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Much of Villa-Lobos' music was improvisational in inspiration, so the short, characteristic pieces on this disc are an ideal showcase for his talents. Each piece contrasts just one or two musical ideas or moods in a way which is musically attractive for the listener, but rather challenging to the performer. In his reviews of this repertoire, guitarist John Duarte has warned of the interpretative liberties that a performer might take (extra ritardandos at suitable points), in order to facilitate the performance of these pieces. Bacon seems to need to take no such liberties and all of his performances are charming and creditable.

Pieces such as the Etudes, were written especially for Segovia and so demand much from the performer. The Etudes date from 1929 when Villa-Lobos was visiting Paris. He wrote twelve in all, but Bacon includes just four. Etude No 5 offers a melodic line supported by a moto-perpetuo rhythm in a manner rather akin to Poulenc (not surprising, given that the piece was written in Paris in the twenties). Etude No 11 alternates and combines melodic material with rather chromatic strumming and rhythmic figures, all combined with some very haunting harmony. In Etude No 8 the melodic line is supported by chromatic, Latin American rhythms [listen -- track 8, 0:50-1:59]. It is in pieces like this that we can discern a little weakness in Bacon's performance; whilst his playing is technically adept and rather charming, he does not always convey the sense of the Latin American passion and intensity that lies behind. After all, Villa-Lobos might have used European models, but his music is always filtered through his own distinctive Brazilian consciousness, and I am not sure that Bacon always captures this. The final Etude on the disc, No 9, is devoted to arpeggios and scales, sometimes alone and sometimes combined with melodic material.

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Copyright © 28 October 2004 Robert Hugill, London UK


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