OIPJ9B8UOQS Wondrously spacious like Brazil, mystical like the utterly Brazilian mix of Catholicism and African beliefs, impishly playful at times, soberly serious at others, alluring in its ambivalent mix of melancholy saudade and sunny melody, and alternatively dramatic and lyrical, Heitor Villalobos’ music is all that and more.

It is more than long overdue to recognize Heitor Villalobos, the quintessentially South American giant as an essential 20th century musical genius.

And if there is any doubt, this splendid new release from Naxos, part of the series The Music of Brazil, is palpable proof of the reasons for my enthusiasm. The Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has created an all-encompassing initiative: Brasil em Concerto which will bring to new life the work of Brazilian composers from the 18th century through ours.

Fully on board with the project, three Brazilian orchestras: the Orchestra Filarmônica de Minas Gerais, the Orquestra Filarmônica de Goiás, and the Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo will work hand in hand with the Academia Brasileira de Música, musicologists, and Brazilian chamber ensembles and vocal and instrumental soloists.

This CD features the Concerto for Guitar and Small Orchestra played lustrously by Manuel Barrueco with Giancarlo Guerrero leading the superb Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo in a note perfect reading of this key work of 20th century guitar music.

Sexteto Mistico is an eight-minute, three-movement tone poem, here given a lovely rendition by Maestro Guerrero and his Brazilian maestri.

Next in the CD is a fully mature work for harmonica and orchestra, given a jaw-dropping performance by the Brazilian harmonica virtuoso José Staneck, with Guerrero and his Paulistas keeping a low profile to allow the gentle harmonica to be up center throughout.

The 1957 Quinteto Instrumental is pure enchantment: a three-movement chamber work for strings, harp and woodwinds that owes its harmonic inventiveness to no one but Villalobos himself and its colors to the mix of Brazilian blood coursing through the veins of its composer and the pan-European influences he acquired while on his many journeys to the continent.

My CD collection is now augmented by one more gem from Naxos. I can hardly wait for what’s up next.

Rafael de Acha           http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com