Villa-Lobos: String Trio; Duo for violin and viola; Deux Chôros; Chôros No. 2

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COMPOSERS: Villa-Lobos
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: String Trio; Duo for violin and viola; Deux Chôros; Chôros No. 2
PERFORMER: German String Trio
CATALOGUE NO: 999 827-2
Those for whom Heitor Villa-Lobos is merely a purveyor of Brazilian exotic colouring and splashy orchestration may be surprised by the intensity of the slow movement of his 1946 Duo for violin and viola, which proves a distinguished addition to a small and demanding repertoire. The strong, inventive structures (well, garrulous finale apart) and contrapuntal intricacy of his only String Trio – a big work of patent ambition – are also highly impressive. Almost an exact contemporary of the supreme masterpiece in the genre – Schoenberg’s – this Trio by Villa-Lobos deserves to be heard much more frequently than it is. A cellist himself, and the composer of 17 string quartets, the Brazilian master was in fact a notable virtuoso when it came to writing for strings, as all the music on this excellent release will demonstrate.

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The earlier Chôros pieces, from the Twenties, are more demotic and nostalgic in style, redolent of street serenades, while both the Trio and Duo give evidence of the neo-Baroque enthusiasms that gave birth to the Bachianas brasileiras. All told, this is an impressive anthology of Villa-Lobos’s chamber music for two or three strings, superbly and sympathetically played and beautifully recorded. Calum MacDonald