Bachianas Brasileiras

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The Bachianas Brasileiras (Portuguese pronunciation: [bakiˈɐ̃nɐz bɾaziˈlejɾɐs]) 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.).

Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1[edit]

Scored for orchestra of cellos (1930):

  • Introdução (Embolada)
  • Prelúdio (Modinha)
  • Fuga (Conversa) (Conversation)

Bachianas Brasileiras No. 2[edit]

Scored for orchestra (1930). There are four movements, the third later transcribed for piano, and the others for cello and piano (Appleby 1988, 64–65).

  • Preludio (O canto do capadocio) [Despite the five translations—French, English, Italian, Spanish, and German—printed in the score, the composer's own notes on this movement make it clear that the meaning of capadocio is not "campagnard", "countryman", "campagnolo", etc., but rather "Teddy boy" or "layabout" (Round 1989, 39).]
  • Aria (O canto da nossa terra)
  • Dansa (Lembrança do sertão)
  • Toccata (O trenzinho [misspelled in the score: "tremzinho"] do caipira: The Little Train of Caipira)

Bachianas Brasileiras No. 3[edit]

Scored for piano and orchestra (1938)

  • Prelúdio (Ponteio)
  • Fantasia (Devaneio) (Digression)
  • Ária (Modinha)
  • Toccata (Picapau)

Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4[edit]

Scored for piano (1930–41); orchestrated in 1942 (Preludio dedicated to Tomas Terán)

  • Prelúdio (Introdução)
  • Coral (Canto do sertão)
  • Ária (Cantiga)
  • Danza (Mindinho) [Miudinho on p. 45 of the orchestra score, and in Villa-Lobos 1974, 190.]

Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5[edit]

Scored for soprano and orchestra of cellos (1938/45).

  • Ária (Cantilena) (lyrics by Ruth V. Corrêa) (Later arranged for solo soprano with guitar accompaniment by Villa-Lobos). This Aria is Villa-Lobos's best-known work (Béhague 2001).
  • Dança (Martelo) (lyrics by Manuel Bandeira)

Bachianas Brasileiras No. 6[edit]

Scored for flute and bassoon (1938)

  • Ária (Chôro)
  • Fantasia

Bachianas Brasileiras No. 7[edit]

Scored for symphony orchestra (1942) (dedicated to Gustavo Capanevia)

  • Prelúdio (Ponteio)
  • Giga (Quadrilha caipira)
  • Tocata (Desafio)
  • Fuga (Conversa)

Bachianas Brasileiras No. 8[edit]

Scored for symphony orchestra (1944) (dedicated to Mindinha)

  • Prelúdio
  • Ária (Modinha)
  • Tocata (Catira batida)
  • Fuga (Also arranged for four-part a cappella choir.)

Bachianas Brasileiras No. 9[edit]

Scored for chorus or string orchestra (1945)

  • Prélude
  • Fugue

Ambiguities in the scores[edit]

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 the composer actually intended (Round 1989, 35).


Villa-Lobos made a number of recordings of the Bachianas Brasileiras, including an integral 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 later were 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 the music.

See also[edit]

  • -ana, for other musical works using the suffix "-ana" to pay homage to another composer


  • Appleby, David P. 1988. Heitor Villa-Lobos: A Bio-Bibliography. Bio-Bibliographies in Music 9. New York, Westport, and London: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-25346-3.
  • Béhague, Gerard. 1994. Heitor Villa-Lobos: The Search for Brazil's Musical Soul. ILAS Special Publication. Austin: Institute of Latin American Studies, University of Texas at Austin. ISBN 0‐292‐70823‐8.
  • Béhague, Gerard. 2001. "Villa-Lobos, Heitor". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  • Round, Michael. 1989. "Bachianas Brasileiras in Performance". Tempo, new series, no. 169 (June, "50th Anniversary 1939–1989"): 34–41.
  • Villa-Lobos, Heitor. 1974. "Bachianas brasileiras (Estudo de H. Villa-Lobos)" [originally published 4 May 1947[full citation needed]]. In Villa-Lobos, sua obra, second edition, edited by Programa de Ação Cultural, 187–97. Rio de Janeiro: MEC, DAC, Museu Villa-Lobos.

Further reading[edit]

  • Arcanjo, Loque. 2008. O ritmo da mistura e o compasso da história: o modernismo musical nas Bachianas Brasileiras de Heitor Villa-Lobos. Rio de Janeiro: E-papers. ISBN 978‐85‐7650‐164‐0.
  • Nóbrega, Adhemar. 1976. As Bachianas brasileiras de Villa-Lobos, second edition. Rio de Janeiro: Museu Villa-Lobos.
  • Palma, Enos da Costa, and Edgard de Brito Chaves Júnior. 1971. As Bachianas brasileiras de Villa-Lobos. Rio de Janeiro: Companhia Editôra Americana.