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Profile of Heitor Villa-Lobos



March 5, 1887; his father was Raul Villa-Lobos and his mother was Noemia Umbelina Villa-Lobos.


Rio de Janeiro


November 17, 1959 in Rio de Janeiro

Also Known As:

Heitor Villa-Lobos was a prolific Brazilian composer, conductor, music educator and advocate of Brazilian music. His works reflected Brazilian music flavor fused with influences from composers such as Stravinsky and the music of Eastern Europe. He founded the Brazilian Academy of Music and the Conservatório Nacional de Canto Orfeónico. Villa-Lobos traveled throughout Brazil to research and gather information on folk music. He was married to Lucilia Guimarães Villa-Lobos in 1912 but they separated in 1936.

Type of Compositions:

He wrote choral and chamber music, instrumental and orchestral pieces, vocal works and piano music. Also popular to this day are his etudes and preludes for the guitar.


Villa-Lobos received early instructions on the cello from his father, Raul Villa-Lobos, who was an amateur cellist. He studied composition and harmony inconsistently under Angelo França. He was largely self-taught; learning how to play different instruments on his own. His mother, Noemia Umbelina Villa-Lobos, originally wanted him to pursue a career in medicine which Villa-Lobos didn't follow. Instead, after his father died in 1899, he earned a living by playing in street bands and cafes. He briefly studied at the National Music Institute and was influenced by other composers such as Stravinsky and Bach.

Notable Works:

Villa-Lobos created more than 2,000 compositions, among them are "Bachianas Brasilieras" (inspired by Bach), "Yerma" (opera written by García Lorca), "Izaht" (opera), "Cello Concerto no. 2" (1953), his "Chôros" including "Alma Brasileira" (No. 5 for piano - 1926), "Rasga o Coraçao" (No. 10 for chorus & orchestra - 1925), "A Prole do Bebê Nos. 1 and 2" (The Baby's Family) and "Concerto for Guitar" (1951).

Interesting Fact:

Villa-Lobos' concert on November 13, 1915 was well-received; by 1923 he was in Paris after receiving a government grant. He returned to Brazil in 1930 and was appointed director of music education. He traveled to the US in 1944, conducting his music and was involved in other projects such as composing the music score for the film "The Green Mansions." The classical guitarist Andrés Segovia and Villa-Lobos were good friends. Artur Rubinstein was also one of his patrons.

Music Samples:

Listen to David Russell perform Heitor Villa-Lobos' "Choro No. 1" courtesy of YouTube.

More Information:

For additional information go to the Villa-Lobos website.

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