Claude Champagne: a Villa-Lobos Canadian Connection


Claude Champagne and Villa-Lobos
Claude Champagne was a Canadian composer and music educator who visited Heitor Villa-Lobos in Rio de Janeiro in the 1940s.  I recently came across a very interesting web exhibit on the National Library of Canada's website, entitled The Claude Champagne Virtual Exhibition, and was struck by the many parallels between the life and careers of the two composers (besides the fact that they both loved cigars.) 

Picture: Claude Champagne (seated) at the home of Brazilian composer 
Heitor Villa-Lobos (standing) in Rio de Janeiro.  [1946], photographer 

Some of these parallels are obvious when you compare the major milestones in each of their lives:

Claude Champagne
Heitor Villa-Lobos
Born 1891
Born 1887
1920's: Travels to Europe - meets with Paul Dukas, and studies with Charles Koechlin.
1920's: Travels to Europe - hangs out with every important composer in Paris.
1924: Receives a bursary from the government of the province of Quebec in order to continue his studies.
1923: Receives a Brazilian government scholarship allowing him to compose and to visit Paris.
1930's: Returns to Canada to begin a second career as a teacher.  Dabbles in ethnomusicology.
1930's: Returns to Brazil to begin a second career as a music teacher.  Interested in folk music of Brazil.
1946: Champagne travels to Brazil - meets Villa-Lobos.
1946: Plans joint concerts in Rio with Champagne.
1950s/1960s: Receives many awards and honours.
1950s: Receives many awards and honours.
1965: Dies at his home in Montreal.
1959: Dies at his home in Rio de Janeiro.

Concert program
During the 1946 visit, the two composers planned a joint concert, which was performed on September 6, 1946.  Pictured to the left is the second page of the draft of this concert, which includes a piece for solo piano by Champagne, and the 8th string quartet by Villa-Lobos. 

The Champagne piece, Quadrilha Brasileira, was written in 1942 at the request of Canadian ambassador to Brazil, in honour of Canada's Dominion Day (July 1st).  It is available in RealAudio format on the National Library website, from a 1993 recording on the CBC / SRC Musica Viva series (MVCD 1060,) performed by Valerie Tryon.

Another picture from the Champagne exhibit that will be of interest to Villa-Lobos fans shows Champagne and Villa-Lobos with some famous colleagues. 

Picture: From left to right:  Lorenzo Fernandez, Brazilian composer; Claude Champagne; Bidu Sayao, Brazilian soprano; Jean Morel, French conductor; Heitor Villa-Lobos.  [1946], photographer unknown. 

Champagne, Villa-Lobos & friends
  Following Champagne's visit to Brazil, he was able to return the hospitality: Villa-Lobos visited Canada in 1952.  He conducted the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal at Plateau Hall in a concert of his own music, along with pieces by Chilean Humberto Allende and Argentina's Ernesto Drangosch. 

Villa-Lobos was back in Canada in 1958, conducting the Toronto and CBC Symphony Orchestras.


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