This fine performance
of the original version of Bachianas
Brasilieras #4 is very welcome.
The work was originally written in four
sections for piano as presented here;
the composer’s orchestral version dates
from 1942 and is the one most often
heard. Villa-Lobos was mostly self-taught.
His first musical education was from
native Brasilian popular and folk music
and he never learned the facile European
conservatory tricks, so his music sounds
startlingly original. It is difficult
to make his acquaintance unless you
his music entirely on its own terms.
If one is determined to find parallels,
they would lie in the directions of
Prokofiev, Dvořák, and Debussy,
but Villa-Lobos has a trademark kind
of rhythmic pulse that is frequently
interrupted and shifted and contrasted
with long, slow adagios.
All nine of these so-called
Bachianas Brasileiras repay careful
study. Number five is one of his most
approachable works, but this preceding
number in the series is more severe.
With most of them the name Bach would
never come to mind unless the composer
had mentioned it, however the first
movement ("Prelude") of this
#4 actually does sound a little like
a Bach prelude. The remaining three
sections are based on strictly Brasilian
sources — birdcalls, songs, dances,
with an occasional odd, oblique reference
to European classical harmony and form.
The Poemo Singelo
("Simple Song") is strikingly
interesting and unlike any other music.
I didn’t expect to
find much interest in the Carnaval
das Crianças, ("Children’s
Carnival") but it is more than
just engaging music to entertain children.
The pieces are quite intriguing in their
own right and have a unity of texture
and original harmony that gives the
series the feel of a free-form sonata.
In 1929 the composer produced an orchestral
accompaniment to the existing piano
lines and retitled the work Momoprecoce.
In the finale of this work (and the
next) a second piano is required.
Francette et Piá
contains humorous "wrong note"
references to a familiar French music
played against odd snatches of characteristic
("The Spinning Woman") is
a colouristic piece reminiscent of Ravel.
This exceptional pianist
with a Polish sounding name and recording
in Canada is nonetheless a Brasilian,
born in Campinas, and was a true prodigy
giving her first recital at six years
old and appearing with orchestra at
twelve. She holds a doctorate from the
Juilliard School in New York. She has
the perfect touch and style for Villa-Lobos
and has already established her reputation
with her recordings of the first volumes
in this series of the complete piano