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What Gershwin did for jazz/classical, Villa-Lobos did for Brazilian/classical. Composer birthday, March 5

What Gershwin did for jazz/classical, Villa-Lobos did for Brazilian/classical. Composer birthday, March 5 featured image

Any composer who loves JS Bach is worth a listen!

Brazil has a lot to thank Villa-Lobos for – he jumpstarted the popularity of Brazillian music and fused classical music with Brazilian melodies with the same panache as George Gershwin did with jazz. He also contributed greatly to the guitar canon.

After Villa-Lobos settled down with pianist Lucilia Guimaraes, he stopped travelling and hunkered down as a serious musician and composer. Apparently, Villa-Lobos had an identity crisis, composing-wise; he just didn’t know whether he would focus on the European or Brazilian tradition. While his music has a definitive Brazilian sound, the structure of his works is quite European. Villa-Lobos was inspired by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes; another influence came about because of a fortuitious meeting with Darius Milhaud, who was visting Rio. Milhaud introduced Villa-Lobos to the music of Debussy, Satie, and Stravinksy; Villa-Lobos returned the favour by showing off Brazilian street music to Milhaud. One amazing moment for Villa-Lobos was meeting legendary pianist Arthur Rubenstein, who became a lifelong friend and an advocate of Villa-Lobos’ music. Villa-Lobos was inspired to compose more piano music as a result.

The Bachianas Brasileriras is a Villa-Lobos classic, both in terms of the work itself, and the composer’s blend of Brazilian and classical influences. Villa-Lobos adapted a number of Baroque characteristics to Brazilian music. Most of the movements in each suite have a Bach-inspired name (Preludio, Fuga, etc.) and a Brazilian name (Embolada, O canto da nossa terra, etc.). Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 is one of Villa-Lobos’ best-known works. Scored for soprano and orchestra of cellos, it depicts clouds, the moonrise, lamenting, and birds. It is one of the most haunting and lovely works I’ve heard.

This outdoor concert features the Berlin Philharmonic, directed by Gustavo Dudamel in 2008 for an audience of twenty thousand. Soprano: Ana Maria Martinez.

Villa-Lobos was born March 5, 1887 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and died there November 17, 1959.

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