Hector VILLA-LOBOS (1887 - 1959)
Villa Lobos conducts Villa Lobos
Descobrimento do Brasil: Suites Nos. 1-4; Invocação em defesa da pátria, A. 439; Bachianas Brasileiras Nos. 1-8; Chôros Nos. 2, 5, 10, 11; Two Choros (bis) (1928); Mômoprecóce, fantasy for piano and orchestra; Piano Concerto No. 5, Symphony No. 4
Fernand Dufrene (flute); Maurice Cliquennois (clarinet); Jacques Neilz (violin); Henri Bronschwak (cello); Rene Plessier (bassoon); Fernando Dufrene (flute); Manoel Braune, Aline van Berentzen, Magda Tagliaferro, Felicia Blumental (piano); Victoria de los Angeles (soprano); Choeurs de Radio France; Chorale des Jeunesses Musicales de France; L'Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion Francaise/Heitor Villa-Lobos
rec. Paris, 1954-58, mono. ADD
Full contents list at end of review
EMI CLASSICS 50999 0 28202 2 4 [6 CDs: 78:02 + 70:28 + 70:13 + 64:00 + 72:31 + 70:48]

These recordings, made in Villa-Lobos’s home from home, towards the very end of his life have provided EMI and its satellite companies with a rich lode on which to draw. They have done comparatively little in the way of issuing single discs. This set has usually appeared complete. Its annals can be traced from a huge 10 LP Pathe-Marconi set (153-14090/9) to the first appearance on a six CD set (CZS 7 67229 2) to the present economically handsome wallet box. This time EMI have added the content of a 7" LP Qu'est-Ce Qu'Un Choros? (recorded live for the Club des Trois Centres, Paris, 29 May 1958).

Sampling my way through these discs impressions crowded in. The recordings still sounds surprisingly good in mono with the composer's hand-picked team of singers and instrumentalists. The work I wanted to hear first was the set of so-called 'four suites' of music: Descobrimento do Brasil (The Discovery of Brazil). This was written in 1937 for Humberto Mauro's 1937 film of the same name. They play quite happily as a sequence. Despite predating another piece of luxurious jungle exotica, The Forest of the Amazon by about twenty years, much the same qualities light up the music: Mystical particles mingle with street songs and dances, the majesty of the great sea journey across the South Atlantic and the awe-inducing Matto Grosso interact at so many levels, the rattle of gourds contrasts with gritty dancing rhythms and Hollywood-style tunes of generous expanse and plush depth.

The Bachianas Brasileiras No 2 is the most life-enhancing recording and for 1956 has a wonderful glow, lustre and presence as does the recessed-discreet De Los Angeles BB5. Momoprecoce and Choros 10 are suitably feral, dangerous, jungle unchained and pretty much uncivilised. For all the virtues of these analogue recordings and their momentous status in musical history Villa-Lobos is a composer whose music blooms in the most sumptuous sound. For that one needs to track down one of Bis’s splendiferous bargain boxes which proffers the complete Bachianas and Choros - at least so far as the depredations of time and tide permit: You can see a review of this elsewhere on this site. That Bis set features stunning recordings of Brazilian performances in full-on digital stereo. Difficult to resist. On the other hand EMI’s set is an opportunity in well refurbished mono analogue sound to get to grips with the composer’s own vision of this music in performances made with people who had his trust and confidence. Minczuk and Neschling are however superb and ultimately if one has to choose one has to ask why anyone would resist the blandishments of modern sound and Brazilian brilliance. There is only one of his 12 symphonies here. However if you are curious have no hesitation about seeking out the complete set on CPO 777-516-2. Carl St Clair presides over the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra with vision and authority. The complete string quartets, in performances abrim with vitality, can be heard on Dorian Sono Luminus DSL 90904.

The 12 page EMI booklet gives all the track information – standard fare for bargain boxes of this type - but in addition there’s a richly endowed essay by Pierre Vidal which is actually very much worth reading. English only throughout.

Rob Barnett

Content List
Villa Lobos conducts Villa Lobos
CD1 78:02
Descombrimento do Brasil: Suite No. 1 for orchestra, A. 377
Descombrimento do Brasil: Suite No. 2 for orchestra, A. 378
Descombrimento do Brasil: Suite No. 3 for orchestra, A. 379
Descombrimento do Brasil: Suite No. 4 for orchestra, A. 380
Invocação em defesa da pátria, A. 439
CD2 70:28
Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1 for at least 8 cellos
Bachianas Brasileiras No. 2 for orchestra
Bachianas Brasileiras No. 3 for piano and orchestra
CD3 70:13
Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4 for piano or orchestra
Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 for voice and at least 8 cellos
Bachianas Brasileiras No. 6 for flute and bassoon
Bachianas Brasileiras No. 7 for orchestra
CD4 64:00
Bachianas Brasileiras No. 8 for orchestra
Chôros No. 2 for flute and clarinet
Chôros No. 5 'Alma Brasileira' for piano
Chôros No. 10 'Rasga o Coraçao' for chorus and orchestra
Two Choros (bis) (1928) for violin and cello
CD5 72:31
Chôros No. 11 for piano and orchestra
Composer talk – What is a Choros - lecture in french
CD6 70:48
Momoprecoce, fantasy for piano and orchestra, A. 240 Magda Tagliaferro
Piano Concerto No. 5, A. 521 Felicia Blumental
Symphony No. 4, for orchestra and brass, "A Vitória", A. 153