Villa-Lobos: Chôros Nos. 8 and 9
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Villa-Lobos: Choros Nos. 8 And 9
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Villa-Lobos wrote 14 Chôros, substantial works rooted in Brazilian popular music. As you might expect, the Eighth and Ninth of the series are drenched in exotic tonal colors and alive with exciting rhythms. No. 8 features an array of conventional and unconventional percussion instruments including rattles, scrapers, and the caracaxa, which opens the piece. It's full of lively tunes as well and has an important piano part. No. 9 was composed four years later, in 1929. It opens with a riot of color, tapering down to a fascinating section for brass and winds over an obsessively repeated rhythm and a bassoon solo that's a twin to the start of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. Like its predecessor, Chôros No. 9 is an endlessly enjoyable work, and it gets a bang-up performance from Schermerhorn and the Hong Kong musicians. Their command of the idiom makes you swear you're hearing a Brazilian band. Once available on the Marco Polo label, it shouldn't be missed in this Naxos budget re-release. --Dan Davis
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Both these Choros are among Villa-Lobos' most difficult works and it is to the credit of Schermerhorn that he keeps the orchestra under control at all, let alone so well. There are moments when it seems to teeter on the edge of fragmentation but thankfully all goes well and, in some ways, this adds to the thrill of the performance! The recording, made in the early eighties, is excellent and well balanced.
However, I would not recommend it to someone approaching Villa-Lobos for the first time. Most of his orchestral Choros are complex affairs with rhythms and melodic interplays that (while not being Avant-Garde) challenge ones musical sensibilities and this one does so to the limit. If you're brave, fine! But otherwise I would recommend the smaller Choros or, for orchestral works, the Symphonies, Amazonia, Forest of the Amazon or The Discovery of Brazil.