The Lost Scores

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A post by Dean Frey from 2003:

"On one occasion a Villa-Lobos manuscript was stolen for sentimental reasons.  There is an item in Villa-Lobos's catalogue entitled 'Centauro do Ouro,' a Golden Centaur, composed in 1916.  The score vanished long ago.  Then many years later, an officer of the Brazilian Army called on Villa-Lobos, and said he had found the score of 'Centauro do Ouro' among the papers of his father, recently deceased.  He asked Villa-Lobos for permission to retain the manuscript, which was very dear to his father's heart, and said he would have it copied.  Villa-Lobos, deeply moved, agreed.  He has not received the promised copy, but is convinced he will receive it some day.  'Anyway,' he adds in a conciliatory spirit, 'the work is based on the pentatonic scale, and I do not favor the pentatonic scale now.'"

- Nicholas Slonimsky, "A Visit with Villa-Lobos," Musical America, October 16, 1941, p. 10

Nothing is ever really straight-forward when it comes to the Villa-Lobos catalogue.  Are "lost" scores really lost?  Villa-Lobos was more a big picture kind of guy than someone who always crossed his 't's and dotted his 'i's.  He may have added titles to his lists of completed works before actually completing them.  Chances are, though, that some of the lost works are truly lost.

A great place to start a discussion of the lost scores is Charles Jacobs 1987 article "Villa-Lobos in His Centennial: A Preliminary Research Report."  Jacobs begins with the 1972 catalogue Sua Obra (Museu Villa-Lobos), and begins his quest to unravel the complex question of missing scores.  Here are some of the most important works that Jacobs lists as being lost:

  • Valsa Brasileira
  • Choros #13
  • Choros #14
  • Concerto Brasileiro
  • Piano Quintet
  • Quinteto Duplo de Cordas
  • Trio, op. 25, for flute, cello, and piano
  • Centauro de Ouro
  • Currupira
  • Dancas Aeras
  • Danca Diabolica
  • Fantasia Concertante, 1917
  • Fantasma, 1918, for orchestra
  • Funil
  • Iara, symphonic poem for orchestra
  • Izi
  • Lobishomen, 1917, for orchestra
  • Oteto: Danca Negra, 1914, for chamber orchestra
  • Sacri Perere, 1917, symphonic poem for orchestra
  • Suite Brasileira
  • Suite da Terra
  • Veiculo, 1929, for orchestra
  • Malazarte, 1921, opera in three acts
  • Comedia Lirica em 3 Atos
  • Jesus, 1918, in three acts, for solists, chorus, and orchestra
  • Celestial (Valsa), 1904, for piano
  • Fabulas Caracteristicas
  • Historia de Pierrot, 1909, for piano
  • Poema do Menestrel
  • Poema Umido
  • A Prole do Bebe, no. 3
  • Valsa lenta, 1911, for piano
  • Symphony no. 5 (A Paz)
  • Cancao Brasileira
  • Prelude for Guitar, no. 6
  • Valsa Sentimental, 1936, for guitar

The most important of these are

  • the 6th Prelude for guitar, which looms large because of the incredible popularity of the other five.  Guitarists would eat this score up!
  • the Fifth Symphony "A Paz", especially now that the other 11 are all recorded.
  • the two missing works - #13 and #14 - in the Choros series.  These two works are listed in the 1972 catalogue Sua Obra: "Choros #13 for two orchestras and band (1929) - score lost," and "Choros #14 for orchestra, band and chorus (1928) - score lost."
  • A Prole do Bebe, suite no. 3, which would instantly become part of the repertoire for many pianists, judging from the recent popularity of Villa-Lobos on the keyboard, around the world.

The Guitar Prelude #6, A Prole do Bebe suite #3, and the two Choros are possibly amongst the scores Villa-Lobos left with his Parisian concierge when he left for Brazil in 1930.  Anna Stella Schic tells the story on pp. 94-95 of Villa-Lobos, Souvenirs de l'indien blanc (Paris: Actes Sud, 1987.)  Schic doesn't seem too worried about the lost works, though.

"Mais la prolixité de Villa-Lobos était telle que ce véritable torrent de musique n'a jamais semblé s'en affecter outre mesure : il écrivait déjà les oeuvres suivantes..."

Another lost score that cellists would love to have available is the First Cello Sonata from 1915.

During the first two weeks of February, I asked website visitors which score they would most like to be found.  Here are the final results:

The sixth guitar prelude
50% (25 votes)
The fifth symphony "A Paz"
4% (2 votes)
Choros #13
10% (5 votes)
Choros #14
8% (4 votes)
Prole do Bebe #3, for piano
20% (10 votes)
Fantasma, for orchestra (1918)
4% (2 votes)
Concerto Brasileiro
4% (2 votes)
The Golden Centaur, for orchestra (1916)
0% (0 votes)
Total votes: 50