Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Volume 1
Chôros No.11, for piano and orchestra, A228 (1928) [63:08]
Chôros No.5 for piano, A207 (Alma brasileira) (1925) [5:08]
Chôros No.7: Septet for flute, oboe, saxophone, clarinet, bassoon, violin, cello and offstage gong, A199 (Settimino) (1924) [9:15]
Cristina Ortiz (piano); São Paolo Symphony Orchestra/John Neschling
rec. Sala São Paolo, Brazil, February 2006 and August 2004. DDD.
BIS BIS-CD-1440 [78:05] CD or download from (mp3) or (mp3 or lossless)
Volume 2
Chôros No.6 for orchestra, A219 (1926) [24:49]
Chôros No.1 for guitar, A161 (Tipico brasileiro) (1920) [5:09]
Chôros No.8 for large orchestra and 2 pianos, A208 (1925) [20:00]
Chôros No.4 for 3 horns and trombone, A218 (1926) [5:31]
Chôros No.9 for orchestra, A232 (1929) [24:19]
Samuel Hamzem, Dante Yenque, Ozéas Arantes (horns); Darrin Coleman Milling (trombone); Fabio Zanon (guitar); Ilan Rechtman, Linda Bustani (pianos)
São Paulo Symphony Orchestra/John Neschling – rec.2003-2005. DDD
BIS BIS-CD-1450 [81:18] CD or download from (mp3) or (mp3 and lossless)
Volume 3
Introduction to the Chôros for guitar and orchestra (1929) [13:32]
Two Chôros bis for violin and cello (1928) [8:41]
Chôros No.2 for flute and clarinet (1924) [2:42]
Chôros No.3 (Pica Pau ‘woodpecker’) for male choir and wind instruments (1925) [3:32]
Chôros No.10 (Rasga o coração, ‘tear out my heart’) for orchestra and mixed choir (1926) [13:01]
Chôros No.12 for orchestra (1929) [37:10]
Elizabeth Plunk (flute), Ovanir Buosi (clarinet), Fabio Zanon (guitar), Cláudio Cruz (violin),
Johannes Gramsch (cello)
São Paulo Symphony Orchestra Choir
São Paulo Symphony Orchestra/John Neschling
BIS BIS-CD-1520 [79:58] CD or download from (mp3)
One considerable advantage of downloading is that it presents an opportunity to catch up with recordings which, for one reason or another, we missed when they were issued. Here on MusicWeb International we have reviewed some of John Neschling’s BIS recordings of the Villa-Lobos Bachianas Brasileiras but seem to have missed these albums containing the Chôros when they were issued a couple of years ago.
The main work on Volume 1 is a piano concerto in all but name, and one of considerable length at that, which is presumably the reason why it receives so few concert outings. Like all the Chôros – derived from the Portuguese verb chôrar, to weep – its predominant mood is dark, but what it lacks in joie de vivre it more than makes up for in colour. In fact, as Villa Lobos himself acknowledged, the term Chôros was merely a peg on which to hang a variety of music and the tone here is not so much plangent as quiet and thoughtful, perfect music for the late evening in the manner of a Nocturne or Serenade – Villa Lobos acknowledged that the word Serenade might be a good synonym for Chôros.
For all its length, it never outstays its welcome in this idiomatic performance. Cristina Ortiz is, of course, herself Brazilian and no stranger to the music of her fellow countryman. She copes with the technical difficulties of the score with aplomb and receives equally excellent support from the São Paolo Orchestra and John Neschling, whose recent recording of Respighi’s Roman trilogy recently received high praise in these pages and elsewhere: Recording of the Month – see review.
Cristina Ortiz had recorded the short solo-piano Chôros No.5 before – it’s available on a Classics For Pleasure recording which I recommended, though preferring the 2-CD album which also contains it. (2283762 – see review) If anything, the version on the BIS recording outshines the older one.
Chôros No.7 is also a compact work, a highly attractive Septet for wind, violin, cello and offstage gong or tam-tam. Like everything else on this volume, it receives an idiomatic performance.
The second volume offers the most varied programme of the three, including the best-known of these pieces, No.1 for guitar. Fabio Zanon’s performance may yield to the slightly more nimble one by Manuel Barrueco on the CFP anthology (see above) but not by much. Listen to this recording courtesy of the Naxos Music Library, as I did, and you will find yourself not only able to understand why it has won so many accolades, but also pressing the button which takes you to purchase at classicsonline, or placing an order for the CD.
The acid test for the third volume is Chôros No.10 – I know that the Amerindian chant which it contains is simply too Technicolor for some tastes. Try it first at the Naxos Music Library if you can. If you find that you can come to terms with this work – I found it great fun – the sheer variety of combinations of instruments and voices on offer on this disc makes for a strong recommendation.
The download of volume 1 from eMusic costs a mere £2.10, but is available in mp3 only and none of the tracks is at the optimum 320kb/s bit-rate or anywhere near it. Track 4 containing Chôros No.5, is offered at an unacceptably low 149kb/s, though, surprisingly it doesn’t sound too bad. Passionato have the first two albums in mp3 at the full bit-rate and also in lossless flac – unfortunately my review credit has just expired, so I haven’t been able to hear the lossless version but I have always found Passionato flac downloads to be excellent.
Classicsonline also have full-rate mp3 versions of all three albums and subscribers can also stream the recordings from the Naxos Music Library. The Naxos Library offers the booklet with Volume 2, as do classicsonline. Notes on all three volumes are available from the BIS website. If the eMusic and Naxos music library versions at lower bit-rates sound so good, you can be sure that the classicsonline and passionato downloads and, of course, the parent CDs, sound excellent.
Try Volume 2 first – listen via the Naxos Music Library if you’re uncertain – and I’m sure that you will then wish to obtain all three volumes by one means or another.
[NB: I’ve given the usual dates of composition, but it has recently been suggested that some of the later Chôros actually date from the 1930s.]
Brian Wilson
Try any of these three recordings – the second volume is a good place to start – and you’ll want all three.