It's very nice to see Christina Ortiz back in the saddle for a major recording. As you may recall, she recorded a lot of stuff, mostly very good, for EMI, and also did the complete Villa-Lobos piano concertos for Decca. She probably knows the style and the music as well or better than anyone alive, and her playing here has real sweep and bravura, particularly in the quick outer sections of what is basically a three-movements-in-one sort of structure. The work is one of the composer's major masterpieces, and with brilliant sonics, you'd have to be crazy not to buy this disc if you have even a shred of interest in Villa-Lobos... Choros No. 5, subtitled "Brazilian Soul", is a five-minute piano solo that not surprisingly sounds like an extended cadenza from No. 11. Ortiz plays it with unaffected gusto and a powerful lyrical impulse. Choros No. 7 is scored for an exotic assortment of strings, winds (including saxophone), and offstage tam-tam... It's hugely fun and full of timbres and textures that you'll find nowhere else. If this disc signals the start of a complete Choros series with these forces on BIS, we're in for a real treat.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com [reviewing the original release of Choros Vol. 1,
While Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras series may be better known or more popular (at least in part), his Choros pieces are just as fine... It's high time that a label decided to record the entire sequence, and if you've been following these releases you already know just how exceptional the results are likely to be... This newcomer certainly doesn't disappoint. John Neschling leads his São Paulo forces in performances that offer the last word in glittering color and rhythmic exuberance, engineered with maximum realism and impact. The shorter, more intimate pieces are strategically placed in between the big orchestral works, making the entire disc a fabulously varied program that offers eloquent proof of Villa-Lobos' range and originality. Kudos also go to guitarist Fabio Zanon for his soulful reading of Choros No. 1, and to the various brass players for their vibrant reading of the quirkily scored No. 4. You're going to love this!
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com [reviewing the original release of Choros Vol. 2,
There is nothing to criticize here: it's all wonderful. This final volume in BIS's survey of the extant Choros pieces by Villa-Lobos (Nos. 13 and 14 are lost) offers in some ways the most interesting and varied assortment of the bunch. Introduction to the Choros features orchestra plus solo guitar, the latter splendidly played by Fabio Zanon. It's a soulful, evocative piece full of good tunes and colorful scoring, and you'll probably grow old and die before your local orchestra plays it live. Two Choros (Bis), a coda to the larger series of 12 numbered works, is a substantial pair of duets for violin and cello.
Choros No. 2 is another duet, this time for flute and clarinet; No. 3 is a brief chorus for male voices, winds, and percussion; No. 10 is a vibrant, primal piece for orchestra and mixed choir, while No. 12 is one of the composer's grandest and most successful large works for orchestra (it lasts more than half an hour). As already suggested, the performances are all splendid, the sonics terrific. I've already listened to this disc a dozen times, and look forward to the next dozen. Don't miss it. [11/20/2008]
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com [reviewing the original release of Choros Vol. 3,
The primary novelty here is the piano-solo original version of Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4, an interesting alternative to the more familiar setting for orchestra... Jean-Louis Steuerman [gives] a fine performance... Both wind players sound terrific in the brief and quirky Bachianas Brasileiras No. 6, and soprano Donna Brown sings (and hums) really beautifully in the popular No. 5. I was particularly taken with her clarity of diction and accuracy of intonation in the rapid-fire second movement. Here, and in Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1, the cello section of the São Paulo Symphony plays magnificently, with incisive rhythms (check out the first movement of No. 1) and a big, rich tone. As usual, BIS's engineering is excellent... It looks to be the Bachianas Brasileiras cycle of choice, assuming standards remain this high.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com [reviewing the original release of Bachianas Brasilieras 1, 4 (piano), 5 and 6,
This new installment of what looks to be the complete orchestral Bachianas Brasileiras is as fine as the previous one. Lest this be taken for granted, bear in mind that the worst complete set of the "BB" came from Brazil. The music needs more than just a feel for the idiom: it needs to be splendidly played and recorded, which fortunately is the case here. Both Nos. 7 and 8 take a four-movement form best summed up as "prelude, aria/dance, toccata, and fugue". Under Robert Minczuk, the orchestra plays with real panache in the toccatas, but also with powerful lyrical impetus in No. 7's opening movement, which rises to a climax of positively Tchaikovskian emotion. BIS also offers a special bonus in letting us hear both versions of BB No. 9, for wordless chorus and for string orchestra. The former is all but unknown, and if the choral singing is sometimes a bit rough and ready (the parts are atrociously difficult), just having the vocal version readily available at last represents a unique treat. The engineering is typically excellent. For fans of the composer, this is self-recommending.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com [reviewing the original release of Bachianas Brasilieras 7-9,
These performances of Bachianas Brasileiras Nos. 2 and 4 easily are the finest available. The São Paulo Symphony Orchestra certainly ought to know how to play this music, and do they ever! You'll be amazed at how effortlessly the strings articulate the hellish motor-rhythms in the finale of No. 4, or how the players differentiate the percussion timbres in the "train" movement of No. 2. Even if you know these works well, it's like hearing them for the first time. In No. 3 for piano and orchestra, not one of the best pieces in the series, conductor Roberto Minczuk shapes a performance quite similar to that on the composer's own EMI recording, albeit with infinitely greater sound and much, much better playing.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com [reviewing the original release of Bachianas Brasilieras 2, 3 and 4 (orchestral),