7 CDs for the price of 3
The life and music of Villa-Lobos is intimately linked with the emergence of Brazil as a nation and cultural force during the first half of the 20th century. This applies especially to the two great cycles that he composed between 1920 and 1945: the 12 Choros and the 9 Bachianas Brasileiras. In the Choros the composer’s stated aim was to achieve a synthesis of the various musical influences of Brazil: the popular urban music (such as the dances of European origin performed by chorões or street musicians), the music brought from Africa by slaves, and the chants and rhythms of the native Indian tribes. The Choros range from solo pieces with durations of a couple of minutes to large-scale scores for expanded symphony orchestra, sometimes comprising choir or solo instruments. The cycle also includes an Introduction, as well as a brief ‘after-thought’: the Two Choros (bis). After the completion of the Choros, Villa-Lobos in 1930 began his next great project, the Bachianas Brasileiras. Admiring its ability to communicate across all boundaries in time or place, Villa-Lobos once described the music of Bach as ‘universal folk music’ and here attempted a fusion between Bach and Brazilian music. This cycle also consists of various scorings: from solo instrument to choir a cappella and symphony orchestra, with Villa-Lobos providing parallel versions of two of them (Nos 4 and 9). All of these are included in this collection, which comprises recordings made between 2002 and 2006, and released as separate discs to universal acclaim: ‘The complete set of Villa-Lobos's exotic and brilliant Bachianas Brasileiras surpasses, for me, all previous recordings in terms of execution, spirit and recorded sound’ wrote the reviewer in Fanfare, including the discs on his 2008 ‘Want-List’. Equally well-received, the cycle of Choros was already before its completion described as ‘a publishing feat’ on the website Klassik.com. The performances of the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra were naturally in focus: ‘The Brazilian players sound as if the music is in their blood … and their ensemble is in no way inferior to that of any of their rivals’ (Gramophone) and ‘a world-class ensemble providing an assured blend of lush colours, pulsating rhythms and supple phrasing’ (International Record Review) are only a couple of examples. The many solo performances appearing throughout the collection received similar praise, as witness the following examples: ‘No. 5 with Donna Brown has to be the quintessential performance of this most famous of Bachianas’ (American Record Guide), ‘Jean Louis Steuerman plays with great finesse and understanding’ (Gramophone), ‘Cristina Ortiz proves a peerless pianist in this unique piece [Choros No. 11] ’ (classiqueinfo-disque.com). This collection also includes a performance by the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet of Quinteto em forma de choros (a work often mentioned in connection with the Choros even if it does not form part of the cycle) as well as a separate disc containing Anders Miolin’s recording of the complete music for solo guitar, much of which Villa-Lobos composed for the legendary Andres Segovia.