The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (73): My first Brazilian

The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (73): My first Brazilian


norman lebrecht

May 27, 2020

Joan Baez singing the Bachianas Brasileiras was my first exposure to Heitor Villa-Lobos and the music of Brazil.

The ensemble of eight cellos is from the Utah Symphony Orchestra, conductor Maurice Abravanel.

For a more operatic rendition, here’s Bidu Sayao.


  • Such a striking piece that it has vacuumed up just about all the attention to his body of work.

  • Seriously? Baez barely has the breath control to manage the piece, as much a fan and friend as I am of hers. But for you to admit your late recognition of Villa Lobos boggles my mind. EMI recorded its complete collection of his works in France with him conducting in the 1950s, reissued in 1991. Oh well, confession is, as they say, good for the soul.

    • Bruce says:

      FWIW, Norman doesn’t say his exposure to Villa-Lobos was recent, just that this was his first.

  • Edgar Self says:

    I love this music, and Joan Baez singing it, although by the time I’d heard her, I already knew Bidu Sayao’s classic with Villa-Lobos, Leonard Rose, and half the New York Phil’s cello section. There is aso Licia Albanesi with Stokowski, and a later Villa-Lobos with De los Angeles. First is best for me.

    Bidu Sayao got Villa-Lobos to re-write his original violin solo for soprano, with a B-section to Portuguese words she found. He was very reluctant but did it.

    They gathered in Columbia’s New York studio in 1945 to make the first record, which was a one-off. It sounds like an exploded guitar with Sayao’s humming, the most beautiful until Aksel Schiotz’s Bellmann song “Karaste bruder”.

  • who knew? Joan Baez sounds like Anna Moffo…or is it the other way around?

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    First heard this in college in 1966 on a friends LP, lovely.

  • sam says:

    Well, Baez is better than what one should reasonably expect.

  • jansumi says:

    Laurindo Almeida / Salli Terri Duets with the Spanish Guitar

  • Brian says:

    If I may wax lyrical for a moment, “My first Brazilian” is a decidedly weird headline…

    • Bruce says:

      I thought it was hilarious… especially the thought that maybe this was the first of Norman’s many Brazilians. :-O

  • Tom Moore says:

    It’s never too late to meet the music of Brazil.

  • Jay Shulman says:

    David Soyer was solo cellist on the Joan Baez recording.

  • Utah Jazzed Up says:

    Conductor Maurice Abravanel is so sexy in the picture. Who’s his girlfriend?