Heitor Villa-Lobos

Biography

Born: Mar 5, 1887; Brazil   Died: Nov 17, 1959; Brazil   Period: 20th Century
The music of Heitor Villa-Lobos is known for its characteristic nationalism, driving rhythms, and original instrumentation. He was trained as an autodidact opposed to academic instruction, his music grew in a completely independent and individual fashion.

Villa-Lobos began studying music at an early age, when his father, a worker at the National Library and an amateur musician, taught him to play cello, viola, and guitar. These early Read more influences later became evident in the orchestration of some of his more prominent works. Although he intended to enter school to study medicine, Villa-Lobos soon found that he preferred spending time with the local popular musicians, becoming familiar with the various musical styles native to Rio de Janeiro's street and night life. Among other skills, he learned to improvise guitar melodies over the "choro," a popular instrumental genre of the time, which lent Villa-Lobos the effortless Latin nationality so strongly present in his music.

From the ages of 18 to 25 he traveled extensively throughout Brazil and the African-influenced Caribbean nations, collecting themes and assessing the major style characteristics of the local musics. It was also during this time that Villa-Lobos composed his first major compositions, most notably his Piano Trio No. 1.

When he returned to Rio de Janeiro in 1912, Villa-Lobos briefly attempted to receive a more formalized education, but his personality and musical practice proved ill-matched with the academic establishment and, although he made important connections with the faculty, he soon left classes. He spent the next ten years composing and playing freelance cello in cafes and cinemas to earn a living. He eventually gained national recognition and a fair sum of government funding with the premiere of his Third Symphony, "A guerra," the first part of a symphonic trilogy commissioned by the Brazilian government to commemorate World War I.

From 1923 to 1930, Villa-Lobos found himself centered in Paris, where he was a huge success, his music being widely published and frequently performed. He eventually returned to Brazil, however, becoming one of the most esteemed artists of the new Nationalist regime, which lasted until 1945. During the 1930s, Villa-Lobos involved himself deeply and enthusiastically with public music education, once again traveling throughout Brazil to offer his services as a teacher and school coordinator. In 1945, his passion reached the ultimate fruition when he founded the Brazilian Academy of Music. He spent the last ten years of his life traveling and conducting, primarily in New York and Paris. Read less

Villa-Lobos: Complete Choros & Bachianas Brasileiras
Release Date: 07/28/2009   Label: Bis  
Catalog: 1830/2   Number of Discs: 7
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Villa-Lobos: Floresta do Amazonas / Korondi, Neschling, Sao Paulo State SO
Release Date: 06/29/2010   Label: Bis  
Catalog: 1660   Number of Discs: 1
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Villa-lobos: Complete Works For Solo Guitar / Anders Miolin
Release Date: 03/28/1995   Label: Bis  
Catalog: 686   Number of Discs: 1
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Villa-lobos: Complete Piano Music Vol 1 / Débora Halász
Release Date: 07/18/1995   Label: Bis  
Catalog: 712   Number of Discs: 1
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Villa-lobos: Bachianas Brasileiras 2-4 / Steuerman, Minczuk
Release Date: 05/31/2005   Label: Bis  
Catalog: 1250   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Preludes (5) for Guitar, W 419

 

About This Work
Written in 1940, in Rio de Janeiro for the famed guitarist Andrés Segovia, the Five Preludes contain the same fusion of Brazilian popular music and European classical traditions that marks so many of Heitor Villa-Lobos' guitar works. Perhaps Read more the only difference between these works and his much earlier guitar compositions, like the Suite populaire brésilienne of 1908 to 1912, is a slight darkening and mellowing of mood. All of this music betrays Villa-Lobos' formidable firsthand knowledge of the guitar, which he had been playing for some 40 years prior to the composition of the Preludes.

The Prelude No. 1 in E minor is restrained, mildly sad, and quite evocative of Brazilian music. The carnivals of Rio de Janeiro inspired the Prelude No. 2 in E major; it is more of a virtuoso exercise, full fast-paced arpeggios. The melancholic Prelude No. 3 in A minor seems to have been, like Villa-Lobos' extensive series of Bachianas brasileiras, something of an homage to Johann Sebastian Bach. The Prelude No. 4 in E minor, said by some to be Villa-Lobos' impression of Brazil's Indians, is the most serious-minded work of the set; it is dark and dramatic, and makes expressive use of the guitar's harmonics. Rio's social life, particularly among the youth of the city, was the inspiration for the final Prelude in D major, a graceful waltz in a moderately slow tempo.

-- Chris Morrison Read less

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