Villa-Lobos: Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4, 5, 7 & 9; Chôros No. 10

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COMPOSERS: Villa-Lobos
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4, 5, 7 & 9; Chôros No. 10
PERFORMER: Renée Fleming (soprano) BBC Singers, New World Symphony/ Michael Tilson Thomas
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68538 2
Villa-Lobos considered Bach’s music to be ‘a universal folkloric source’ forming an ‘intermediary between all peoples’, and between 1930 and 1945 wrote the nine Bachianas Brasileiras which have remained among the most popular of his works. The pieces were designed as a tribute to Bach. They are cast as Baroque suites that refracted through a specifically Brazilian perspective, so that each movement carries a dual focus, often Baroque in form (ABA), but in national idiom, be it in the instrumentation (there is much use of percussion, notably the xylophone), the syncopated rhythms of local dances or even in the imitation of Amazonian birdsong. Although one sometimes wishes for more spikiness here, Tilson Thomas strikes a nice balance between this polished, late-Romantic version of the Baroque and the boisterous Brazilian energies, and there is an earthy tang to Renée Fleming’s wordless song in the Cantilena, which never quite drifts off into the glucose ether that can afflict the movement. The young members of the New World Symphony give accomplished and stylish performances, especially the percussionists; they are joined by the BBC Singers in an enjoyable account of the earlier, Stravinsky-like Chôros No. 10. William Humphreys-Jones