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Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887 - 1959)
Complete Piano Music Volume 4

Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4 (1930/36) [19.43]
Poema Singelo (1942) [6.05]
Carnaval das Crianças (1920) [15.24]
Francette et Piá (1928) [15.32]
A Fiandeira (1921) [2.52]
Simples Coletânea (1919) [6.02]
Valsa Romantica (1907) [3.44]
Sonia Rubinsky, piano, assisted by Tatjana Rankovich, second piano.
Recorded at Grace Church on the Hill, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 20 October 2003.
Notes in English and Deutsch.
NAXOS 8.555717 [69.53]

 

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 approach 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 Brasilian rhythms.

A Fiandeira ("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 music.

Paul Shoemaker



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