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Prole do bebê 1
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The Prole do Bebê suites for piano, written in Rio three years apart, show the composer to have been a master of smaller forms. Prole do Bebê (‘The Baby’s Family’) brings together seventeen little pieces in two suites, the first devoted to dolls, and the second to animals. It should be understood that these pieces are not meant for children to play themselves (unless they are very advanced young pianists), but are recollections of childhood, like Schumann’s Kinderszenen. Some of these pieces require a virtuoso technique and a great deal of musical understanding to project them properly. A third suite, with the same title, was apparently written in 1916, but has long been lost. It was never published.

The first suite (1918) is dedicated to Lucilia Villa-Lobos, the composer’s wife whom he had married in 1912. There are strong elements of polytonality—which Villa-Lobos concurrently developed after Milhaud’s lead—in that in various places in the music the right hand plays on the white keys, with the left hand on the black, and the influence of Stravinsky’s Petrushka may not be far away.

Branquinha: The first suite opens with a delicate texture, high on the keyboard, which soon reveals a lyrical theme that seems to contradict the Très animé et gai marking. The form is a simple ABAB with a brief vivo codetta.

Moreninha: This lively little piece, whose dynamic is always half-stated, is akin to a moto perpetuo and is based upon a favourite Villa-Lobos tonality of C sharp. The simplicity of the ABA structure conceals some brilliant and original keyboard writing, and the final chord thwarts all expectations.

Caboclinha: A simple 3+3+2 accompaniment figure sustains this beautifully atmospheric, authentically Brazilian—in its evocation of folksong—piece, with its almost sensuous dance-like melodic fragments creating a crescendo-diminuendo structure.

Mulatinha: The mulatto figure is almost literally a colourful mixture of ideas, mainly pentatonic, but a built-in accelerando does not hide the underlying polytonal basis.

Negrinha: A brilliant toccata-like study similarly contrasts A flat major and C major.

A Pobrezinha: Here our sympathies are invoked, Lentement et mélancolique, for this waif, her soft yet uncertain B–C sharp–E chords supporting rather than troubling her.

O Polichinelo: This was the last music Arthur Rubinstein played in public—his final encore. It was a piece he played—and altered slightly—often, and it recalls, more than any other item in this Suite, Petrushka, three movements from which Stravinsky arranged and dedicated to the virtuoso in 1921, despite one of them being virtually unplayable as written. Villa-Lobos’s ‘Punch’ is playable, and became one of the most famous of all the Brazilian’s shorter works.

A Bruxa: This is a very different piece. The uncertain, troubled atmosphere is all-pervasive, and the three sections—Lente, Preste, Lente—are not wholly organic, except for the consistency of Villa-Lobos’s favourite key of C sharp.

from notes by Robert Matthew-Walker © 2000

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Details for CDA67176 track 9
A Pobrezinha
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-00-17609
Duration
1'38
Recording date
7 October 1999
Recording venue
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Tony Faulkner
Hyperion usage
  1. Villa-Lobos: Piano Music (CDA67176)
    Disc 1 Track 9
    Release date: June 2000
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