Heitor Villa-Lobos

March 05, 1887 – November 17, 1959

Modern Period

Born in Brazil

Heitor Villa-Lobos is known as one of South America’s most famous composers. As a child, he began music studies with his father, learning to play the cello. The cello would maintain a special role throughout his life, even showing up as a featured instrument in some of his later compositions.

Villa-Lobos hoped to modernize a Brazilian musical style. To do this, he spent much of his young adult years traveling throughout Brazil, observing folk, geographical, and musical influences. This would later serve as inspiration for his compositions, many which are quite nationalistic. He later spent time in Paris, which gave him an appreciation for European traditions. He especially admired J.S. Bach, who influenced his fusion of Baroque technique with Brazilian folk in Bachianas brasileiras. This cycle of nine suites written for various combinations of instruments and voices remains a favorite among audiences today.