This post is going to help you discover the best recordings of the Villa-Lobos etudes for guitar. It will highlight the top 5 recordings for the etudes. These are generally available on CD, vinyl and download. This is part of the #villalobos12in12 challenge.
Best Villa-Lobos Recordings?
Let’s face it, this is a very subjective subject and one that will never satisfy everyone’s tastes. There is also an astonishing array for recordings available. How do you choose one? Is it on the performers merits, their reputation? Or is it on the label or even the era? This post is hopefully going to help with that, by giving you my top 5 recordings.
I am going to start at 1 and then move down to 5. My preferences for the etudes are based on musicality, and performance (such as it is on a recording). As always take my starting point and interrogate it for yourself. Let’s dive in with.
1. Best Villa-Lobos Recording
This honor, in my humble opinion belongs to Julian Bream and his 1975 recording of the etudes. His rendition of the etudes, is very musical and very approachable. And I suspect that is due to his understanding of Villa-Lobos’ sound world due to his extensive recordings of 20th century music.
Now, the downside to this recording (or any of Bream’s really) is that due to the era they were recorded you can easily hear where they spliced the tape to make edits. (Yes before computers helped record music, they used tape and had to cut it by hand to make any edits.) This does not bother me in the slightest, but it might some people (especially if they have only listened to is digitally recorded music and nothing analogue). I find it interesting as it gives me an idea where Bream was challenged or maybe had a misfire, and ultimately makes it more human.
2. Best Villa-Lobos Recording
The mighty Naxos 1999 recording of these etudes by Norbert Craft must come in second place. As a struggling student these Naxos recordings were a real find as they allowed me to hear great performances at a fraction of the price for the CDs.
This recording breathes and is played with a deft touch. It is also direct to digital and has few production issues, so you can use headphones. His take on etude no. 4 is really special. The bonus is that this is the complete works of Villa-Lobos. And hence I use this CD as a reference point a lot; and due to its clarity and slightly straight delivery, so there is very little color that affects my interpretations of the music. This is by no means a criticism.
3. Best Villa-Lobos Recording
Third position belongs to Joannes Tonio Kreusch and his 2001 recording of the 12 etudes. This is a lovely clear recording with some eye watering renditions of them.
This album is very much the work of a very forceful musician who had clear ideas about these etudes. As such, personally, there are some musical decisions that were take-it-or-leave it for me. That is not say it isn’t fantastic, it is, just that maybe the speed and virtuosity in some etudes could have been dialed back, just a little.
4. Best Villa-Lobos Recording
In fourth place we have the mighty Timo Korhonen and his 2004 recording of the 12 etudes. Again fantastic clear recording with some excellent musical decisions.
However, it was slightly Teutonic in parts and a little straight in others. It is still worth a listen.
5. Best Villa-Lobos Recording
Fifth place goes to a monster recording, this one scared me the first time I heard it. Fabio Zanon’s complete works recording. The guitar is loud, the performances are on-the-edge-of-your-seat fast, and they are flawless.
This recording and the first, Julian Bream, are worth owning in some form. As they represent the best of two extremes, two different eras, and two virtuosic performers. Again this is a digital recording, so the quality is good.
Now there is a No. 6 here, albeit it a snippet. But that is because when I wrote and researched this post, I found that female classical guitarists are woefully under represented here. So I would like to highlight a fantastic guitarist who plays Villa-Lobos musically.
6. Best Villa-Lobos Rendition
Below is the amazing Chaconne Klaverenga (who has impeccable musicianship skills). The way Miss Klaverenga plays the scales in etude no. 7 are worthy of stealing, like she is doing (Rubato joke there!). Just listen.
#villalobos12in12! what is that?
I bet, like me, you want to play all 12 of Villa-Lobos’ awesome studies? And not just kind of perform them, but actually play and understand them!
Have you found it a little tough to get some of them started, or even finished? Well I have created a unique method for learning these awesome studies. Check out The intro below.
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All the video lesson below correspond to the free guide which you get when joining the challenge. So why not challenge yourself today with etude No. 2.
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