TRADITION AND INNOVATION: ANALYSIS AND PERFORMANCE OF SELECTED COMPOSITIONS FOR VIOLONCELLO BY HEITOR VILLA-LOBOS

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2003-12-11

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Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) began his musical career as a cellist. When he was only twelve years old, it became imperativeupon the sudden and untimely death of his fatherthat the young Villa-Lobos earn money as a cellist to provide financial support for his mother and sisters. Villa-Lobos's intimate relationship with the cello eventually inspired him to compose great music for this instrument. This dissertation explores both the diversity of compositional technique and the evolution of style found in the music for cello written by Villa-Lobos. The project consists of two recorded recital performances and a written document exploring and analyzing those pieces.

In the study of the music of Villa-Lobos, it is of great interest to consider the music's traditional European elements in combination (or even juxtaposition) with its imaginative and sometimes wildly innovative Brazilian character. His early works were greatly influenced by European Romantic composers such as Robert Schumann, Frédéric Chopin, and the virtuoso cellist/composer David Popper (whom Villa-Lobos idolized). Later, Villa-Lobos flourished in a newfound compositional independence and moved away from Euro-romanticism and toward the folk music of his Brazilian homeland. It is intriguing to experience this transition through an exploration of his cello compositions. The works examined and performed in this dissertation project are chosen from among the extensive number of Villa-Lobos's cello compositions and are his most important works for cello with piano, cello with another instrument, and cello with orchestra. The chosen works demonstrate the evolving range and combination of characteristic elements found in Villa-Lobos's compositional repertoire.

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