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Villa-Lobos, Heitor

Heitor Villa-Lobos was born in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) on 5 March 1887. His father, a teacher and a civil servant, was also a musician; he teached his son both the clarinet and the cello. Heitor also learned the guitar on the quiet, against the will of his mother who wanted him to become a doctor. At a very young age, Villa-Lobos plays in “chôros”, bands playing popular music and, at only 16, practices as an independent musician.

In 1905, he leaves his tough life and visits the North of Brazil. The year that follows, after having visited South (which he finds quite disappointing), he composes Canticos Seranejos for a small orchestra (1907). Leaving his harmony studies, which he finds uninteresting, he travels through the different Brazilian states with his musician friend Donizetti. At the time, they live from many small performances in villages.

Back in Rio, he writes operas, strings works, piano works, as well as liturgical works. Quickly enough, his music overcomes borders. Villa-Lobos, with the help of patrons, stays in Paris where he meets many artists, such as F. Schmitt, P. Picasso, F. Léger… In order to live, he sells some of his scores and teaches.

In Paris, he finds a favourable ground for his most important works and proves to be a great conductor, despite his “atypical” conducting. In Europe, in London, Vienna, Berlin, Brussels, Liège and others, he conducts his works as well as works from other avant-garde composers. In the US, where he stays for the second time in 1947, he premieres the opera Magdalena.

His last years darken because of the discovery of a cancer in 1948 ; this doesn’t stop him from writing an important number of works until his Quintetteinstrumental in 1958. He dies the year after, in Rio de Janeiro, 17 November.

New edition of Villa-Lobos

In conjunction with the Academia Brasileira de Música (ABM), Durand-Salabert-Eschig is bringing up to date its editions of several works by the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. As part of a wide-reaching editorial programme, a number works that have long languished in poor-quality editions are being thoroughly revised and re-engraved. The new editions are mainly of orchestral works.
The old editions, dating from the mid-20th century, were often hand-copied, with many errors arising either from uncertainties in the composer’s manuscripts or simple copyist’s mistakes. The composer was notorious for not proof-reading the published scores and many errors simply went undetected. In other cases, the copying itself was not very good, and after several generations of reprints the parts have become hard to read.
The new editions are being prepared under the aegis of musicologist Roberto Duarte of the ABM and David Bray, Head of the Editorial Department at Éditions Durand, with contributions from other eminent Brazilian musicians and the collaboration of OSESP (Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo – the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra). They provide for the first time a properly researched and corrected edition, to be published by Éditions Durand.
Antonio Carlos Neves Pinto (OSESP) has written: “[Villa Lobos’s] work is fascinating because of its technique, unusual sonorities and Brazilian poetry. With enormous talent and facility in composing, he wrote more than a thousand works and never revised. He said that with the time it would take to revise a piece he could compose many others. Given this vast production and without proper proof-reading, interpreters always found the orchestral material to be of doubtful quality. OSESP has launched a major editing project and musicological review of all Villa-Lobos's symphonies, even including some forgotten orchestral works … providing the international music community with the chance to get to know better these wonderful works.”
The first pieces to appear, in the autumn/winter of 2015, will be:
Concerto para violão (guitar concerto) Have a look at the score
Symphony n° 10 – Amerindia
Bachianas brasileiras n° 9
Alvorada na floresta tropical


The works will be available from ABM for South America and from Éditions Durand for the rest of the world.

For further information, please contact us