Friday, December 14, 2007

Villa-Lobos - Guitar & Choro

Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959), the world-famous Brazilian composer of more than 800 works in the field of classical music, was heavily inspired and influenced by the choro, which he once described as the integral translation of the Brazilian soul in the form of music.
Villa-Lobos began studying music at an early age, when his father, an amateur musician, taught him to play cello, viola, and guitar. These early influences later became evident in the orchestration of some of his more prominent works. Although he intended to enter school to study medicine, Villa-Lobos soon found that he preferred spending time with the local popular musicians, becoming familiar with the various musical styles native to Rio de Janeiro's street and night life. Among other skills, he learned to improvise guitar melodies by observing and studying choro guitarists, and he would actually develop a five finger playing teqnique in the right hand to obtain a richer sound of the instrument than usually made possible by applying a traditional classical right-hand technique. - To give you an impression of his ability and skills as a guitarist, I found a short film fragment showing Villa-Lobos playing a part of one of his own compositions for guitar, the Prelude No. 2

From the ages of 18 to 25 Villa-Lobos traveled extensively throughout Brazil and the African-influenced Caribbean nations, collecting themes and assessing the major style characteristics of the local musics. When he returned to Rio de Janeiro in 1912, Villa-Lobos briefly attempted to receive a more formalized education, but his personality and musical practice proved ill-matched with the academic establishment and, although he made important connections with the faculty, he soon left classes. He spent the next ten years composing and playing freelance cello in cafes and cinemas to earn a living. - From 1923 to 1930, Villa-Lobos found himself centered in Paris, where he was a huge success, his music being widely published and frequently performed. It was during his stay in Europe that he met with Segovia, the great maestro of the classical guitar, who would play and promote Villa-Lobos' guitar compositions to an European audience. - I found a video of Segovia performing Villa-Lobos' Study No. 1 in Em

Villa-Lobos eventually returned to Brazil, becoming one of the most esteemed artists of the new Nationalist regime, which lasted until 1945. During the 1930s, Villa-Lobos involved himself deeply and enthusiastically with public music education, once again traveling throughout Brazil to offer his services as a teacher and school coordinator. In 1945, his passion reached the ultimate fruition when he founded the Brazilian Academy of Music. He spent the last ten years of his life traveling and conducting, primarily in New York and Paris.

As mentioned above, Villa-Lobos was heavyly influenced by choro in his own work as a composer, and throughout his career he composed 12 pieces of music in the genre, 5 of them for solo guitar, the remaining for small ensemble or full symphonic orchestration. His choros for solo guitar have become standards within the repertoire of classical master class guitar performance. To give you an impression of Villa-Lobos' choro compositions for solo guitar, I insert a video performance by David Russell playing Choro tipico no 1



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear friend,
what we hear in the "short film fragment" you posted is NOT Villa-Lobos himself: it's the unmistakable sound of Narciso Yepes.
The following Fabio Zanon radio-show includes a real recording of Villa-Lobos (playing his Choros 1) at around 27.40:

26 December, 2007  

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