The set of nine Bachianas Brasileiras holds a special place in Villa-Lobos' enormous output of more than 2,000 works. These compositions, which Arthur Cohn called “less a musical form than a type of creative principle,” combine the melodic and rhythmic characteristics of Brazilian music with the texture and style of Bach. The Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 is scored for the unusual combination of soprano voice and eight cellos. The opening movement, Aria (Cantilena) , was composed in 1938 and premiered on March 25, 1939 in Rio de Janeiro. Villa-Lobos noted that the Brazilian usage of the word “aria” is as a general designation for “a kind of lyrical song” — his model in the outer sections of the piece, sung without words, may well have been the famous Air from Bach's Third Orchestral Suite. The middle portion of the Aria , in the style of a Brazilian folksong, is a setting of a poem by Ruth V. Corrêa evoking the beauties of sunset and evening. According to the composer, the second movement, Dansa (subtitled Martelo , “ Hammered ”), from 1945, “represents a persistent and characteristic rhythm much like the strange melodies of the Brazilian hinterland known as emboladas . The melody suggests the birds of Brazil.” Its text, a verse by Manuel Bandeira, expresses the ancient theme of the wild bird as the messenger of love.
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