Ensemble Mark Rothko deliver with Heitor Villa-Lobos chamber works

A colleague of mine absolutely loves Heitor Villa-Lobos. Whatever classical music subgenre you name, he’ll cite a Villa-Lobos composition for it. And then he’ll assert it’s one of the best. The thing is, he’s usually right. From symphonies to string quartets, Villa-Lobos has both quantity and quality.

And that quality is present even in his outlying compositions. All the works on this release are “one-offs.” And all have their own charm and appeal.

Villa-Lobos wrote his only string trio in 1945. He effortlessly spins the three lines out over a half-hour composition. Sometimes the lines combine, sometimes they separate. Implied harmonies trick the ear into hearing more than three instruments.

The Quinteto Instrumental for flute, violin, viola, cello, and harp was written in 1957. It was two years before Villa-Lobos’ death and seems to harken back an earlier time. Villa-Lobos met Darius Milhaud in 1918 and admired the music of Claude Debussy. This quintet (to me) has a French Impressionist cast to it.

The Ensemble Mark Rothko renders some fine performances. For this recording, the members play in different combinations. But the ensemble blend is consistent in quality.

If you’re ready to move beyond Villa-Lobos’ Choros compositions, give this album a listen. The unusual grouping of instruments is refreshing. And of course, these compositions are as well-constructed as any of his other 2000+ works.

I haven’t asked my friend about duos for flute and cello, but I know what he’ll say. “Villa-Lobos wrote one, and it’s great.” After hearing it on this recording, I can only agree.

Heitor Villa-Lobos: String Trio and Other Chamber Works
String Trio; Duet for violin and viola; Assabio a jato for flute and cello; Quiteto Instrumental for flute, violin, viola, cello, and harp
Ensemble Mark Rothko

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