ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
HEITOR VILLA-LOBOS - Complete Solo Works for Guitar


HEITOR VILLA-LOBOS - Complete Solo Works for Guitar - Frank Bungarten (Guitar) - Hybrid SACD - 760623162966 - Released: September 2010 - MDG 9051629

Exceptionally fine playing is on offer in this recording by Frank Bungarten of the solo guitar music of Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959), whose musical legacy, not only to his native Brazil but to the whole world, is of precious value. A composer who earned his living as a cellist and teacher, who taught himself how to play guitar, and went on to compose 12 symphonies, numerous concertos for various instruments, 17 string quartets, piano trios, choral works, vocal works, solo piano music, solo guitar music, and of course, the very famous Bachianas Brasileiras. The simple fact that he constantly used the guitar to improvise, compose and work out his musical ideas, is a clear indicator as to why his guitar works are so beautiful. They are a perfect but unusual blend of the Brazilian "choros" and the music of Bach, a composer much admired by Villa-Lobos.

The pieces on this CD are the Suite populaire brésilienne, whose mazurka, waltz and gavotte movements very much give it a European flavor, classical sound and delicate touch. The Douze Etudes on the other hand, will put to task a guitarist's technique as some demand speed, some require that the melody or leading voice be pronounced within a flurry of notes, numerous dynamic shadings, intricate counterpoint that requires clarity and expressive subtleties, and so on, all the while demanding the utmost in musical interpretation. The Cinq Préludes from 1940, are the most representative of this composer's sound and style. Typically Brazilian in color, but with the harmonic structure and perfection of Bach, they could easily be considered guitar masterpieces. And for all out South American flavor, the Choro No. 1 which ends the disc could not be better chosen.

Award winning guitarist Frank Bungarten brings out all of the inner qualities of this music and plays these technically demanding works as if they were second nature to him. His delivery, especially in the more lyrical pieces, has an almost three-dimensional sound to it, with the melody out front and the accompaniment recessed in the background, which is very effective in works like these. This is a Hybrid-Multichannel SACD recording. I've only been able to listen to it in regular stereo, so I can just imagine how lifelike it must sound in surround sound. The instrument used is a Gerhard Schnabl guitar built with spruce and beautiful Brazilian tulipwood, whose marvellous sound is very well reproduced in this top-notch MDG recording.

Jean-Yves Duperron - October 2010