Villa-Lobos: Cor dulce

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Villa-Lobos
LABELS: Hanssler
WORKS: Cor dulce, cor amabile; José; As Costureiras; Bachianas Brasileiras No. 9; Choros No. 3 Pica-Páu; Préces sem palavras; Duas Lendas Amerindias em Nheengatu; Ave Maria; Bazzum; Na Bahia Tem; Bendita Sabedoria; plus Bach’s Praeludium & Fugue No. 8, BWV 853 – arranged Villa-Lobos for six-part mixed choir
PERFORMER: SWR Stuttgart Vocal Ensemble/ Marcus Creed

Twenty short dips into a rare repertoire reveal a stream of surprises and delights. Villa-Lobos draws on endlessly varied combinations of voices and vocal attack to make some of the 20th century’s most inventive and affecting choral music. All of it is unaccompanied, much of it wordless, entailing a captivating virtuosity from the Stuttgart choir.
At one extreme two early pieces could almost be Gounod as they serenely evoke early church music. At the other – where do you start? Bazzum is an African-tinged elegy in the aftermath of a slaves’ revolt. One work each from the Choros and Bachianas Brasileiras series ratchet up the energy levels in dance rhythms and vocal onomatopoeia. An alchemical transcription of the E flat minor Prelude from Bach’s Book 1 becomes pure Villa-Lobos as its soaring lines and reiterated chords head for the intense climax.
It’s possible to imagine more dynamic and fiery performances, but on its own terms this is a superb survey, warmly recorded and delivered. Robert Maycock