An enormously prolific composer and a man of exuberant energy, Heitor Villa-Lobos transformed the musical life of his native Brazil and put the country on the international musical map.
His musical education was anything but academic. From an early age he learned the cello with his father, and it was always an instrument close to his heart. He also gained a virtuosic command of the guitar, on which he improvised with popular musicians in his home city, Rio de Janeiro.
Between the ages of 18 and 25, Villa-Lobos travelled all over Brazil exploring various forms of Brazilian music and collecting materials. He later entertained Parisian circles with tales of being captured by cannibal Indians, who released him unharmed only because of his musical abilities. On his return to Rio, his attempts at formal training in composition proved uncongenial to his fiery and impatient temperament, but he did study the works of the great masters while earning his living playing in cafes. He composed continuously, gaining increasing recognition, and in 1922 received an official commission for a work about World War I - his Third Symphony 'A guerra' (To War).
With the help and encouragement of the pianist Arthur Rubinstein, Villa-Lobos was able to go to Paris in the late 1920s, where he was influenced by Satie and Milhaud. He caused a sensation with the exotic brilliance and vitality of his Choros, a series of works for forces varying from solo guitar to chorus, band and orchestra, all re-creating the sounds and forms of Brazilian popular music. Villa-Lobos lived mainly in Paris until 1930, and was much admired by fellow musicians, including Edgar Varese and Olivier Messiaen.
His return to Brazil coincided with the arrival of the new nationalist regime, under which Villa-Lobos was put in charge of organizing the musical life of the country: his energy and imagination in the educational reforms he carried out are comparable only to the achievements of Kodaly in Hungary. The works which best encapsulate his thinking during these years are the Bachianas Brasileiras, which abandon the wildness of much of his earlier music in favour of a Classical serenity. He paid homage to his beloved Bach by pointing to the parallels between Bach's counterpoint and the independent lines of much Brazilian folk music. No. 5 of the Bachianas, for wordless soprano and eight cellos, is a haunting example of this.
In 1945 Villa-Lobos founded the Brazilian Academy of Music and nominated its first 50 members. The works of his last years include some virtuosic concertos, as well as a large proportion of his 17 string quartets. He died in 1959 and was accorded the honour of a state funeral.
Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5
Bachianas Brasileiras No. 9
Choros No. 6
Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra
Distribucao de flores
Prole do bebe