Heitor Villa-Lobos, classical music composer

Heitor Villa-Lobos image

Heitor Villa-Lobos

Biography

Heitor Villa-Lobos is the single most known and prominent composer to come out of Latin America. The son of a civil servant and amateur musician, Villa-Lobos was born in Rio de Janeiro on March 5, 1887. At the time of his birth, Brazil's musical culture was largely influenced by Europe, but a period of social revolution, in which the Empire of Brazil was overthrown in 1889, quickly changed this. Thus, Villa-Lobos was exposed very little to the formal techniques of European classical music, and primarily learned music from observing the musical evenings his father would arrange in their home. He learned to play the cello, guitar and clarinet. After his father's sudden death in 1899, Villa-Lobos supported his family by playing in cinema and theatre orchestras. During his formative years as a musician, Villa-Lobos was mostly influenced by the cultural sounds of Brazil. His early compositions grew out of improvisations for the guitar, but at the same time he also made attempts at the composition of grand opera. The pianist and music publisher, Arthur Napoleão, took note of the young man's talents and encouraged him to compose seriously. In 1912, the same year as his marriage to the pianist Lucília Guimarães, Villa-Lobos began to establish his career as a composer, and the following year his music began to appear in print. These early works showed a composer struggling with the divergent influences that he had thus far experience. In 1916, with the composition of Amazonas and Uirapurú, native Brazilian music won out over European tradition. Villa-Lobos, however, did not completely abandon European art music. In 1917, he met the French composer Darius Milhaud, who introduced him to the music of Debussy, Satie, and possibly Stravinsky. The following year, he also met the eminent pianist Arthur Rubinstein, who became a lifelong friend and champion, and inspired him to compose more piano music. Arthur Rubinstein also persuaded Villa-Lobos to travel beyond Brazil, and in 1923, he left for Paris, where he met some of the French capital's leading artists.

Villa-Lobos had hopes of returning to Paris in 1930, but the revolution taking place in his own country prevented him from doing so. With no other choice but to stay in Brazil, he arranged concerts around São Paulo and became director of the Superindendência de Educação Musical e Aristica two years later. Under Getúlio Vargas's rule of Brazil, Villa-Lobos composed a significant number of patriotic and educational music, as well as chaired the committee to select a definitive version of the Brazilian national anthem. Although he worked to establish Brazilian nationalism in music, when Vargas fell from power in 1945, Villa-Lobos once again resumed his travels after the conclusion of World War II. He returned to Paris and made regular trips to the United States. He also travelled to Great Britain and Israel. Though by this time his health was failing, he managed to complete a great many commissions for new compositions.

Criticism of Villa-Lobos's output during his later years was at times unfavorable, and his prolific rate was cited as the result of banality. He became disillusioned and alienated many of his colleagues. On November 17, 1959, he died in Rio de Janeiro. His funeral was the last major civic event in the city before the capital of Brazil was transferred to Brasilia.


Composer Title Date Action
Heitor Villa-Lobos Song of the Black Swan 01/17/2009 Play Add to playlist
Heitor Villa-Lobos Aria, from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 03/18/2009 Play Add to playlist
Heitor Villa-Lobos Etude No 1 11/02/2009 Play Add to playlist
Heitor Villa-Lobos Prelude No 1 11/02/2009 Play Add to playlist
Heitor Villa-Lobos Animé, from Fantasia 02/24/2009 Play Add to playlist
Heitor Villa-Lobos Impressoes Seresteiras 01/07/2011 Play Add to playlist
Heitor Villa-Lobos Trio No. 1 in c minor 02/01/2011 Play Add to playlist
Heitor Villa-Lobos "Polichinelle" 02/08/2011 Play Add to playlist
Heitor Villa-Lobos Sentimental Melody, from Forest of the Amazon 10/02/2011 Play Add to playlist