All products and recordings are chosen independently by our editorial team. This review contains affiliate links and we may receive a commission for purchases made. Please read our affiliates FAQ page to find out more.

Villa-Lobos: Complete Violin Sonatas

Emmanuele Baldini (violin), Pablo Rossi (piano) (Naxos)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Sonata fantasia No. 1 ‘Désespérance’; Sonata fantasia No. 2; Violin Sonata No. 3
Emmanuele Baldini (violin), Pablo Rossi (piano)
Naxos 8.574310   53:39 mins


Villa-Lobos’s three violin sonatas (composed between 1912 and 1920) were all written before he went to study in Paris and discovered Stravinsky. At this relatively early stage in his career, he still earned his living principally as a gifted cellist, playing in orchestras, cafés, restaurants and cinemas accompanying the latest silent movies. All of which makes the expertise of the one-movement First Violin Sonata, composed when Villa-Lobos was 25 and subtitled Désespérance (‘Despair’), all the more striking. French music of La Belle Époque is the starting point, with some exquisite writing along the way, including a sequence of dreamy harmonics for the violin.

The Second Sonata (1914) is more wide ranging and confident in terms of both its expressive range and technical accomplishment, although it retains the fantaisie-like structural freedom of its predecessor. Yet it is the Debussyan harmonic and gestural sophistication of the Third Sonata (1920) that leaves the most lasting impression – surely Villa-Lobos must have known Debussy’s own Sonata of 1917.

Emmanuele Baldini, whose survey of Wolf-Ferrari’s violin sonatas (also Naxos) was lauded in the July issue, produces an alluring tone that taps into the natural resonances of his instrument, and phrases with a natural instinct for cantabile espressivo. His sensitive and responsive partner, Pablo Rossi, who helps create the indelible impression that this elusive yet deeply rewarding music is among the finest ever written for violin and piano.


Julian Haylock