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

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COMPOSERS: Villa-Lobos
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.


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