Outrageous, ravishing and brash by turns, this disc could well attract a cult following beyond the polite confines of the classical choral set. Primarily taking keyboard pieces from Bach and the romantic repertoire and arranging them for an “orchestra of voices”, Villa-Lobos created these challenging transcriptions for a teachers’ choir as part of music education materials written for Rio de Janeiro’s public schools in the 1930s.
Under the astute direction of Valentina Peleggi, the São Paulo Symphony Choir brings a warm, rich sound to their task. They are at their best in the slow, lyrical vein of works like Mendelssohn’s Song Without Words No 9 or Schumann’s Träumerei, and charming in Schubert’s Ständchen (sung in Portuguese). More amazing is the arrangement of Chopin’s Waltz No. 7 in C Sharp Minor, Op. 64, No 2, where the singers abandon themselves to the swirling dance with stunning effect. Rachmaninov’s C Sharp Minor Prelude, Op. 3, No 2 is arresting, even if over-the-top.
Villa-Lobos is well known for his love of Bach, and his transcriptions of preludes and fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier exhibit extraordinary skill in throwing important motivic ideas into relief against the rest of the texture. Some of these arrangements, such as the C Major Fugue, BWV846 are a stretch for the singers, eliciting some less than lovely sounds at times, but the composer’s own choral version of Bachianas Brasilieras No 9 is given a rapturous rendition, bringing this unusual recital, full of first recordings, to a captivating close.
Work: Choral Transcriptions
Performers: São Paulo Symphony Choir/Valentina Peleggi
Label: Naxos 8574286