b. Rio de Janeiro, march 5 1887; d. there Nov. 17 1959.
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He studied music with his father, a writer and amateur cello player; after his father's death in 1899, Vill-Lobos earned a living by playing the cello in cafes and restaurants; also studied cello with Benno Niederberger. From 1905 to 1912 he traveled in Brazil in order to collect authentic Folk Songs. In 1907 he entered the National Institute of Music in Rio de Janeiro, where he studied with Frederico Nascimento , Angelo França, and Francisco Braga. In 1921 he undertook an expedition into the interior of Brazil, where he gathered a rich collection of Indian songs. On Nov. 13 1915, he presented ,in Rio de Janeiro, a concert of his compositions creating a sensation by the exuberance of his music and the radical character of his technical idiom. He met the pianist Artur Rubenstein, who became his ardent admirer; for him Villa-Lobos composed a transcendentally difficult "Rudepoema".
In 1923 Villa-Lobos went to Paris on a Brazilian government grant; upon returning to Brazil in 1930; he was active in São Paulo and then in Rio de Janeiro in music education; founded a Conservatory under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Education in 1942. He introduced bold innovations into the national program of music education, with an emphasis on the cultural resources of Brazil; compiled a "Guia pratico", containing chordal arrangements of folk songs of Brazil; and other nations; organized the "orpheonic concentrations" of schoolchildren, whom he trained to sing according to his own cheironomic method of solfeggio.
In 1944 he made his 1st tour of the U.S. and conducted his works in Los Angeles, Boston and NY. In 1945 he established in Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian Academy of Music, serving as its president from 1947 until his death. He made frequent visits to the US and France during the last 15 years of his life.
Villa-Lobos was one of the most original composers of the 20th Century. He lacked formal academic training, but far from hampering his development, this deficiency liberated him from pedantic restrictions, so that he evolved an idiosyncratic technique of composition, curiously eclectic, but all the better suited to his musical esthetics. An ardent Brazilian nationalist, he resolved from his earliest attempts in composition to use authentic Brazilian song materials as the source of his inspiration; yet he avoided using actual quotations from popular songs; rather, he wrote melodies which are authentic in their melodic and rhythmic content.
In his desire to relate Brazilian folk resources to universal values, he composed a series of extraordinary works, "Bachiana brasilierias", in which Brazilian melo-rhthyms are treated in Bachian counterpoint. He also composed a number of works under the generic title "Choros", a popular Brazilian dance form, marked by incisive rhythm and a ballad-like melody.
An experimenter by nature, Villa-Lobos devised a graphic method of composition, using geometrical contours of drawings and photographs as outlines for the melody; in this manner he wrote The New York Skyline, using a photograph for guidance. Villa-Lobos wrote operas, ballets, symphonies, chamber music, choruses, piano pieces, songs; the total number of his compositions is in excess of 2,000.
Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, 8th ed., s.v. "Heitor Villa-Lobos."