Review: Plínio Fernandes’ Spellbinding ‘Bacheando’ Explores the Lasting Influence of J.S. Bach 

‘Bacheando’ is a collection of works by Bach and by a few notable modern Brazilian composers who were deeply affected and influenced by Bach.
Plinio Fernandes wearing headphones and smiling in a listening library. photo by Lil Eiger
Plinio Fernandes, Photo: Lil Eiger

Sometimes it feels almost inevitable that a classical guitarist will eventually record a “Bach album” during their career. Solo guitar arrangements of J.S. Bach pieces have been de rigueur since Segovia first recorded various works in the late 1920s—and then made Bach a vital part of his performing repertoire for the rest of his long, influential career. The appeal and the challenges of playing Bach’s pieces are self-evident. But you really have to be on your game to play them well, which is one reason the Bach album is often a mid- or late-career choice.

Cover artwork for Plinio-Fernandes' ‘Bacheando’
Plínio Fernandes, Bacheando (Decca Gold)

Brazilian guitarist Plínio Fernandes (profiled in the January/February 2024 issue) is still in his mid-20s, and Bacheando is just his second full-length release, following his brilliant 2022 Decca debut, Saudade. And it’s not an all-Bach album by any means, but rather a spellbinding collection of works by Bach and by a few notable modern Brazilian composers who were deeply affected and influenced by Bach. So a lot of what’s here is really more 20th-century Brazilian than early 18th-century Baroque. 


A through line common to both of Fernandes’ albums is the heavy participation of perhaps Brazil’s most important contemporary classical guitar figure, Sérgio Assad: His guitar arrangements of modern pieces by Brazilian musician-composers Paulinho Nogueira (the delightful “Bachianinha No. 1” and “No. 2”); Mario Albanese (the short, bossa-inflected “Jequibach”); Heitor Villa-Lobos (the prelude of the famous “Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4”) are all standouts, as is his transcription of the “Adagio” from Bach’s Concerto in D Minor (BWV 974), written for keyboard. 

The other tranche of actual Bach is a marvelous reading of the three-part Prelude, Fugue and Allegro in E-Flat Major (BWV 998), originally for lute and popularized first by Segovia and then by John Williams, among others. On Fernandes’ album, that Bach work is followed immediately by Assad’s own triptych Preludio, Fuga e Vivace, which veers from the Bach influence almost immediately—it has moments that sound like John Fahey-esque American primitive folk themes and even blues—but still feels somehow structurally connected to the German master.

Throughout the album, Fernandes, who left Brazil to study at the Royal Academy of Music and still lives in London, plays a marvelous-sounding guitar built in 2004 by Portland, Oregon, luthier Jeffrey Elliott. He is a relaxed, fluid, and rhythmically assured player who always seems to be in complete command of both his instrument and the music he’s interpreting. This is definitely a guitarist to watch closely as he continues to grow.   

Blair Jackson
Blair Jackson

Blair Jackson is the author of the definitive biography Garcia: An American Life and was senior editor at Acoustic Guitar before retiring in 2023.

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