In early 2010 Naxos released an 8-CD box set of the complete Piano Music of Villa-Lobos that the Brazilian pianist Sonia Rubinsky recorded from 1999 to 2007.
Thanks to Naxos USA for making these great discs available.
Disc 1: the winner will be drawn on Friday, May 28
Back in October 1999, Sonia Rubinsky went to Santa Rosa, California to record a CD for Naxos. Included in the recording were three of Heitor Villa-Lobos's most important works for piano. The first book of A Prole do Bebe (the Baby's Family) is one of the great piano cycles of the 20th century, eight pieces that showed up in hundreds of programmes by Villa's greatest early supporter, Arthur Rubinstein. Cirandas is a later cycle from Villa's modernist period, written in 1926 (the same year as the great Choros #10). Villa uses deceptively simple children's songs to begin to create the national song-book that became the Guia pratico. Hommage a Chopin, written to honour the Polish composer in an earlier Chopin year, has become recognized as one of Villa's best piano works from his later production.
Rubinsky's disc was very well received by the critics. Classics Today, for example, gave the disc a 10/10 (performance/recording) rating. But the real significance of the CD for Villa-Lobos fans was the title "Piano Music Volume 1". It was exciting to look forward to many more discs like the first one! This was especially true for those Villa-Lobos fans lucky enough to have acquired Anna Stella Schic's 7-LP set of the complete piano music from the 1970s (reissued on CD on the Solstice label, and still available from various online sources). We knew there was lots of great music to come in this series, and as authoritative as Schic's excellent versions were (she was a close friend of Villa-Lobos & Mindinha), Rubinsky's technique and Naxos's modern sound and easier availability (not to mention its low price) made a series like this a real winner . As usual, Naxos was providing relatively unknown repertoire, beautifully played, recorded, and engineered, to a much wider audience than before.
There were two other encouraging characteristics of this first disc. James Melo provided excellent notes (detailed and enlightening) to this first disc, and the cover of the CD was a painting by the great Brazilian modernist painter (and another Villa-Lobos friend and fellow participant in the 1922 Semana de Arte Moderna in Sao Paulo), Tarsilla do Amaral. These two important components stayed throughout the entire project. Melo's essays always added something special to each disc, especially for those works that have been under-appreciated (like Carnaval das Criancas in Volume 4, and Amazonas in volume 7). And the cover paintings were always relevant to the programmes Rubinsky had chosen, demonstrating how Villa fit in the cultural life of Brazil. Artists chosen for the series, besides Tarsilla, were Djanira, Candido Portinari, Cicero Dias, Lasar Segall, Alberto Guignard, Ismael Nery, and Jose Pancetti.