Heitor Villa-Lobos was one of the many composers inspired to write for the guitar by Andrés Segovia, whose brilliance extended beyond technical accomplishment to the expansion, on several fronts, of his instrument's world. Much of his guitar music took up the fusion of the French neo-classical impulse with Brazilian popular rhythms that animated his writing in general, and his fascination with the music of Bach is on display throughout the program here -- not just in the third of the 5 Preludes for guitar, explicitly designated as an homage to Bach. Villa-Lobos excelled in joining extremely difficult guitar effects to strict polyphonic constructions, and the central work on this disc, the 12 Etudes for guitar, Op. 25, brings the fusion to a unique depth in works that are as much compositional studies as technical ones. Composed in 1928 and dedicated to Segovia, they were for many years playable by few others and remained unpublished until 1953. The guitarist has to keep lower lines blaring out like the pedal notes of an organ while weaving several lines of intricate passagework above them, solving specific technical problems in each piece and avoiding the usual trap with Villa-Lobos of letting the music wander -- the structures of these pieces are sharp and concise. In all these challenges the Sardinian-born guitarist Filomena Moretti excels, and without benefit of overdubs -- the music was recorded live. Although the audience was assembled for the project rather than simply coming in off the street, there is no feigning the enthusiasm that erupts at the end of each work on the disc -- the Etudes especially. Moretti's is a performance in which an artist goes to her limits and exceeds them -- an absolute virtuosic thrill. The electricity of live performance is matched by sound engineering that gives the listener a real sense of presence, and the result must be one of the finest Villa-Lobos guitar recordings available anywhere.
Heitor Villa-Lobos: Guitar Works Review
by James Manheim
|Prelúdios (5), for guitar, A. 419|
|Estudios (12), etudes for guitar, A. 235|