Franzi on Music: Heitor Villa-Lobos

By Emil Franzi / SoAzNewsX

Bachianas Brasileiras #4

Solo piano, 1939; orchestrated version premiere 1941

“Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) was a gigantic talent who created music of originality and communicativeness, music of immense force…”

Henry Fogel,longtime annotator for the Chicago Symphony.

Villa-Lobos’ total output is staggering. Over 2000 compositions in almost every form –symphony, opera, chamber, film scores (even one for Hollywood), concertos for numerous instruments, solo works for piano, guitar, harmonica, songs and choral works. There is little he didn’t try and more he adapted.  Most have held up well. Much has yet to be explored.

Villa-Lobos shared with Bartok and Vaughn-Williams a period in the early 20th century when he spent several years gathering folk music. As a composer he was mainly self-taught.

His best known adaptation is the series of nine collected homages to Bach known as the BACHIANAS BRASILEIRAS. Number Two contains the often played  LITTLE TRAIN OF THE CAIPARO and Number Five is his best known work for the hauntingly beautiful soprano solo over eight cellos.

Fogel tells us “…they are an attempt to amalgamate into a unified artistic statement the contrapuntal nature of Bach and the spirit of Brazilian folk music.”

Number Four was written for solo piano and orchestrated in 1941. Fogel describes the first movement we will hear, the prelude called Introducao as “…heart-stoppingly beautiful. It’s rich contrapuntal texture compliments  a broad flowing melody in a most remarkable way. Once heard it is not easily forgotten”.

Villa-Lobos is a composer who’s relevance steadily grows as we become more familiar with all of his vast output. It doesn’t hurt that he also wrote some great tunes.



Emil Franzi is the Editor-in-Chief/Publisher of the Southern Arizona News-Examiner. He is also a classical music and opera aficionado.



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