The concertos and chamber works on this album show Villa-Lobos’s unceasing enthusiasm for new colors and sonorities in his music. The Concerto for Guitar and Small Orchestra was his last work for the instrument and written for Segovia. A cornerstone of the repertoire, it contains soaring melodies and rhythmic vitality couched in virtuosic writing. Exploring the instrument’s full harmonic and chromatic possibilities, the Concerto for Harmonica is also deftly orchestrated. New and daring sonic combinations are to be heard in the two chamber works demonstrating the composer’s extraordinary gift for seductive lyricism.
The more you listen toRead more Villa-Lobos, the more it seems as though he had a giant block of characteristic music that allowed him to cut off chunks of different shapes and sizes that he called “Guitar Concerto”, “Harmonica Concerto”, “Sexteto Místico”, etc. It’s not that it all sounds the same–it’s just so much the product of a single, unique personality. This splendid program consists of chunks featuring unusual instruments, or combinations of instruments. The best known work here is the Guitar Concerto, an almost impossible piece as regards balance of forces that’s marvelously played by Manuel Barrueco. The problems of audibility are easily solved on recordings, as here, by placing the soloist well out in front of the orchestra, but I’m happy to report that performance noises are still minimal.
The Harmonica Concerto is a rarity, and sounds atrociously difficult to perform. If you don’t know the instrument well, you would never imagine its wide range of pitch and expression, and surprisingly pleasant basic timbre. José Staneck must have lips of steel just to get through the piece, but he does much more than that, offering moments of real sensitivity and grace. The Sexteto Místico is a brief work in one movement scored for–get this–flute, oboe, alto saxophone, guitar, harp, and celesta. There’s nothing like it anywhere else, and the sheer sound of it is so captivating that it almost doesn’t matter what notes the musicians are playing. Fortunately, it seems that they offer the right ones.
The most “normal” piece here is the Quinteto Instrumental for flute, harp, and string trio, a substantial work in three movements as long as any of the concertos (about 17 minutes). Villa-Lobos revels in the music’s exotic sounds and luscious textures, and you will too. The uniformly first-rate performances by members of the São Paulo Symphony under the vital and sensitive direction of Giancarlo Guerrero are excellently engineered, making the whole disc a joy from start to finish–a true voyage of discovery and delight.
Concerto for Guitar, W 501by Heitor Villa-Lobos Performer:
Manuel Barrueco (Guitar)
São Paulo Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century Written: 1951; Brazil
Concerto for Harmonica, W 524by Heitor Villa-Lobos Performer:
José Staneck (Harmonica)
São Paulo Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century Written: 1955-1956; Brazil
Quintet for Harp, Strings Trio and Flute, W 538by Heitor Villa-Lobos Performer:
Adriana Holtz (Cello),
Adrian Petrutiu (Violin),
Cláudia Nascimento (Flute),
Ederson Fernandes (Viola),
Suélem Sampaio (Harp)
Period: 20th Century Written: 1957; Brazil
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Sâo Paulo's Villa-Lobos recording revolutionDecember 3, 2019By Dean Frey See All My Reviews"In the past ten years we've been blessed with a new generation of Villa-Lobos recordings from São Paulo that have instantly become the new standards for interpretation, instrumental playing and engineering. These include the complete Bachianas Brasileiras, Choros and Symphonies series. Now we have a very welcome disc in Naxos's new series The Music of Brazil, which takes on the first of the composer's commissioned concertos from the last decade of his life, along with some important chamber works. The Guitar Concerto, written for Andrès Segovia in 1951, is somewhat controversial. Jason Vieaux, speaking for the Defence, has expressed his love for the work. Meanwhile, John Williams said, "it just isn't a very good piece, technically or musically." This has always been a popular work, thanks to a plethora of great recordings, by Julian Bream, Göran Söllscher, and my own favourite, by Norbert Kraft. There's even a very convincing recording by John Williams himself! But I'll admit that, at least in its final movement, the Guitar Concerto, like much of the commissioned music from Villa's final decade, suffers from some undistinguished patches of banal passage-work, though in this case they connect some of the composer's finest tunes. Lovely tunes were never a problem for this guy! I've only listened to this new recording of the Concerto by Manuel Barrueco and OSESP (the São Paulo Symphony) under Giancarlo Guerrero, five or six times, but I'm already suspecting this will go to the very top of the list. Barrueco's playing is outstanding, especially in the Cadenza, and even in the Finale the partnership between soloist and orchestra makes the most compelling case for bringing this work out of the John Williams cold. Eero Tarasti refers to Villa-Lobos's "limpid late period". The Harmonica Concerto, written for John Sebastian in 1955, partakes fully of the relaxed, late-night noodlings that are seemingly built-in to the instrument. Beginning with a theme that's disconcertingly similar to the Hancock's Half-Hour theme-song by Wally Stott/Angela Morley, Villa-Lobos continues his formula here: lots of arresting, sometimes quite beautiful, themes held together with characteristic runs and doodles by the solo instrument. In this case, as so often throughout his career, Villa-Lobos cottons on to a wider variety of effects from his instruments than are standard, providing a kaleidoscopic effect of instrumental orchestral colours. The playing here by José Staneck is very fine, though this recording lacks some of the energy of the classic album by Robert Bonfiglio and the New York Chamber Symphony under Gerard Schwarz. As fine as these two works are, I was most interested in the two chamber works, by the OSESP Ensemble, made up of some very fine musicians indeed. The Sesteto Místico (aka Sextuor Mystique) was nominally written in 1917, though it was revised later in Villa's career. This is a fine example of Villa's modernist style, well ahead of anything being written in Latin America, and close to the leading edge in Europe. Tarasti refers to its "contrapuntal colorism... a refined, aquarelle-like texture simply because of the choice of instruments." He notes that "a corresponding combination is not to be found in European chamber music of the period." This is a very fine recording, with delicate filigree effects and all the colours of the rainbow. We return to the 1950s with the Quinteto Instrumental, written in 1957. This is a work of pure nostalgia, though it's French nostalgie rather than the usual Brazilian saudade, with Villa-Lobos looking back to his time in Paris in the 1920s. The sounds of the instruments evoke Ravel, as does the mildly ironic and sentimental tone of the music. If there is a falling-off in Villa-Lobos's inspiration in the commissioned works of the 1950s, it's hard to hear it in the great chamber works of the period, including the late String Quartets and this Quintet. And it's a great work to end this very, very fine disc from São Paulo. I look forward to more in this series!"Report Abuse