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Friday, November 29, 2019

Villa-Lobos, Guitar Concerto, Harmonica Concerto, Chamber Works

Naxos continues its (so far) vital "Music of Brazil" series with a very attractive volume of relatively under-recorded Villa-Lobos works, including the "Guitar Concerto," the "Harmonica Concerto" and several chamber pieces (Naxos 8.574018).  Proceedings are nicely forwarded by Manuel Barrueco on guitar, Jose Staneck on harmonica, the OSESP Ensemble and the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra under Giancarlo Guerrero.

Why I have not known much until now the "Concerto for Guitar and Small Orchestra" (1951) is beyond me. It is his last guitar work, written for Segovia and it has a diatonic power and thrust along with a special lyricism that makes it a must-hear, especially if you already love Villa-Lobos as I do.

The "Concerto for Harmonica" (1955) is somewhat more rarified, and perhaps more understandably less performed because of the chromatic harmonica part that demands a virtuosity which is not so often available out there? It too is filled with extremely beautiful music, typically ravishing late Villa-Lobos.

The two chamber works are gems, dashingly charming works. The brief "Sexteto Mystical" (1917) benefits from Villa-Lobos' deft handling of a somewhat exotic instrumentation of flute, oboe, alto saxophone, guitar, celesta and harp. "Quinteto Instrumental" (1957) is a bit more conventionally instrumented  with flute, harp, violin, viola and cello, yet the brilliant sonics and lyrical outpourings mark this as one of his most charming Brazilianesque diatonic effusions. It certainly deserves a wider hearing and the OSESP Ensemble give us a version that sparkles. Soaring!

In short this is most lovely Villa-Lobos magnificently performed. Everyone should hear this if they can. Kudos!

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