Monday, June 22, 2009

Arranging Bachianas Brasileiras #5

A recent post at Albert Combrink's Blog discusses the complicated and interesting matter of arranging Bachianas Brasileiras #5 for voice and piano. The sound that 8 cellos make is not easily reproduced by the piano. The solution of Combrink and Louise Howlett using the guitar-and-voice versions by Villa-Lobos and Segovia as transitions is clever. We'll have a chance to hear it in an upcoming CD, and hopefully it will be published for other musicians to perform.

I agree with Combrink that Villa-Lobos would have approved of an arrangement like this. The whole series of Bachianas Brasileiras includes many different versions by Villa-Lobos (#4 for piano & for orchestra; #2 for cello/piano & for orchestra; #9 for strings & for choir, among others). Villa-Lobos's music came from various traditions that relied on practical arrangements (piano trio and piano-4-hands versions of opera arias from Europe, for example), and on-the-fly improvisations (with the Choroes serenaders as well as the cinema orchestras that Villa played in). I look forward to hearing Howlett & Combrink's BB#5.

Combrink has a couple of other BB#5 posts, including this report on recordings and arrangements. I look forward to following up on some versions I hadn't heard myself. I'm also impressed that Combrink thinks so highly of Wayne Shorter's version, which is my favourite jazz version of Villa-Lobos.

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