Here's an easy call: these are the finest recordings of these works currently available. In reviewing the individual releases, I had perhaps one small reservation concerning the disc containing Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4, but this evaporates in the face of the achievement as a whole. Both cycles, the Bachianas Brasileiras and the Choros, constitute two of the most original, colorful, and enjoyable collections of works by any 20th-century composer. They belong in every serious record collection, and they have never been so consistently well performed and recorded. At last, Villa-Lobos' compatriots have managed to do his quirky genius full justice. The excellent disc of solo guitar music makes a fine and thoughtful bonus, and at seven discs for the price of three, you'd have to be insane not to grab this set immediately.
Heitor Villa-Lobos is without a doubt Brazil's most famous composer and one of the great creative personalities of the twentieth century. His oeuvre is gigantic in its dimensions and perhaps can be compared only to that of Darius Milhaud, who, by the way, was a close friend of his. In any case, Villa-Lobos was the first to introduce the music of Latin America to the world's concert halls, and influences from this music do indeed abound in his oeuvre. cpo is now presenting the first complete recording of his colossal symphonic work complex in a boxed set of seven CDs at a special low price! The SWR Radio Symphony Orchestra under the American star conductor Carl St. Clair has taken on this enormous task, and the result can only be described as a bravura achievement. You can look forward to an orchestral tour de force operating on the highest level!
This 6-CD set of "Villa-Lobos par lui-même" ("Villa Lobos performed by himself") presents the complete recordings made for Pathé between 1954 and 1958 and conducted by, or (in the case of the occasional Bachianas Brasileiras or Chôros scored for piano or duet) made under the supervision of the composer. As many of his contemporaries who made Paris their second home (Enescu comes to mind), Villa-Lobos shared his life between his native Brazil and Paris. Thus it has an important historical value.
These three magnificent works belong in the repertoire of cellists everywhere. They are full of Villa-Lobos’ signature exotic instrumental textures, folk-like melodies, and abundant invention. They are also harder than hell to play, and difficult to balance. Villa-Lobos was a cellist himself, and loved the instrument’s low, dark register. Penetrating his dense orchestration without making the instrument sound like a dying cow is just one of the many challenges facing cellists attempting to come to grips with this marvelously expressive music, though recordings can solve this problem with sensitive microphone placement. Antonio Meneses understands both the music and its performance problems, and his lower register manages to sound gruff without undue signs of bovine distress. He’s helped by some very sensitive accompaniments; Pérez projects the music’s lush timbres without laying it on too thick.
Choral music holds a central position in Villa-Lobos’s catalogue of works, but among these famous pieces is a series of little-known transcriptions for a cappella choir taken from the standard classical repertoire. They were intended for a teachers’ chorus and for use in schools, and through astonishing alchemy they achieve a true ‘orchestration’ of largely piano originals, adding a fresh new repertoire for vocal ensembles. This album also includes the first ever recording of Villa-Lobos’s complete set of a cappella transcriptions from Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier.
Heitor Villa-Lobos, (born March 5, 1887, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil—died November 17, 1959, Rio de Janeiro), Brazilian composer and one of the foremost Latin American composers of the 20th century, whose music combines indigenous melodic and rhythmic elements with Western classical music.
Heitor Villa-Lobos' two numbered cello concerti come from the opposite ends of his output; the first Grande Concerto dates from 1915 and the second from 1953. In between there is another concertante work, the Fantasia for cello and orchestra, which is contemporaneous with the Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 for soprano and eight cellos that remains Villa-Lobos' most popular work. In this MD&G issue, Heitor Villa-Lobos: Concertos for Violoncello and Orchestra, cellist Ulrich Schmid is heard with the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie under conductor Dominique Roggen in the numbered concertos only, although there easily would have been enough room on the 42-minute-long disc to accommodate the Fantasia as well.
These are wonderful pieces, with only perhaps the Rodrigo at all well-known today, and then only because of his famous guitar concertos. Boieldieu was a very good composer, and his harp concerto is often breathtakingly beautiful; if the theme of the finale isn't the last word in elegant pathos then nothing is. The Villa-Lobos sounds just like–Villa-Lobos: rich, exotic, heavily scored, and voluptuous. It's a big work in four movements. The lively and lovely Rodrigo needs no introduction, save to note that it's one of his very best works in any medium.