The Piano Quintet in A minor is "grand" in more ways than one. It lasts more than 37 minutes. Each movement possesses its own fascination. The first offers heaving, swelling romantic music and engages all the instruments in daunting fashion. The second is a haunting, relentless scherzo that starts off with a lighter sound to build suspense. The slow third, major key movement starts off in rather saccharine style but turns persuasive in its own way.
This 6-CD set of "Villa-Lobos par lui-même" ("Villa Lobos performed by himself") presents the complete recordings made for Pathé between 1954 and 1958 and conducted by, or (in the case of the occasional Bachianas Brasileiras or Chôros scored for piano or duet) made under the supervision of the composer. As many of his contemporaries who made Paris their second home (Enescu comes to mind), Villa-Lobos shared his life between his native Brazil and Paris. Thus it has an important historical value.
Here's an easy call: these are the finest recordings of these works currently available. In reviewing the individual releases, I had perhaps one small reservation concerning the disc containing Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4, but this evaporates in the face of the achievement as a whole. Both cycles, the Bachianas Brasileiras and the Choros, constitute two of the most original, colorful, and enjoyable collections of works by any 20th-century composer. They belong in every serious record collection, and they have never been so consistently well performed and recorded. At last, Villa-Lobos' compatriots have managed to do his quirky genius full justice. The excellent disc of solo guitar music makes a fine and thoughtful bonus, and at seven discs for the price of three, you'd have to be insane not to grab this set immediately.
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Jesús Villa-Rojo is one of Spain’s most impressive contemporary composers, and writes masterfully for the cello. The taut, meditative Oración serena, with its expressive depth, is dedicated to the victims of the terrorist attacks in Madrid in 2004. From the same year comes the seven-movement suite Expresiones for solo cello, a work that charts a narrative course between conflict and aching lyricism.