Κυριακή, 22 Ιανουαρίου 2017

The Best of Villa-Lobos

Heitor Villa-Lobos was born in Rio de Janeiro. His father, Raul, was a civil servant, an educated man of Spanish extraction, a librarian, and an amateur astronomer and musician. In Villa-Lobos's early childhood, Brazil underwent a period of social revolution and modernisation, abolishing slavery in 1888 and overthrowing the Empire of Brazil in 1889. The changes in Brazil were reflected in its musical life: previously European music had been the dominant influence, and the courses at the Conservatório de Música were grounded in traditional counterpoint and harmony. Villa-Lobos underwent very little of this formal training. After a few abortive harmony lessons, he learnt music by illicit observation from the top of the stairs of the regular musical evenings at his house arranged by his father. He learned to play cello, guitar and clarinet. When his father died suddenly in 1899 he earned a living for his family by playing in cinema and theatre orchestras in Rio.

Around 1905 Villa-Lobos started explorations of Brazil's "dark interior", absorbing the native Brazilian musical culture. Serious doubt has been cast on some of Villa-Lobos's tales of the decade or so he spent on these expeditions, and about his capture and near escape from cannibals, with some believing them to be fabrications or wildly embellished romanticism. After this period, he gave up any idea of conventional training and instead absorbed the musical influences of Brazil's indigenous cultures, themselves based on Portuguese and African, as well as American Indian elements. His earliest compositions were the result of improvisations on the guitar from this period.

Villa-Lobos played with many local Brazilian street-music bands he was also influenced by the cinema and Ernesto Nazareth's improvised tangos and polkas. For a time Villa-Lobos became a cellist in a Rio opera company, and his early compositions include attempts at Grand Opera. Encouraged by Arthur Napoleão, a pianist and music publisher, he decided to compose seriously.


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