Enrique Bátiz

Villa-Lobos: Bachianas Brasileiras; Mômoprecóce; Guitar Concerto

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EMI's three-disc set of Heitor Villa-Lobos' nine Bachianas Brasileiras is a mixed bag of inconsistent performances. The First and Fifth, each scored for large cello ensembles, are the most disappointing, especially considering Villa-Lobos himself was a cellist. The cellists of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra constantly struggle with intonation difficulties; the primary culprits are the higher voices that are usually not in tune with each other nor the rest of the ensemble. Even the magnificent performance given by soprano Barbara Hendricks is not sufficient to make this recording of the Fifth a desirable choice. The Second, Fourth, and Eighth are scored for full orchestra. Here, the RPO pulls off significantly stronger performances but are still generally unmoving, lacking in rhythmic panache so central to Villa-Lobos' music. The sound quality of the orchestra is quite muddy, further robbing the music of any true rhythmic impetus. The most successful performances of the set are those that rely less on the orchestra -- the Fourth and Six. The soloists do a far better job capturing the listener's interest. Still, two out of nine successful performances is not a great track record and certainly does not qualify this recording as a "must-have" compilation of these works.

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