The Bachianas Brasileiras (Portuguese pronunciation: [baki'n?z b?azi'lejs]) are a series of nine suites by the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, written for various combinations of instruments and voices between 1930 and 1945. They represent not so much a fusion of Brazilian folk and popular music on the one hand, and the style of Johann Sebastian Bach on the other, as an attempt freely to adapt a number of Baroque harmonic and contrapuntal procedures to Brazilian music (Béhague 1994, 106; Béhague 2001). Most of the movements in each suite have two titles: one "Bachian" (Preludio, Fuga, etc.), the other Brazilian (Embolada, O canto da nossa terra, etc.).
Scored for orchestra of cellos (1930). Dedicated to Pablo Casals.
Scored for orchestra (1930). There are four movements. According to one opinion, the third movement was later transcribed for piano, and the others for cello and piano (Appleby 1988, 64-65); according to another, it was the other way around: three pieces for cello and piano and a solo piano piece, none of them connected with each other and none of them originally with any Bach associations, were brought together and scored for chamber orchestra (Peppercorn 1991, 103).
This work is scored for flute, oboe, clarinet, tenor and baritone saxophones, bassoon, contrabassoon, 2 horns, trombone, timpani, ganzá, chocalho, pandeira, reco, matraca, caixa, triangle, cymbals, tam-tam, bass drum, celesta, piano, and strings.
Scored for piano and orchestra (1938)
The orchestral forces for this work, in addition to the solo piano, are: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, cor anglais, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 4 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, tam-tam, xylophone, and strings.
Scored for piano (1930-41); orchestrated in 1942 (Preludio dedicated to Tomas Terán; Coral dedicated to José Vieira Brandão; Ária dedicated to Sylvio Salema; Dança dedicated to Antonieta Rudge Müller)
The orchestral version is scored for piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, cor anglais, 2 clarinets, bass clarinets, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, tam-tam, xylophone, celesta, and strings. The first movement (Prelúdio) is scored for strings alone.
Scored for soprano and orchestra of cellos (1938/45).
Scored for flute and bassoon (1938)
Scored for symphony orchestra (1942) (dedicated to Gustavo Capanevia)
This work is scored for piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, cor anglais, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 4 trombones, tuba, timpani, tam-tam, xylophone, coconut shell, bass drum, celesta, harp and strings.
Scored for symphony orchestra (1944) (dedicated to Mindinha)
This work is scored for piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, cor anglais, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, tuba, timpani, tam-tam, xylophone, 3 wood blocks (high, medium and low), tarol, bass drum, celesta, and strings.
Scored for chorus or string orchestra (1945)
Because Villa-Lobos dashed off compositions in feverish haste and preferred writing new pieces to revising and correcting already completed ones, numerous slips of the pen, miscalculations, impracticalities or even impossibilities, imprecise notations, uncertainty in specification of instruments, and other problems inescapably remain in the printed scores of the Bachianas, and require performers to take unusual care to decipher what the composer actually intended. In the frequent cases where both the score and the parts are wrong, the recordings made by the composer are the only means of determining what he actually intended (Round 1989, 35).
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 as the soprano soloist in the no. 5. These landmark recordings were issued in several configurations on LP, and were later reissued on CD. Other musicians, including Joan Baez, Enrique Bátiz, Leonard Bernstein, Nelson Freire, Werner Janssen, Isaac Karabtchevsky, Jesús López-Cobos, Aldo Parisot, Menahem Pressler, Mstislav Rostropovich, Kenneth Schermerhorn, Felix Slatkin, Leopold Stokowski, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Galina Vishnevskaya have subsequently recorded some or all of the music.