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Villa-lobos: Complete Solo Piano Works, Vol. 2

Villa-lobos / Bratke
Release Date: 03/13/2012 
Label:  Quartz Records   Catalog #: 2092   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Heitor Villa-Lobos
Performer:  Marcelo Bratke
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 0 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



VILLA-LOBOS Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4. A Lenda do Caboclo. Saudades das Selvas Braileiras. Chôros No. 5, “Alma Brasileira.” Ciclo Brasileiro Marcelo Bratke (pn) QUARTZ 2092 (60: 13)


This is Volume 2 in Marcelo Bratke’s project to record the complete solo piano works of Heitor Villa-Lobos. If Sonia Rubinsky’s eight-disc set on Naxos is a guide, Read more Bratke has a ways to go. Volume 1 received two separate reviews in these pages, one by William Zagorski and one by me, both in Fanfare 35:3 and both positive, and Bratke was interviewed in that same issue by Robert Schulslaper. So we can pass over the biographical details of both composer and pianist and skip right to the music.


At the time I reviewed Volume 1, I did not have at my disposal the highly regarded Rubinsky set; now I do, so some comparisons are in order. Of Villa-Lobos’s nine suites titled Bachianas Brasileiras , No. 5 for soprano and eight cellos is the best known and most popular, but every one of them, each having a different scoring, demonstrates the composer’s unique adaptation of Baroque techniques to Brazilian folk and popular idioms. The suites were written over a 15-year period, between 1930 and 1945. No. 4, heard on the present disc, was originally scored for solo piano and then orchestrated in 1942. Its four movements are Preludio (Introdução), Coral (Canto do sertão), Aria (Cantiga), and Danza (Mindinho).


Another of Villa-Lobos’s highly popular pieces is the ballad A Lenda do Caboclo (The Legend of the Native). A short piece written in 1920, it features a syncopated tango-flavored bass line and vacillates between the major and minor modes.


Villa-Lobos was in Paris in 1927 when he composed Saudades das Selvas Braileiras (Longing for the Brazilian Forests). The first of its two short movements is a strongly accented, rhythmic toccata; the second, a lyrical song expressing nostalgia or homesickness for the composer’s native Brazil.


Another short piece dating from 1925 is the Chôros No. 5, subtitled “Alma Brasileira” (Brazilian Soul). The series of 15 Chôros (the last without number), composed between 1920 and 1929, represents an earlier parallel collection to the Bachianas Brasileiras . Like that later cycle, each of the Chôros is also scored for a different ensemble of instruments, some quite large and exotic. No. 6, for example, includes celesta, two harps, tam-tam, xylophone, bells, and saxophone among an extensive array of wind, brass, and strings. The No. 5 for solo piano, heard here, is only one of two numbers scored for a single instrument, the other, No. 1, being for solo guitar. The Portuguese word chôro means “weeping” or “crying,” and it came to apply to Brazilian street musicians extemporizing on European and African instruments in a free and often dissonant counterpoint called contracanto.


Back home in Rio de Janeiro in 1936, Villa-Lobos wrote the four-movement Ciclo Brasileiro . It’s a nationalistic, brilliant, highly virtuosic work that note author Irineu Franco Perpetuo describes as “sometimes sounding like Rachmaninoff had visited the tropics.”


Having promised comparisons with Rubinsky at the beginning, here they are. In Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4, timing-wise, Bratke and Rubinsky are so close, I’d call it a draw. Only in the Preludio does Bratke take a more relaxed tempo—7:02 to Rubinsky’s 6: 16—reading the movement as a quiet, contemplative reverie I find very atmospheric and affecting. Other than that, only a second or two separate the players in each of the following three movements.


In Saudades das Selvas Braileiras , Bratke and Rubinsky’s readings are the reverse of each other. She takes the opening toccata-like movement marked Animato considerably faster than Brake, while he takes the second movement, marked Un poco animato , a good deal faster than Rubinsky. As a result, only eight seconds separate them overall, so which you prefer will depend on which contrast between movements you find more satisfying—a faster toccata and a slower Un poco animato vs. the opposite. In this particular work, I think I prefer Rubinsky; her faster tempo for the first movement is more effective at bringing out the music’s accented rhythms.


Again, with the very short A Lenda do Caboclo , which doesn’t leave much time or space for a great deal of interpretive flexibility, only four seconds separate the two pianists’ performances.


The biggest difference in timings and interpretation comes in the four-movement Ciclo Brasileiro. As a general observation, one could say that here, as in most of the other pieces on the disc, Bratke takes a more measured approach to Villa-Lobos’s music. But that approach more often than not yields performances, especially in the slower pieces, that feel more expansive and more communicative. Listened to at some interval apart, Bratke and Rubinsky are both outstanding exponents of this repertoire, but listened to in immediate succession, Rubinsky comes across as slightly more edgy and attuned to the virtuosic elements of Villa-Lobos’s folk-inspired rhythmic impulses; in contrast, Bratke seems somewhat more focused on the composer’s lyrical and Impressionistic inclinations. Both are valid and attest to the wide range of expression in Villa-Lobos’s music.


Both pianists are recorded—Bratke by Quartz, Rubinsky by Naxos—in spacious, sumptuous sound. I’d hate to have to choose one over the other. This is wonderful music, wonderfully played by two artists who have obviously devoted their considerable talents to this important body of work; both merit space on your shelf.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

1. Bachianas brasileiras no 4 for Piano by Heitor Villa-Lobos
Performer:  Marcelo Bratke (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1930-1936; Brazil 
Date of Recording: 04/2010 
Venue:  Potton Hall 
Length: 20 Minutes 20 Secs. 
2. A Lenda do Caboclo, W 166 by Heitor Villa-Lobos
Performer:  Marcelo Bratke (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920; Brazil 
Date of Recording: 04/2010 
Venue:  Potton Hall 
Length: 3 Minutes 36 Secs. 
3. Saudades das selvas brasileiras, W 226 by Heitor Villa-Lobos
Performer:  Marcelo Bratke (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; Brazil 
Date of Recording: 04/2010 
Venue:  Potton Hall 
Length: 5 Minutes 52 Secs. 
4. Chôros no 5 for Piano "Alma brasileira" by Heitor Villa-Lobos
Performer:  Marcelo Bratke (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 04/2010 
Venue:  Potton Hall 
Length: 5 Minutes 6 Secs. 
5. Ciclo brasileiro, W 374 by Heitor Villa-Lobos
Performer:  Marcelo Bratke (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936; Brazil 
Date of Recording: 04/2010 
Venue:  Potton Hall 
Length: 23 Minutes 53 Secs. 

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