Brazilian composer, cellist & guitarist | March 1887 – November 1959
Heitor Villa-Lobos was one of the foremost Latin American composers of the 20th century, whose music combines indigenous melodic and rhythmic elements with Western classical music. He is also known for the work that he did in Brazil to reform music education in local schools. Although many critics initially attacked the dissonance and modernity of his work, he persisted in his efforts to merge Western music and the Brazilian vernacular tradition.
Villa-Lobos’ pieces were performed in Brazil, but received mixed reactions by locals; some people didn’t know what to make of the “mixed together” sound of his works, while other people immediately enjoyed them. While he worked on his compositions, he married a pianist named Lucilia Guimaraes and earned a living by playing the cello in orchestras all over the city. Villa-Lobos decided to move to Paris when he was in his 30s, hoping to try his hand at composition in the cultural center of Europe at that time. He and his music were well-received in France. The sounds of his compositions were very colorful and did not resemble the kind of music that the Europeans were accustomed to hearing, making his creations ones that fascinated listeners. Villa-Lobos composed over 1,000 works of music, and is especially known for writing duets that paired a high-voiced instrument (such as a flute) with a low-voiced instrument (like a cello).
Eventually, Villa-Lobos returned to Brazil to make his mark on music education. He organized a huge choral group made up of people from all social classes in the city of Sao Paulo. He was also invited by the government of Rio de Janeiro to organize the study of music in the schools of the city.