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Composer: Villa-Lobos, Heitor (1887-1959)

Find classical music concert, opera, ballet and dance listings | Villa-Lobos
Biography

Heitor Villa-Lobos remains Brazil's most famous composer of classical music. His style is unique, born of an anarchic attitude to authority and a fascination with the landscape of his country with its vast rain-forested interior fused with very strong "straight" classical technical ability.

The works most often heard today are the Bachianas Brasileiras ("Brazilian Bach pieces"), a series of compositions for a variety of instruments and voices which depict Brazilian live in extraordinary vividness, drawing on an improbable combination of Brazilian street music, folk tunes from many influences and the composer's particular love of Bach. A particularly graphic piece is "O Trenzinho do Caipir ("The little train of the Caipir") the Toccata from Bachiana Brasileira no.2, which depicts the progress of a small steam train making its way into the distance through the Amazon forests.

Villa-Lobos was a fine guitarist and friend of Andres Segovia and wrote many compositions for Segovia. His pieces display a unique understanding of the guitar and ability to turn its peculiarities to musical advantage. If you read the music of his Etude no. 1, its series of harmonies makes no sense whatsoever in terms of chord progression or any standard theory. Played on the guitar, however, it's a repeated right hand pattern with the left hand being a simple hand shape moving chromatically downwards one fret at a time combined with drone strings: it's both easy to play and sounds unique and exciting. His guitar concerto is also one of the best in the repertoire at overcoming the unique difficulty of achieving balance between guitar and orchestra.


David Karlin
12th December 2008