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CD Review

Heitor Villa-Lôbos

Disc One:
  • Bachianas brasilerias #3
  • "Momoprecoce" Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra
Cristina Ortiz, piano
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazky
Disc Two:
  • Fantasia for Soprano Saxophone *
  • Concerto for Guitar **
  • A prole do bebe #1
  • Festa no serato
  • Alma brasileria
  • A lenda do cabocio
  • Impressoes seresterias
Cristina Ortiz, piano
* John Harle, saxophone
* Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields/Neville Marriner
** Angel Romero, guitar
** London Philharmonic Orchestra/Jesús López-Cobos
EMI Forte 72670 2CDs
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Would you like to explore the soundscape of Villa-Lôbos? I know that I have been curious since sampling some of his work as played by Stokowski. (Parts of Bachianas brasilerias #5 with Anna Moffo on RCA 9026-62600, and Urapuru and Modinha on Everest 9023). Everyone really interested in Villa-Lôbos should have those Stokowski recordings. The Urapuru, in particular, is absolutely enchanting. Anyway, as I was saying, this set offers you not only an inexpensive tour, it offers a quality one as well.

The Bachianas brasilerias #3 is one of several Villa-Lôbos wrote. They reveal the composer's love of Bach with a South American flavor. They are not transcriptions, but original compositions in the manner of Bach. They are all wonderful. This one opens a bit pretentiously, but then everything settles down into one of the most beautiful musical experiences. Ashkenazy reveals a lushness that will remind you of Stokowski. He and Miss Ortiz sound as if they are making musical love to one another. This is as true in the Fantasy. The sound is great and the experience riveting.

The second disc is no less a treat. The saxophone concerto is magical, the guitar concerto ranks with the best I have ever heard from Rodrigo or Tedesco. The piano music is Debussy and Ravel and yet has its own accent. It is evocative, sensual. Again, the sound on this disc is fantastic. After playing this second disc, I listened to no more music that night, I just bathed in the afterglow of the experience.

Listening to this disc this evening, it occurs to me that for some reason I have made myself a Mexican TV dinner. That wasn't planned and I don't recommend the combo. I think that I can give you some idea how much I recommend this set when I tell you that it makes me want to explore some more.

Is Heitor Villa-Lôbos a great composer? In philosophy you learn that if you are asking the wrong questions you get nowhere. This is a case where such a question is not efficacious. I recently looked up the word "genius" in Jasmine's Encyclopedia. The word comes from Roman myth. Genius was a household god. It was believed that every individual had his or her own genius.

Copyright © 1999, Robert Stumpf II