Heitor Villa-Lôbos (1887-1959) is arguably Brazil's and South America's greatest composer. This does not mean that he concentrated only on the music traditions of his birthplace, but his one thousand plus works include all styles and genres. The young composer became acquainted with the wonderful mix of European sounds and Afro-Brazilian elements in the Rio of the turn of the century. The popular choro and a mix of waltz, polka, and samba were the soul of the street-life of this huge city, and it was to this enticing musical form that Villa-Lôbos dedicated his first virtuoso guitar compositions, presented here in the form of a suite. His independent ideas caused quite a stir in Paris in 1923, when he was more interested in showing what he can do than to learn.
The influence of this visit is reflected in his 1928 "Douze Etudes", a work in every respect powerful and revolutionary. By the time of the 1940 "Cinq Preludes", Villa-Lôbos had long returned to Brazil and this late piece typifies the choros of his youth as well as a homage to J.S. Bach. Frank Bungarten performs with incredible accuracy and assurance, and the programme is a cause for unalloyed pleasure. Sound and presentation are first-rate.
Copyright © 2010, Gerald Fenech.