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Work

Heitor Villa-Lobos

Heitor Villa-Lobos Composer

Bachianas Brasileiras No.3, for piano and orchestra, A.388   

Performances: 3
Tracks: 12
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Musicology:
  • Bachianas Brasileiras No.3, for piano and orchestra, A.388
    Year: 1938
    Genre: Concerto
    Pr. Instrument: Piano
    • 1.Prélude (Ponteio)
    • 2.Fantaisie (Devaneio)
    • 3.Aria (Modinha)
    • 4.Toccata (Picapau)
The nine Bachianas Brasileiras as a group are the most popular compositions of the great Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887 - 1959). Villa-Lobos began to compose the series in 1930. In that year he returned from Paris, where he had lived for about a dozen years and made himself into one of the leading composers of the modernist generation.

On return to Brazil, with a nationalist government headed by Getulio Vargas now in power, he proposed a national system of musical education based on Brazilian musical material. The Bachianas Brasileiras were intended to show the worthiness of indigenous music, which Villa-Lobos praised as having inherent similarities to the greatest music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

All the Bachianas, therefore, have two sides: Brazilian and Bachian. They are uniformly simpler in texture and more classical in structure than Villa-Lobos' prior great series of compositions, the Chôros, which are based on a type of urban street music of Brazil bearing that name.

The third Bachiana Brasileira was actually the fourth to be composed. Number Four of the group was written as a piano solo before the instant work, but orchestrated later. When Villa-Lobos numbered the set, he counted this one as the third.

It is the only Bachiana written in the form of an instrumental concerto. It is in fact a fully-fledged piano concerto about 30 minutes in length, and in four movements. It was first performed on February 19, 1947, in New York City, with the composer conducting the Columbia Symphony Orchestra and José Vieira Brandao as the piano soloist.

As usual the four movements have a formal "Bachian" title in Portuguese, followed by a "Brazilian" title.

Villa-Lobos typically begins his Bachianas with a slower movement so that he can write a song sharing some of the melodic characteristics of a Bach aria. This is the case with the opening movement, "Preludio; Ponteio." This movement is in a basically slow tempo, although the central part of the movement (which is not in the standard sonata form of a concerto first movement) is in a fast tempo that allows for brilliant display by the pianist. A ponteio, by the way, is a type of Brazilian song genre. (The Brazilian titles of the first three movements all refer to particular types of Brazilian music).

The second movement, "Fantasia; Devaneio" is fast, with an even faster middle section, while the third, "Aria; Modinho," is a slow and romantic song with, again, a faster tempo in the central part of the movement.

The final movement is another one of Villa-Lobos' nature portraits. It is called "Toccata; Pica-Pau" and is one of the composer's finest movements. Picapau is the name of a Brazilian woodpecker. Its fast, drumming repeated sound is imitated by the piano requiring rapid alternation of fingers.

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