Villa-Lobos: The Complete String Quartets

Villa-Lobos: The Complete String Quartets


Artist: Cuarteto Latinoamericano

Composer: Heitor Villa-Lobos

Format: 6 CDs


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Artistic Quality/Sound Quality

These fine performances constitute the only complete cycle currently available of the 17 string quartets that pepper Villa-Lobos' entire career. The suite-like, five-movement No. 1, with its adorable "like a jumping bean" finale, is deceptive. Most of these are resoundingly neo-classical works full of acerbic harmonies and typically busy counterpoint, with few overtly nationalistic elements. Of course they sound just like Villa-Lobos, who was himself something of a "nationalistic element" when you come right down to it. The series reaches its culmination in the large works composed around the time of the Second World War, Nos. 7-11, which really do constitute landmark 20th century contributions to the form on a par with those of Shostakovich and Bartók.

For the most part, this is tough and serious music, and it receives tough and serious performances from the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, whose rhythmic verve and slightly astringent timbre works beautifully in clarifying the dense thicket of the composer's effusive counterpoint. Occasionally the very intensity of both music and performance becomes a bit overbearing, but then no one is suggesting that you listen to 17 quartets in a row. Overall, both the works themselves and these performances remain astonishingly consistent in quality. Sonically you couldn't ask for better. At a bargain price, this is a very attractive proposition for anyone who fancies either the composer or chamber music in general.

—David Hurwitz,

This exciting set, encompassing all 17 string quartets by the extraordinary Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959), is a milestone collection of what most scholars have called 'the most important contribution in this field by a Latin American composer'. The beautifully boxed set is also the first time all of the quartets have been made available as an integral release. Performed by Cuarteto Latinoamericano, recognized world-wide as the preeminent ensemble focusing on Latin American music, the recordings have received universal critical acclaim as well as a GRAMMY nomination for 'Best Chamber Music Performance' and a Latin GRAMMY. It is only fitting that this spectacular boxed set is being released in celebration of the composer's monumental musical achievements on the 50th anniversary of his passing. Along with the 6 CDs the set includes a DVD with a full performance of Quartet number one as well as interviews with the ensemble about Villa-Lobos and their connection with the Music. Villa-Lobos - It has become almost commonplace to say that the musical output of Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) is as vast, varied, and exuberant as the Amazon rain forest, which was his life-long inspiration. This is a picturesque analogy, but it certainly rings true: in the catalogue of Villa-Lobos, which comprises more than 2,000 works, we find an astonishing variety of forms, genres, and modes of expression that bear witness to the composer's inquisitive and adventuresome spirit. The sheer number of string quartets penned by Villa-Lobos is remarkable in itself: they are seventeen in all, written over a period of forty-two years, and they undoubtedly represent the most important contribution in the genre by a Latin American composer.

Formed in 1982, Cuarteto Latinoamericano is known worldwide as the leading proponent of Latin American music for string quartet. This award-winning ensemble from Mexico consists of the three Bitrán brothers, violinists Saúl and Arón and cellist Alvaro, along with violist Javier Montiel. The Cuarteto has recorded most of the Latin American repertoire for string quartet, and the sixth volume of their Villa-Lobos 17 quartets cycle, recorded for Dorian, was nominated for a GRAMMY® award in 2002 in the field of Best Chamber Music Performance as well as for a Latin GRAMMY.

Total time: 06:28:16
Release date: June 30, 2009
UPC: 053479090423

The GRAMMY-nominated Mexican ensemble Cuarteto Latinoamericano…brings out the lyrical and rhythmic genius that infuses many of these 17 string quartets.

The playing on these six discs is stellar throughout.
— Greg Cahill, Strings Magazine

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