Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1
The nine pieces to which Villa-Lobos gave the title Bachianas Brasileiras all date from between 1930 and 1945. In them he sought to explore what he felt to be the links between the music of Bach and that of his native Brazil – an oblique connection if ever there was one. Villa-Lobos saw in Bach’s instrumental writing, in the way that so much emphasis is placed on the interweaving of equally important contrapuntal strands, an echo of the freedom of part writing which he found in the folk music of his own country. Many of the movements in the series have dual titles, one relating to Baroque forms, the other to indigenously Brazilian ones.
The pieces vary in their scoring. The first, like the fifth, calls for eight cellos, but lacks the solo soprano of the later work. It was completed in 1930. The most obvious Bachian reference here is in the final fugue, albeit on a theme which is closer to Rio than to Leipzig. The theme itself emerges in the opening Embolada, a form of folksong characterized by a refrain and response structure. The central Modinha alludes to a generic term for a type of Portuguese popular song, usually of a sentimental character.
— Geoff Thomason