What happens at the dawn of the 21st century when musicians from the New World attempt an interpretation of Bach's music with indigenous instruments and percussion? Bach in Brazil is one possible result.
This record is not for the collector expecting the pristine interpretations of I Musici or the Philharmonia Baroque. Instead, the album presents an interpretation of Bach as reflected in the styles and rhythmic complexity of Brazilian music.
Some interpretations, like the D Minor Double Concerto (RealAudio excerpt) fail when a basic rhythmic pattern is added with little else. The percussive drive of the twin violaão (Brazilian guitars) is enough to add the appropriate flavor; the use of pandeiro (tambourine) just clouds the texture. In fact, the percussive elements heard throughout these pieces often at musically inappropriate times are perhaps the album's biggest drawback.
However, the recording is highly successful in its presentation of little-known Latin American composers such as Radameés Gnattali and Abel Ferreira, who appear alongside the more established Heitor Villa-Lobos. The "Aria" (RealAudio excerpt) from Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasileira no. 5 is given a hauntingly intimate interpretation, due in part to a wonderful arrangement by Henrique Cazes.
A delightful rendition of the Two Part Invention No. 8 (RealAudio excerpt) is a fitting closer and the album's highlight. Like the Classico of Cuban pianist Rueben Gonzalez, Bach provides a suitable foundation, with the musicians adding the appropriate variations. The instrumental virtuosity displayed and the spirit of the improvised
sections is a recurring source of pleasure.