Tombeau for a savage artisan

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Spontaneity and irrationality have been prominent words in many narratives concerning Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos’ biography and style. The rhapsodic character of most part of his works, with cumulative references to distinct cultural elements, leading to a “semantic excess” – as pointed out by Acácio Piedade – and frequent ostinati and rhythmic modulations are often associated to the mentioned characteristics, and also to primitivism. The anecdotes about his chaotic and noisy work environment and the composer’s own construction of an exotic image, through some attitudes and statements, as an expedient to promote his work, possibly contributed to the reinforcement of this view. His Bachianas Brasileiras, however, are sometimes treated as an exception, considered a mark of a neoclassical phase, characterized by macro and microstructural references to baroque music, mixed with elements of Brazilian traditional genres, resulting in more concise pieces (especially in texture), although aspects associated to the “primitive” Villa-Lobos are still present. In 1970, Portuguese composer Fernando Lopes-Graça wrote the wind quintet O túmulo de Villa-Lobos, in eleven movements: a Prelude, a Postlude, five movements based on Brazilian traditional melodies, intercalated with four meditations. Along with the title, this structure of movements alternating – or mixing- meditative and dance character allude to the baroque tombeau, an instrumental piece or group of pieces commemorating the death of a master or notable personality. Graça himself, in a small article written weeks after Villa-Lobos’ death in 1959, said that he “composed with the naivety of a primitive” and describes his work as “a flood, an incontrollable force of nature.” Nevertheless, he could create in his quintet a more nuanced portrait of the honored musician, emphasizing Villa’s remarkable artfulness in musical aspects normally associated to refinement and rationality – such as counterpoint and timber combination.
Original languagePortuguese
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventOld is New: The Presence of the Past in the Music of the Present - ESML e FCSH/NOVA, Lisboa, Portugal
Duration: 24 Nov 201626 Nov 2016


ConferenceOld is New
Internet address


  • Fernando Lopes-Graça
  • O Túmulo de Villa-Lobos

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