VILLA-LOBOS: Introduction to the Chôros. Chôros No. 1 for Guitar (1920). Chôros No. 2 for Flute and Clarinet (1924). Chôros No. 3 'Pica-Pau" for male chorus and wind instruments (1925). Chôros No. 4 for three horns and trombone (1926). Chôros No. 5 'Alma Brsileira' for piano (1925). Chôros No. 6 for orchestra (1926). Chôros No. 7 'Settimino' for 8-part chambe ensemble (1924).
Carlos Oramas, guitar; Johanne Valérie Gélinas, flute; Radovan Cavallin, clarinet; Sergio Alonso, piano; Cro de la Filarmónica de Gran Canaria/Luis García Santana; Orquesta Filarmónica de Gran Canaria/Adrian Leaper, cond.
ASV DCA 1150 (F) (DDD) TT: 70:18


Piecemeal over the past half-century, all but No. 3 of Villa-Lobos’ 12 numbered Chôros have been recorded (in fact 14, for there’s an “Introduction” for orchestra and solo guitar written in 1929 after the official dozen had been completed, starting in 1920 with No. 1, and a Chôros bis for violin and cello). This disc from the Philharmonic Orchestra of Gran Canaria (largest of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic) includes that “Introduction” and Nos. 1-7 in sequence. They range from music for solo piano (No. 5, a.k.a. “Alma Brasileira”) and guitar (No. 1, of which there are 20 other versions available from Arkiv, including one by John Williams) to full orchestra (No. 6). No. 3, the only version extant, is street music of undeniable charm called “Pica-Pau” for male chorus and winds lasting only 3:37.

For background on the Chôros, see comments on Nos. 8 and 9, both for orchestra (REVIEW). Unlike the Bachianas Brasileiras, these are basically homages to popular music indigenous to Rio de Janeiro. The short ones strike me as best, and are played with idiomatic expertise here by the solo instrumentalists singly and in combination. No. 1 is decidedly a serenata; No. 2 a witty duet for flute and clarinet; No. 3 the aforesaid “Pico-Pau” which anticipates No. 10, “Rasga o coracao”; No. 4 scored for 3 horns and a beguilingly vulgar trombone when the occasion requires; No. 5, the soulful “Alma Brasileira,” then the biggest so far, No. 6 for full orchestra with enlarged percussion, lasting almost 25 minutes. Like many of Villa Lobos larger works, it is structurally episodic but indubitably panoramic, albeit more “countryfied” than “cityfied.” No. 7 bears the subtitle “Settimino” and is scored tongue-in-cheek for violin, cello, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, saxophone and tam-tam.

This collection was made in 2000-01, and it remains to be known if the remaining six Chôros were recorded before Adrian Leaper left Las Palmas in 2002 to become music director of Spain’s RTVE Symphony Orchestra. It was good while he worked with the Gran Canaria SO, notably in a cycle of Mahler’s orchestral symphonies for Arte Nova, BMG’s bygone budget label priced even less than Naxos stateside. And the orchestra continued to be polished, obviously. Leaper proves himself as stylish in this idiom as he was in a variety of recordings for Naxos before Arte Nova. Not to seem greedy, I’d like to hear the collection of Granados music he and the OFGC made for ASV, including the tone poem Dante, plus a similar service for Turina, both with quadruple-digit disc numbers. Meanwhile, this entertaining sequence of Villa-Lobos’ Chôros is diversified as well as fun, with everything, whether solo, ensemble or orchestral, vividly played and handsomely engineered by Martin Anderson for producer Mike Purton. The rest, please.

R.D. (September 2003)