Villa-Lobos: Guitar Manuscripts Vol 3

review lobos x1 cong

Heitor Villa-Lobos was a Brazilian composer, described as “the single most significant creative figure in 20th-century Brazilian art music,” at least by Wikipedia, our go-to guide for classical advice.
A prolific composer, he wrote numerous orchestral, chamber and instrumental works and often infused his music with the sounds of Brazilian folk or street music. Originally learning the cello, he switched to guitar as a young man and turned his back on medicine to study music. He hung out with the working guitar players of the city in Rio, who, one can imagine, led a fairly Bohemian life, before travelling widely and absorbing different styles of music. Despite the supposed drinking and carousing, this is a very sober collection of tunes.
On this CD, Andrea Bissoli plays a 1917 guitar similar to one Villa-Lobos might have used and performs – with Ensemble Cirandinha, Orquestra Filarmônica de Minas Gerais and Fabio Mechetti – songs from Villa-Lobos’s early (more French influenced period); as well as the 12 etudes he composed for Spanish guitarist Segovia (who only asked for one — Villa-Lobos must have been on a roll that day) and arrangements of folk tunes that would have been played by street musicians (chorões).
All in all: it’s probably a guitar player’s album. Despite the explosion of life you’d expect from the streets of Rio, this is technical music, and rather dusty and dry. It doesn’t pluck at the heartsrings the way, say, a decent flamenco album does. (Brazil Portuguese, Spain Spanish, we know). This is no reflection on Bissoli;s playing of course.
If you play guitar you can probably admire the proficiency and the tone, but for the rest it’s probably a too formal, even when it gets more orchestral at the end. It reminded us of those earnest types who collect American folk tunes; important as it is to culture. They can be a little dull and their “Here’s a complex tune written in 1922 about the problem of harvesting wheat with no shoes” wears a little.

About jerobear

Weekly newspaper editor in Cheshire, England. I blog my editorials and the CDs I write about. I play drums, drink coffee, play music, meditate. I hate filling in forms.

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