Symphony #06

Appleby Catalogue W number: 
Year Composed: 


  1. Allegro non troppo
  2. Lento
  3. Allegretto quasi animato
  4. Allegro

"I spent a very interesting hour with Villa Lobos at the Brazilian Academy of Music. His study looks out on to a lake with mountains behind and yet it is in the middle of Rio, a city of two million odd inhabitants."

- "A Visit to South America", Leslie A. Boosey, Tempo, New Series, No. 10 (Winter, 1948-1949), pp. 25-20

The Sixth Symphony, written in 1944, is subtitled Montanhas do Brasil, The Mountains of Brasil.

This is a reference to one of Villa-Lobos's most interesting musical experiments: millimetrization.  This technique, invented by Joseph Schillinger (1895-1943), and first used by him in the late 1920s, takes pictures of real-world things - skylines or mountains, for example - and turns them into musical phrases.  It's analogous to digitization, I guess, if I'm not mixing digits, analogues and/or metaphors.  Prof. Tarasti explains:

" needs a photograph of a mountain, landscape or a hill, whose contours are transferred onto graph paper.  One then writes vertically in the margin, working upward through 85 tones in chromatic order (i.e., of the tempered scale) from C to C." - Tarasti (1995), p. 376

Apparently George Gershwin used Schillinger's system when he was writing Porgy & Bess.  Villa-Lobos used the system in New York Skyline Melody (1939), before he moved to a bigger canvas, both in his input (the mountains around Rio de Janeiro), and output (a full-scale symphony).  He also used it in on a picture of Nicholas Slonimsky's family - a story told in Slonimsky's 1945 book Music of Latin America.


Orchestra2pic, 2fl, 2ob, c ing, 2cl(Bb), cl baixo, 2fg, cfg, 4cor, 4trp(Bb), 4 trb, tuba, tímp, tam-tam, pratos, bombo, surdo, tambor indiano, caixa clara, pratos, vibe, cel, 2hp e cordas


The autograph score (120 pp.) is in the Museu Villa-Lobos.  This is one of the first scores to be published in the Villa-Lobos Digital project of the Academia Brasileira da Música.  


The premiere performance was on 29/04/50 in Rio de Janeiro. There are only a few performances of the Symphonies in the Villa-Lobos Concerts database.

Orchestral Works