Caixinha de Boas Festas

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Caixinha de Boas Festas = The Surprise Box

A ballet suite for orchestra written in Rio in 1932.  The work was published by G. Ricordi & Co. in Milan.

In 1932 Villa-Lobos was back in Brazil after his first Paris trip.  His Choros series was complete, and a few years earlier he had begun the Bachianas Brasileiras series (with #1, #2, and #4).  He was leaving behind modernist models in favour of a more populist style (in keeping with his music-didactic agenda and the populist spirit of Getulio Vargas's new regime).

In the same year Villa wrote this work, he published the first 10 of his Guia pratico albums, based on traditional songs and children's rounds.  I recognized one of them at once in Caixinha de Boas Festas - the first song from the first album - "Acordei de madrugada" (I woke up very early) - but I expect there are others. Though never a parent, Villa-Lobos loved children, and never lost track of his own inner child.  That's apparent in this captivating, though slight, orchestral show-piece.

This story about the inception of the piece is from one of Harold Lewis's posts on Presença de Villa Lobos :

In the text of a radio talk given in August 1975, Walter Burle Marx recalled (PVL no. 10) that Villa-Lobos had offered to produce a piece for one of the young persons' concerts he (Burle Marx) was organising. Two days before the concert, in November 1932, he visited Villa-Lobos in his little apartment in the centre of Rio. The composer had just finished dinner and was clearing the table.
"Villa-Lobos," he inquired, "how far have you got with the work you've promised?"
"I'll work on it tonight, and should finish it at 4 a.m."
"And the parts?"
"I'll do them myself and some friends are coming to help me later."
"Then I'll let you get on with it and not disturb you."
"You're not disturbing me at all," said Villa-Lobos, insisting that Burle Marx stayed. After sorting the manuscripts on the table, Villa-Lobos went on working on the orchestration while talking to his visitor. At the same time, in another room of the apartment, the pianist Jose Brandão was playing the transcription of the symphonic poem 'Amazonas', and from time to time, Villa-Lobos, hearing something that wasn't right, called out to Brandao, "No, no, it's G flat in the bass," and so forth.
The fact was that next day at 9 a.m., the young musicians received the score of the Caixinha de Boas Festas, with all the parts written out. 


Written for a large orchestra, including percussion (tam-tam, timpani, tambores, reco-reco, guizos, pratos, bombo), as well as xylophone, celesta, harp and piano.  The work was dedicated to Walter Burle Marx.


A Ricordi study score seems to be available - it's listed at The Highland Music Shop online:Caixinha de Boas, Vitrina & PoemaAlt.Cat.No PR00021600Availability Available: 14-30 daysCat No. UMP60903Price £14.60Here's a record - this score may be available on Interlibrary loan:Villa-Lobos, Heitor. 1952. Caixinha de bôas festas (Vitrine encantada) poema sinfonico per orchestra. Milano: Ricordi.  The autograph score (33 pp.) is in the Museu Villa-Lobos.


The Surprise Box (RCA Victor): The only recording I know of Caixinha de Boas Festas is an RCA Victor LP from the early 50s with the "Rome Symphony Orchestra" conducted by Juan José Castro.  Since this LP isn't every likely to be reissued on CD, I won't hesitate to link to this post at the Brazilian Concert Music blog, which does such a great job of bringing rare early VL recordings to light.


The premiere performance of the work was in Rio's Teatro Municipal, where Walter Burle Marx conducted the Orquestra Filarmonica on November 23, 1932. Burle Marx included the piece in an important concert on May 9, 1939, at the hll of Music on the 1939 New York World's Fairgrounds.  The work doesn't show up in my database of Villa-Lobos performances, which is too bad.  It would fit nicely in a pops concert, a concert for children, or as a showpiece for a virtuoso orchestra.

Orchestral Works