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Classical Composers A-Z: Heitor Villa-Lobos

Peter Wintersgill tells of Heitor Villa-Lobos, the Brazillian composer.

5th March, 1887, in Rio de Janeiro.

Had cello lessons from father; but otherwise self taught. Father died when he was 11.

Played the cello in cafes and streets.

Early Adult Life
Played in symphony and opera orchestras in Rio. Made friends with Milhaud, who was a diplomat in Rio at the time, also with Arthur Rubenstein, who helped to popularise his music.

He lived in Paris and other parts of Europe in the 1920's. Influences were Satie, Milhaud, Ravel and Stravinsky.

Returned to Brazil in 1930, studied folk music, which influenced
his own, though he never actually used a folk tune.

He then wrote Bachianas Brasilieras, a group of pieces in the style of Bach for different groups of instruments and voices, the first group in 1930.

Later Adult Life
Became director of musical education, at first in Rio, later for the whole of Brazil, and improved the standard of Brazilian music.

He travelled a lot, visiting the USA several times, also Europe.

His music displays his flamboyant personality, with its own individual colour and rhythm.

He wrote a lot of music for the guitar, other chamber pieces, also the Choros, a group of pieces for different instruments. They, as well as the Bachianas, are in the standard repertoire today. He wrote a harmonica concerto, (1955).

He died on 17th June, 1959, in Rio, aged 72.


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