Music and Museum: Bechtler Ensemble | Villa Lobos: String Quartet No. 1

Music and Museum: Bechtler Ensemble | Villa Lobos: String Quartet No. 1


JANUARY 13 2019 AT 6 P.M.

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Bechtler Ensemble: Villa Lobos | String Quartet No. 1

Kick off the New Year with the Bechtler Ensemble performing Heitor Villa-Lobos’ marvel, String Quartet No.1, the first of seventeen chamber works composed by the famed Brazilian artist. 

Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-59) is widely regarded as one of the most important composers of the 20th century. While many of his works for orchestra and voice are widely performed, his chamber music, of which he wrote a considerable amount, is virtually unknown outside of Brazil. This is certainly a great pity as many masterworks are to be found among his 17 string quartets, three piano trios and several other chamber compositions. Villa-Lobos once stated, "I love to write string quartets. One could say it is a mania."

Villa-Lobos was born in Rio de Janeiro. His father was an amateur musician and much of what he learned was from hearing and taking part in the chamber music evenings held at his home. He learned to play the cello, clarinet and guitar and also attended the Conservatorio de Musica where he studied with Alberto Nepomuceno, then Brazil's leading composer. Afterwards, for a decade, beginning in 1905, Villa-Lobos explored the native and folk melodies of interior Brazil paying special attention to the melding of African and Portuguese melodies. Between 1916-1920, the composer greatly influenced developments in modern French music when Darius Milhaud and Sergei Diaghilev visited South America. In the 1920s, Villa-Lobos made two visits to Paris and familiarized himself further with new music of the day.

String Quartet No.1 dates from 1915. It is a folkloric suite of six pieces, alternately lyrical and dancelike, nostalgic and happy. Its language is romantic, and its structure is deliberately simple. A Cantilena (Andante) with the character of a serenade establishes a songlike mood at the outset. This is followed by a Brincadeira (Allegretto scherzando), a lively Brazilian polka. Canto lirico (Moderato) is expressive and contemplative, or perhaps tinged with irony and meant as a caricature of the romantic aria. A more animated Cançoneta (Andante, quasi allegretto) follows. Nostalgia pervades Melancolia (Lento), the quartet's most fully developed and true slow movement. Finally, Saltando como um Saci (Allegro), roughly translatable as Jumping Like an Imp, is a fugal dance with a catchy tune. The imp refers to Saci Perere, a mythical, one-legged black dwarf who wears a red cap, frequents jungle areas and delights in frightening people.


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Concerts are performed at 6 p.m. in the fourth-floor gallery. General seating will be available at 5:30 p.m. with a cash bar being available at the same time.


Tickets are $14 per person for the public and just $10 per person for museum members. Purchase Tickets online, by phone at 704.353.9200 or at the admission desk.

Sponsorship for the Music and Museum: Bechtler Ensemble Series is provided by Natascha Bechtler, George and Peg Povinelli and Donald Sohn. 

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