Heitor Villa-Lobos

(Brézil - Brazil)

Heitor Villa-Lobos was born on March 5th, 1887 in Rio de Janeiro. His mother, Noemia Villa-Lobos, would take care of the children and the house. His father, Raul Villa-Lobos, was an employee of the National Library and was an amateur musician. Every Saturday, Rio de Janeiro’s well-known musicians would get together at the Villa-Lobos house to play until late at night. This habit, which lasted for years, directly influenced Heitor Villa-Lobos, musical formation which later on initiated his way into music.

Villa-Lobos was well traveled and well informed of his country. His many travels through Brazil are very famous, and the fantastic stories and legends about Indians who wanted to eat him while he was collecting materials for his compositions are very characteristic of his style of life. Many authors like Behague, Appleby, his biographer Vazco Mariz and Enyart have demonstrated that his music is very influenced with Brazilian folk and traditional popular melodies.

Villa-Lobos elevated the level of the music that traditionally had been considered "marginal" to art music and, doing this, he approached art music to the popular sectors. He was also responsible for the creation of a new system for music education (SEMA, Superintendência de Educação Musical e Artística, Superintendence of Musical and Artistic Education) under the government of Getulio Vargas. This agency had the task of taking music to the elementary schools, secondary schools, and other education departments of the municipality. Through SEMA he wrote and published his six-volume Guia Prático for teachers of orpheonic singing. This guide included all types of material, with special attention to Brazilian folksongs in simple harmonizations, thus constituting a true anthology of children songs, national civic hymns and patriotic songs, among others. This was a way to approach the young people of Brazil and breed a nationalistic spirit that afterwards would show up in the music of all levels.

Villa-Lobos is considered by many authors such as Behague, his biographer Vazco Mariz and Appleby as the most distinguished Brazilian composer of the first half of the twentieth century, and as a tremendously prolific writer who produced, according to Peppercorn, approximately 1000 works. The Music Review in a publication dated February, 1943 considers Villa-Lobos the most interesting modern composer of the Americas.

The great superiority of Villa-Lobos as a potentially nationalist composer was due to precisely this natural empathy and affinity with the popular culture of his city, a sort of innate interest in humanity’s art. With his early involvement in predominantly urban popular music compared with his experience in Indian music, the rural music of Brazil, and the European avant-garde of the 1920’s, Villa-Lobos’ composition went considerably beyond the boundaries of orthodox nationalism. There can be no doubt about his intimate and natural identification with his own cultural milieu.

Other sites of interest:

The Red Deer Library Villa-Lobos Web Site

Villa-Lobos Museum

The Villa-Lobos Brazilian Music Reference Page

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