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Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
The Guitar Manuscripts – Vol. 2
Dime perché (Guitar version by Andrea Bissoli) (1901/2010) [2:09]
Valsa Concerto No. 2 (Completed by Andrea Bissoli) (1904-2009) [4:46]
Sexteto místico (1917) [7:31]
Introdução aos Choros (1929) [13:15]
Choros No. 1 (1920) [4:38]
Choros No. 6 (1926) [25:34]
Canção do Amor (1958) [4:39]
Andrea Bissoli (guitar)
Gabriella Pace (soprano)
Ensemble Musagète; Minas Gerais Philharmonic Orchestra/Fabio Mechetti
rec. 24 March 2013, Chisea di San Cristoforo, Vicenza, Italy; 17 March 2010, Chiesa di Santa Maria del Carmini, Vicenza, Italy; 4 October 2012, Teatro do Centro Educacional, Ibirite, Minas Gerais, Brazil; 1 May 2013, Palacio des Artes, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil
NAXOS 8.573116 [62:31]

Here’s a real assortment: solos, a duet with soprano, and concertante work with Ensemble Musagète and the Minas Gerais Philharmonic Orchestra.
Though his mother rubbished the guitar as ‘an instrument played by scoundrels’, Villa-Lobos’s earliest surviving work Dime perché. Composed in 1901 on the debauched instrument itself this demonstrates the emergence of Brazil’s foremost composer. In this recording, a wholeness and rounded quality predominate. Finishing with a fluttering of harmonics, Bissoli’s Dime perche takes on a Romantic hue and natural charm; facets which remain throughout this excellent disc.
Valsa Concerto No. 2 is characteristic of Bissoli’s style: a hot spring of bubbling energy and rejuvenating zest that seeps into a quintessentially Brazilian ambience. It seems fitting to add that when speaking of his compositions Villa-Lobos asserted: ‘My music is natural, like a waterfall.’
A favourite recording from this CD would be the Choros No. 1. Bissoli’s instinctive tempo changes and natural sway is utterly compelling. Listeners are teased by his slow return to Villa-Lobos’s seductive theme. His sound is stripped of artificiality. Here is a player who conveys his impressions and feelings with facility, confidence and subtlety. There’s a smoothness too which gives the music a sensitive delicacy. For a more rustic and fiery interpretation, Brazilian composer and guitarist Sergio Assad adds a quirky spontaneity in his 1980 recording in Os Choros de Camera (Kuarup MKCD-002).
Twice the recipient of Brazil’s Carlos Gomes Prize for ‘Best Female Singer’, the much acclaimed Gabriella Pace sings Canção do Amor with grace and stillness. The influence of Celine Imbert can be heard in Pace’s tone and vibrato. This serenade or ‘song of love’ was originally composed as a soundtrack for the popular film Green Mansions about a jungle girl who falls in love with a Venezuelan traveller. They are played respectively by Audrey Hepburn and Anthony Perkins. However, Villa-Lobos’s soundtrack (originally entitled Floresta do Amazonas) was cut, so Alfred Heller, a friend and associate of Villa-Lobos, made a recording of the complete uncut cantata (74 minutes) with soprano Renee Fleming and the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra (review). This piece, with the Minas Gerais Philharmonic conducted by Fabio Mechetti unveils a beguiling dialogue between voice and guitar. Along the way a lifting zephyr from the woodwind section floats wistfully into the clement ether.

The most ‘symphonic’ piece here, Introdução aos Choros was described by Villa-Lobos as ‘a kind of old-style symphonic overture’. Referencing numerous elements from the other Choros; this highlights the composer’s characteristic blend of Brazilian folk music and European sensibilities. He described the basic concept as a ‘brasilofonia’, which is an extension of the popular street-musicians’ choro to a pan-Brazilian synthesis of native folklore, both Indian and popular. Interspersed with exquisitely performed solos, Introdução aos Choros moves into a sobering lament at 8:32 with a tearful oboe interlude echoed by Bissoli. The closing duet between guitar and flute forms an interesting parallel with the final bars of Canção do Amor, holding the listeners’ attention until silence prevails. Villa-Lobos composed more than a dozen works with this title for various instruments, mostly in the years 1924 to 1929. He described them as ‘a new form of musical composition’, a transformation of the Brazilian music and sounds ‘by the personality of the composer’. This duality can be found in Choros No. 6 with its Romantic melodic swathes and springy percussive interjections. When touring Europe, Villa-Lobos is quoted to have said: ‘I don't use folklore, I am the folklore’, further testifying to his innate sense of belonging to the Brazilian tradition. Paying tribute to Villa-Lobos’s ‘profound sense of poetry’ and ‘pushing the instruments to the limits of their solo potential’ through his ‘lush orchestration’ (to quote Bissoli), the landscape and character of Brazil emerge as the dominant themes.
With Bissoli and the Ensemble Musagète, the instrumentation of a traditional Brazilian ‘choros’ is adopted for Sexteto mistico. All sounding much like the guitar, flute and saxophone grouping that features in the street bands of Rio, Sexteto mistico is alluring in its otherness. Perhaps influenced by Villa-Lobos’s participation with many local Brazilian street-music bands, his love of cinema and Ernesto Nazareth’s improvised tangos and polkas, this is a composition of fragments craftily sewn together. At once midnight serenade and oriental dance with rhythmic echoes of street-music, this is mysterious as the music twists and turns through labyrinthine progressions. Bissoli’s performance adds to the sense of wandering and vagueness, whilst Remo Peronato (oboe) and Fabio Pupillo (flute) perform crisp solos.
With exquisite solos and orchestral passages, this CD conjoins Villa-Lobos’s skills in virtuosic composition and musical arrangement. The two styles interweave seamlessly, forming a gossamer of Euro-Brazilian sounds and it’s all attractively held together by Andrea Bissoli.

Lucy Jeffery