Thesis: The wind writing of Heitor Villa-Lobos


The wind writing of Heitor Villa-Lobos: An examination of his compositional style with a conductor's analysis of Concerto Grosso for Woodwind Quartet and Wind Orchestra
by Smith, Shawn Terrell, D.M.A., Arizona State University, 2005, 83 pages; AAT 3194971
Abstract (Summary)

A good deal of research has been published on the music and life of Brazilian composer, conductor, and educator Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959). Yet, scarce attention has been given specifically to his works for winds, including chamber works and larger works for full wind band.

Known for his eclectic and nationalistic compositional style and massive output of over 2000 works, Villa-Lobos is among the most celebrated South American composers and a national hero in his native Brazil. This "hero" status stems from what is seen as his liberation of Brazilian art music from its strong European ties, partly achieved through the incorporation of Brazilian folk and other vernacular music into Villa-Lobos's works. This element of his style and method is similar, in some ways, to that of the North American nationalist composers Charles Ives and George Gershwin.

Villa-Lobos's published works for winds (defined here as works in which wind instruments comprise at least half of the instrumentation) span forty-one years, and include thirteen chamber works and two works for large wind orchestra. The wind works showcase Villa-Lobos's eclectic and avant-garde compositional style, achieved through his use of diverse and uncommon instrumental combinations and a compositional language that includes a wide range of vernacular and contemporary techniques.

This dissertation first reviews Villa-Lobos's life and personality, then his stylistic features including his orchestration, melody, rhythm, and the use of ostinati and exoticism as they apply specifically to his writing for wind instruments. Finally, Villa-Lobos's work for wind orchestra, Concerto Grosso for Woodwind Quartet and Wind Orchestra is analyzed formally and thematically.

Written shortly before Villa-Lobos's death, the Concerto Grosso reveals a musically mature and confident composer. The work relies far less on Brazilian nationalism than many of his earlier works, and the formal construction---an often-criticized element in Villa-Lobos's music---is more clear and organic than in much of his earlier music. For wind band conductors, who continuously search for new repertoire of high quality, the Concerto Grosso stands as an excellent example of the work of a mature and internationally acclaimed South American composer and merits more modern performances.