Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 – Heitor Villa-Lobos


Heitor Villa-Lobos. Conductor, cellist, pianist, and guitarist described as “the single most significant creative figure in 20th-century Brazilian art music”. Villa-Lobos has become the best-known South American composer of all time. – wikipedia

Today we explore Brazilian composer’s Heitor Villa-Lobos – Bachiana Brasileira No. 5 of his 9 suites written between 1930 and 1945. Bachiana Brasileira No. 5 was scored for soprano and orchestra of cellos and is the most famous of his suites. Villa-Lobos made a number of recordings of the Bachianas Brasileiras, including a complete recording of all nine compositions made in Paris for EMI in the 1950s, with the French National Orchestra and Victoria de los Ángeles (recording provided below) as the soprano soloist in the no. 5 with 8 cellos.

The musical form is embolada (a rapid poem/song) of the Brazilian Northeast. It is a poem of nostalgia for the birds of the Cariri Mountains, in the state of Ceará. The lyrics contain a list of species of birds: ben-te-vi (Pitangus sulphuratus), sabiá (Turdus fumigatus), juriti (Leptotila rufaxilla), irerê (Dendrocygna viduata), patativa (Sporophila leucoptera), cambaxirra (Odontorchilus cinereus). The music imitates birds singing: “La! liá! liá! liá! liá! liá!” “Sing more”, the words say, “to remember Cariri” (“Canta mais! canta mais! prá alembrá o Cariri!”).

The English translation of the Portuguese lyrics is as follows:

In the evening, a dreamy, pretty cloud, slow and transparent, covers outer space with pink. In the infinite the moon rises sweetly, beautifying the evening, like a friendly girl who prepares herself and dreamily makes the evening beautiful. A soul anxious to be pretty shouts to the sky, the land, all of Nature. The birds silence themselves to her complaints, and the sea reflects all of Her [the moon’s] wealth. The gentle light of the moon now awakens the cruel saudade [nostalgic or melancholic longing] that laughs and cries.

Victoria_de_los_Angeles_Allan_warren Victoria de los Ángeles (1 November 1923 – 15 January 2005) was a Spanish operatic lyric soprano and recitalist whose career began after the Second World War and reached its height in the years from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s. She studied voice under Dolores Frau and guitar with Graciano Tarragó at the Barcelona Conservatory, graduating in just three years in 1941 at age 18.

In 1941, while still a student, she made her operatic debut as Mimì in La bohème at the Liceu, afterwards resuming her musical studies. In 1945, she returned to the Liceu to make her professional debut as the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro.

I am indebted to various wikipedia pages (see links above) for the aforementioned information.

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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4 comments on “Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 – Heitor Villa-Lobos
  1. I spent a good six months lost in Brazilian music a few years back. A Minnesota DJ named BK1 put out a few albums where he sampled the favela funk from down there. I was immediately hooked on the new, to me, sounds.

  2. Bruce says:

    I didn’t know this work at all, but shall certainly be listening to it again (and again). I really like the repeated note around 4.30ish.

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