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Bach in Brazil
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Performers including Henrique Cazes (cavaquinho), Gilvan de Oliveira (guitar), Fabian Schmidt (euphonium), Knabenchor Hannover and Barock Orchester L’Arco
No recording details given
Booklet in German and English
Track details at end of review
BERLIN CLASSICS 0300746BC [41:55]

JS Bach is my desert island composer. Not only would I take recordings of his entire output in conventional forms, but those in all other genres inspired by his genius. The latter, naturally, would include the likes of Wendy Carlos, Richard Galliano, the Jacques Loussier Trio, the Modern Jazz Quartet and the Swingle Singers. I’m sure there are also a few rockers out there with JSB under their skin. That way, I’d have a style of music to suit just about any mood. Let’s suppose, however, that should I want to add something else after the initial selection, I must do it by substitution. Would I then sacrifice anything to take this Bach in Brazil CD with me?

Before any more of that, though, what about the film and its soundtrack? Bach in Brazil was first shown in 2015, winning recognition at film festivals in Emden and Rio de Janeiro, and its German cinema release was in March 2016. An online plot summary reads in part:

Inspired by true events, this is a story about what happens when two outsiders from opposite corners of the world are thrown together: Brazil and Germany. Marten Brückling, a retired music teacher from Germany, has inherited an original sheet of music from Bach’s son. Marten has to collect the sheet in person in the beautiful Baroque city of Ouro Preto in the heart of Brazil ... funny circumstances drive him to teach music to the kids of a juvenile detention centre.

In his liner notes, the film’s writer, director and music supervisor Ansgar Ahlers says the makers’ aim was “to bring Bach’s melodies to life with Brazilian rhythms and instrumentations”, which he likens to the film’s principal character “gaining a new perspective on his life from the children and the Brazilian feeling for life”. All ‘feel good’ stuff of course, and the film is promoted as such to its target audience, but digressing for a moment from the strictly musical, I can’t help but think that the plot-line has been carefully balanced to avoid any whiff of cultural imperialism. After all, the recent history of Western classical music in Brazil and indeed neighbouring Venezuela shows they are quite capable of excelling in education and performance off their own bat. Still, I’m certainly licking my lips in expectation of seeing the film when it’s released on DVD later this year.

The soundtrack is typical of its kind, mostly short tracks in action sequence order, a couple faded out, and others abruptly terminated. Total playing time is short at just under 42 minutes, but overall I found it a more than satisfactory listening experience. The spectrum of musical arrangements goes from the conventional to the ‘full Brazilian’; in between there are guitar transcriptions, both straight and latin-american flavoured, and brass chorales. Bist du bei mir on a euphonium? Quite lovely, and my favourite track – the indestructible Bach. The samba and choro numbers that most epitomise the film’s title I found a little less affecting, not because of any offense to me or the composer, but quite the opposite – I felt they could have been more animated, their rather strict tempo and dynamics suggesting synchronisation with the on-screen action. The JCF Bach piece, unexplained because the plot involves Johann Christian as the ‘son’, is played with splendid drive by the Barock Orchester L’Arco, although I soon found myself asking “where’s your Dad?”. Thankfully, JS returns in full gaucho garb for the next and penultimate track, the crowning concert. Contentment if not excitement is assured as the end credits roll, with a music box arrangement of the fifth harpsichord concerto’s Arioso. As soundtracks go, the recording quality is very good.

While not without reservation, I really enjoyed this soundtrack, and it whetted my appetite to see the film. Back to the beginning, then: do I want Bach in Brazil on my desert island? Yes, please. So who must stand aside? Hmm, let’s see ... sorry Jacques, but Play Bach No. 4 will have to stay at home.

Des Hutchinson
Track listing

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
1. Choro Air: Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068 [4:23]
2. Opening Title: Arioso from BWV 1056, BWV 1067, BWV 846 [2:02]
3. Journey to Brazil: Badinerie from Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor, BWV 1067 [1:37]
4. Unhappy Marten: Larghetto from Concerto in D major (after Vivaldi), BWV 972 [1:11]
5. Guitar Rehearsal: Jesus bleibet meine Freude, BWV 147 [3:19]
6. Lonely Marten: Bist du bei mir, BWV 508 [0:56]
7. Disappointed Fernando: Largo from Concerto in D minor (after Marcello), BWV 974 [4:36]
8. Ensemble’s First Time: Prelude in C major from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, BWV 84 [1:23]
9. The Big Rehearsal: Little Fugue in G minor, BWV 578 [2:59]
10. Happy Marten: Larghetto from Concerto in D major (after Vivaldi), BWV 972 [4:01]
11. Trem da Caipirinha: Prelude from Suite No. 1 G major, BWV 1007 [2:10]
12. Arrival at the Castle: Prelude from Partita III in E major, BWV 1006 [4:16]
13. Opening Concert: Schafe können sicher weiden, BWV 208 [1:45]
15. Concert of “Filhos de Bach”: From BWV 144, BWV 140, BWV 846 [2:41]
16. The Music Box: Arioso from Harpsichord Concerto No. 5 in F minor, BWV 1056 [1:22]

Johann Christoph Friedrich BACH (1732–1795)
14. Knut Disapproves: Allegro from Sinfonia in D major [3:14]



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