Heitor Villa-Lobos: Choral Transcriptions

Heitor Villa-Lobos: Choral Transcriptions

by Coro Sinfonico do Estado de Sao PauloCoro Sinfonico do Estado de Sao Paulo


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The Naxos label's "The Music of Brazil" series, backed by the Brazilian government, unearths a real find here, with barely known choral arrangements of a set of preludes and fugues (separate, not paired) of Bach, by Heitor Villa-Lobos, here receiving their world recorded premieres. The rest of the program consists of similar a cappella arrangements of famous repertory pieces, both polyphonic and tune-plus-harmony, both vocal and instrumental. The arrangements were made in the mid-1930s and intended for school choruses. A few of the songs are given Portuguese texts, but it is the arrangements of instrumental pieces that are the most striking. They are wordless, but they are not vocalises. Villa-Lobos adds color by scoring them for varied syllables from the choir, and this is done with exceptional subtlety. Listen to any of the Bach pieces, or the Chopin "Waltz in C sharp minor, Op. 64, No. 2" (especially the middle section). What could easily have been a mechanical exercise instead lies close to the heart of Villa-Lobos' art and becomes a kind of recomposition, with delightful results for the listener. The "Bachianas Brasileiras" are part of a related impulse here, and the original choral version of one of those concludes the program as a kind of flourish. The Choir of the Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo under Valentina Peleggi is challenged by some of the faster polyphony in the Bach, but this hardly matters; the impression is close to what Villa-Lobos must have had in mind for the original performers. Villa-Lobos interrupted work on much more prestigious compositional engagements to write this music, and it is easy to see why he did so and how he became interested in the project, which he executed with great skill. A must for Villa-Lobos fans and an enjoyable choral novelty for any listener. Kudos all around.

Product Details

Release Date: 01/29/2021
Label: Naxos
UPC: 0747313428670
catalogNumber: 8574286
Rank: 65755


  1. Song Without Words for piano No. 9 in E major, Op. 30/3
  2. Prelude and Fugue, for keyboard No. 8 in E flat minor, BWV 853 (BC L87) (WTC I/8)

    1. Prelude
    2. Fugue
  3. Kinderszenen No. 7 ("Träumerei"), for piano, Op. 15/7
  4. Prelude and Fugue, for keyboard No. 1 in C major, BWV 846 (BC L80) (WTC I/1): Fugue

    1. Fugue
  5. Ständchen ("Leise flehen meine Lieder"), song for voice & piano (Schwanengesang), D. 957/4
  6. Prelude and Fugue, for keyboard No. 21 in B flat major, BWV 866 (BC L100) (WTC I/21): Fugue

    1. Fugue
  7. Waltz for piano No. 7 in C sharp minor, Op. 64/2, CT. 213
  8. Prelude and Fugue, for keyboard No. 22 in B flat minor, BWV 867 (BC L101) (WTC I/22): Prelude

    1. Prelude
  9. Prelude for piano No. 1 in C sharp minor ("The Bells of Moscow"), Op. 3/2
  10. Prelude and Fugue, for keyboard No. 14 in F sharp minor, BWV 883 (BC L117) (WTC II/14): Prelude

    1. Prelude
  11. Élégie: O doux printemps d'autrefois, for voice & piano (from "Mélodies, Vol.1")
  12. Prelude and Fugue, for keyboard No. 5 in D major, BWV 874 (BC L108) (WTC II/5): Fugue

    1. Fugue
  13. Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor ("Pathétique"), Op. 13: II. Adagio cantabile

    1. II. Adagio cantabile
  14. Bachianas Brasileiras No. 9, for chorus (or string orchestra), A. 449

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