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POP MUSIC | Recordings

From Baritones to the 'Brazilian Bach'

Rumbling opera singers, a hotshot teen violinist and some radiant rarities are among the highlights.

May 30, 1999|MARK SWED

VILLA-LOBOS: Cho^ro No. 11

Ralf Gothoni, piano; Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra; Sakari Oramo, conductor

Ondine

*** 1/2

Although he was one of the most original and prolific composers of the 20th century, Heitor Villa-Lobos still is principally represented by a few guitar works and the "Bachiana Brazileira No. 5." And nothing could better prove how little we know Brazil's Bach than the fact that his "Cho^ro No. 11," a piano concerto that lasts more than an hour, is as obscure as it is.

Some have called it Villa-Lobos' greatest work, and grand it certainly is, something of a Brazilian Rach 3, but even more epic. "Great" may be an exaggeration for a piece quite so discursive as this, but it is arresting and important, with striking melodies, brilliant orchestration and a fabulously elaborate solo part.

The performance by the young Finnish conductor and the eccentric Finnish pianist is bold and compelling if just a bit cool.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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