Anyway, there’s something oddly appropriate about a soprano a little past her best – she would have been 58 in 1960 and retired from the stage – and a rather dry recording in Villa-Lobos’s last major work.  The purely orchestral Forest Fire (tr.16) is the equal of Respighi at his most cinematic.  Perhaps EMI could be persuaded to reissue the whole of this United Artists recording.  I’m personally very tempted to hear the whole work – there’s a Russian recording by Svetlanov on RDCD00530, which I haven’t heard, though it’s good to see that this label is available again in the UK.  The Delos recording, with Renee Fleming as soloist (DE1037) is still available and may also be downloaded from eMusic – the 20 tracks will cost less than £5 on the standard tariff.  (see Rob Barnett’s review of this recording: “a rare chance to appreciate the epic Villa-Lobos”).

The recordings, as I have indicated, are variable but mostly of good quality; the notes are brief but informative.  The cover may have been employed before but it is eye-catching and appropriate. 

Well filled as this CD is at 72 minutes, it should leave you wanting more.  This is a bits-and-pieces recording, the chief value of which would be to encourage listeners to experiment further, not least among the parent EMI CDs and sets.  The excerpts here from the complete Bachianas Brasileiras 1-9 recorded by the RPO and Bátiz should encourage the listener to go to their complete 3-CD budget set (EMI Triple 5 00843 2), currently better value than the 3-CD Naxos set, while the Marriner recording on tracks 7-9 should augur equally well for his budget 2-CD set (Bachianas Brasileiras No. 3; Mômoprecóce; Fantasia for soprano saxophone; Guitar Concerto and Piano pieces on EMI Gemini 3 81529 2). 

I recently reviewed and commended Volume 7 of Sonia Rubinsky’s Naxos cycle of Villa-Lobos’ piano music (8.570503) and other volumes in that series have also been generally well received, especially Volume 5 (Guia pratica, Books 1-9, on 8.570008) – see review.  The guitar music is well catered for in mixed recitals by Segovia on Urania URN22343 (a 1955 recording) or Julian Bream on RCA 09026 68814 2 or 88697 04606 2, the latter in SACD.  The only current recording of the complete music for solo guitar is on BIS (Anders Miolin, BIS-CD686); I haven’t heard that recording but I’m not entirely encouraged by noting that his tempi for the two guitar works on the CFP disc are slower than Oscar Ghiglia’s – by quite a margin in Etude No.1, where I much prefer Segovia’s faster tempo even to Ghiglia’s. 

If you’ve heard any of Villa-Lobos’s music and liked what you heard, I think you’ll find this new CD merely a stepping-stone to a larger collection and may wish to by-pass it in favour of the de los Angeles GROC recording and the EMI Gemini and Triple sets, supplemented by one or more of the Naxos piano CDs. 

If you really want to go for all the composer’s own recordings, the 6-CD EMI set is still available on 7 67229 2, a very mixed bag of performances but excellent value for around £23; it includes the de los Angeles Bachianas. 

I’ve only scratched the surface of the riches on offer – I haven’t even mentioned the symphonies or the 17 string quartets, for example: go to the MusicWeb search engine and type in ‘Villa-Lobos’ to find what else is available.

Brian Wilson



 


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