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Heitor Villa-Lobos

"El Presidente Of Brazilian Classical Guitar Music"

"Villa-Lobos - Brazilian composer whose works, including symphonies, operas, and songs, were influenced by Brazilian folk traditions..."

The Brazilian master, born in 1887 then dying at the age of 72 in 1959, was both a popular and important composer. Indeed, in the "musical firmament" and general guitar history he holds a pre-eminent position. Heitor was the first South American composer to become internationally famous whose fame and popularity have continued unabated to the present day.

When young, Heitor earned his living as an orchestral player. He was a multi-instrumentalist being able to play cello, guitar, clarinet and piano. Although he was not a virtuoso guitarist, he was quite a good one who understood the peculiar technical complexities of the guitar.

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In the early part of the twentieth century,  he toured the country to find examples of folk music and for 5 years imbibed the flavor, texture and soul of Brazilian music. It was no wonder that it influenced his compositions thereafter.

In 1922, he received a fellowship from the Brazilian government to visit Paris and remained there until 1926. It was there he met Segovia which resulted in a lifelong friendship and was important from the point of view of extending and improving the repertoire of guitar. Indeed Segovia once said...

"He has given to the history of guitar fruits of his talent as luxuriant and savoury as those of Scarlatti and Chopin."

His output of music was prolific at approximately two thousand works. The music is an eclectic mix of Brazilian Indian and folk music and European impressionism, especially that of Debussy. Writing in this most individual style easily made him the most important figure in Brazilian musical life in the first half of the twentieth century.

To think that he was essentially self taught made his prominent rise all the more remarkable. Indeed, he was good enough to be made the director of the national musical academy at the relatively young age of 43. By the age of 45, was he in charge of the country's musical education! Villa-Lobos founded the Conservatorio Nacional de Canto Orfeonic for music teachers, which would provide musical life and sustenance in Brazilian schools.

He excelled in writing the "Choros", which consists of variations of wind and string instruments and even choral elements. Orchestration can be widely varied from a single guitar to the whole orchestra. He was no one-trick pony writing symphonies, symphonic poems, a cello concerto, choros, chamber music, choral works, piano solos and songs.

My personal favorite, after the 5 preludes, is "The Little Train of the Caipira." Having taught in music in many primary (elementary) schools I can attest to its popularity, especially among the younger students. They respond to the rhythmic and musical charm of Villa-Lobos' easy style.

No wonder he has remained in such an exalted position for all these years!

Check out this video on YouTube of his Prelude No.2 ...

Click here for a biography of Villa-Lobos...

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