String Quartet No.1
Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-59) Brazil's best known composer is widely regarded as one of the most important of the 20th century. While many of his works for orchestra and or voice and instruments, such as his many Choros and Bachianas brasileiras, are widely performed, his chamber music, of which he wrote a considerable amount, is virtually unknown outside of Brazil. This is certainly a great pity as many masterworks are to be found among his 17 string quartets, three piano trios and several other chamber compositions. Villa-Lobos once stated, "I love to write string quartets. One could say it is a mania." He claimed to have learned quartet technique from having studied the quartets of Haydn. Villa-Lobos was born in Rio de Janeiro. His father was an amateur musician and much of what he learned was from hearing and taking part in the chamber music evenings held at his home. He learned to play the cello, clarinet and guitar and did attend the Conservatorio de Musica where he studied with Alberto Nepomuceno, then Brazil's leading composer (we have published the world premiere edition of two of his string quartets). Afterwards, for a decade, beginning in 1905, Villa-Lobos explored the native and folk melodies of interior Brazil paying especial attention to the melding of African with Portuguese melody. Between 1916-1920, he was greatly influenced developments in modern French music due to visit to Brazil by Darius Milhaud and Sergei Diaghilev among others. In the 1920's, he made two visits to Paris and familiarized himself further with current developments.
String Quartet No.1 dates from 1915 and is unlike any of his others. It is a folkloric suite of six pieces, alternately lyrical and dancelike, nostalgic and happy. Its language is romantic, and its structure is deliberately simple. Four of the movements are virtually monothematic; the third and fifth are in ternary song form. A Cantilena (Andante) with the character of a serenade establishes a songlike mood at the outset. This is followed by Brincadeira (Allegretto scherzando), a lively Brazilian polka. Canto lirico (Moderato) is expressive and contemplative, or perhaps tinged with irony and meant as a caricature of the romantic aria. A more animated Canšoneta (Andante, quasi allegretto) follows. Nostalgia pervades Melancolia (Lento), the quartet's most fully developed and true slow movement. Finally, Saltando como um Saci (Allegro), roughly translatable as Jumping Like an Imp, is a fugal dance with a catchy tune. The imp refers to Saci Perere, a mythical, one-legged black dwarf who wears a red cap, frequents jungle areas and delights in frightening people.
Parts & Score: $29.95