Voice of Brazil is the title of the new double CD issued by Divine Art, bringing together old recordings of various vocal works by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. The recordings, which feature the Roman soprano Anna Maria Bondi, accompanied by the pianist Françoise Petit and the Solistes de Paris under the direction of Henri-Claude Fantapié, all come from 1971 and 1972. The listener needs to be aware of this fact before hearing the CD because this can clearly be heard, especially in the vocal style. These interpretations had by that date already been awarded the Grand Prix du Disque. The recording met with great success not just in France, but also in the composer’s native Brazil, not least with Villa-Lobos’ widow.

Villa-Lobos was and is best known for bringing together traditional Brazilian music and European classical music. The composer attained international fame with the Bachiana Brasileiras, nine works for different ensembles in which he combines Brazilian folk tunes with a polyphonic composition style reminiscent of Johann Sebastian Bach. In particular the Bachiana Brasileira No.5, which can also be heard on Voice of Brazil, achieved very wide recognition. In this work Villa-Lobos combines cello and voice, probably the two most lyrical instruments. Bondi’s and Pierre Degennes’ interpretation is impressive in showing the passion and virtuosity of the music, and creates a truly pleasurable musical experience.

As already intimated, the conjunction of traditional Brazilian music, which is melodic and harmonious as well as rhythmic, with elements of European classical music, pervades Villa-Lobos’ whole work. But the compositions which owe more to European classical music are less well known, for example, the Suite for Voice and Violin of 1923 or the Two Passages of 1946. Also on Voice of Brazil are the Modinhas e Canções [Songs and Melodies], a cycle of various Brazilian songs, the Poèma da Criança e sua Mama [Poem of the Child and its Mama], a most descriptive musical piece, the 12 Serestas ], a song cycle which uses both traditional melodies and ones written by Villa-Lobos, the atypical setting of the poem Jardim Fanando [ Wilting Garden], the Canção de Cristal [Crystal Song] which stands alone outwith any cycle, and the 6 Canções Tipicas Brasileiras [6 Typical Brazilian Songs].

The composer’s expressiveness demands in every composition the highest technical virtuosity and musical empathy from the musicians. Bondi’s unmistakeable voice seems to reach the highest heights and to perform the most difficult coloratura with ease. She interprets with much passion and emotion the many-faceted texts, whose contents range from childish games through tragic love stories to lighthearted moments of happiness. She is equally passionate in her voicing, delivering the character of the music through her powerful and vigorous style. Bondi’s voice is incredibly and, it seems effortlessly, flexible. From the high to the deep notes, from the pianissimi to the fortissimi, from the legati to the strongly rhythmical passages, from the joyous to the deeply sad parts – her voice never loses its urgency or persuasive power. Bondi’s voice adapts superbly to the tone of each musical accompaniment. Particularly impressive is the collaboration with the pianist Françoise Petit.

This new edition of the recordings with Anna Maria Bondi provides an extraordinary and impressive interpretation of the vocal works of Villa-Lobos and constitutes a remarkable record.

—Julia Eberwein