Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Complete Solo Piano Works Vol.2
Bachianas Brasileiras no.4 (1941) [20:38]
A Lenda Do Caboclo (1920) [3:34]
Saudades das Selvas Brasileiras (1927) [5:44]
Choros No.5 – “Alma Brasileira” (1925) [4:55]
Ciclo Brasileiro (1936) [23:59]
Marcelo Bratke (piano)
rec. Potton Hall, Saxmundham, Suffolk, UK, April 2010.
QUARTZ QTZ 2092 [60:13]
At one time I knew Villa-Lobos only for his Bachianas Brasileiras no.5 made famous by Joan Baez in the early 1960s. It was later was often heard (too often?) in the version for voice and 8 cellos whenever Villa-Lobos’ music was played. It was as if he’d written nothing else and, indeed, there will be many who might have been lead to believe just that. Since then I have acquired his piano concertos which are wonderful but this disc is a revelation - a word I often find myself using in reviews when I come across such unknown treasures - unknown that is, to me. It is the sort of music that you miss as soon as it’s over and feel the need to play again immediately.
Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1887, where he spent the majority of his life apart from some time spent in Paris, he had little formal training. In fact, to quote Wikipedia: “After a few abortive harmony lessons, he learnt music by illicit observation from the top of the stairs of the regular musical evenings at his house arranged by his father.” I love that image of a little boy seated at the top of the stairs his elbows on his knees and his hands cupping his chin while being absorbed in the music wafting up from the lounge below – how deliciously romantic a mental picture than conjures up! In any event it just goes to show that there are brilliant people that can do without the strictures of formal education and who have enough within them to build and develop prodigious talent. The booklet quotes Villa-Lobos as recalling “My first book was the Brazilian map, a Brazil which I observed with my soul, city by city, state by state, forest by forest, trying to capture the soul of a land. Then the character of this man’s land and after that the natural treasures of it. I continued confronting these studies of mine with foreign works and tried to find a meeting point to consolidate the personalism and the inalterability of my ideas”. That his music is inextricably linked to his country is obvious at every turn in everything of his that I have heard. That’s certainly true in the music on this disc with Brazilian rhythms exerting an influence throughout. He composed more than a thousand works so there is much to discover. If these works are anything to go by I can’t wait to uncover more, beginning with the rest of his piano works. The works on this disc are totally beguiling. In embodying nationalism whilst paying tribute to Bach’s legacy the Bachianas Brasileiras no.4 are the only ones of the nine he wrote that are scored for solo piano and which he later orchestrated or transcribed. They each have two titles – one Bachian, the other Brazilian. The last of them Dança (Miudinho) is based on Vamos Marruca, a tune he collected in São Paulo, where my youngest grandson Kevin (after Kevin Spacey!) lives. It’s just occurred to me that I’m writing this review the day before his 4th birthday so I’d like to dedicate this review to him! I shall now regard it as a duty to introduce him to Villa-Lobos’s music that so aptly embodies the soul of his country. They are all brilliantly scored, wonderfully tuneful and totally captivating pieces that demand one’s attention. That goes for all the works on the disc which I cannot praise too highly, and that goes equally for the obvious dedication to the music by the soloist, Brazilian pianist Marcelo Bratke who plays with both astonishing power and delicate subtlety resulting in a disc of real quality.
It is the sort of music that you miss as soon as it’s over and feel the need to play again immediately.