Selected choral works from Musica sacra by Heitor Villa-Lobos : a performance edition with critical notes and commentary
Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) is regarded as the composer of highest distinction in twentieth-century Brazilian music. His musical compositions, representing virtually every musical genre, reflect his concerted effort toward developing a nationalistic Brazilian style. While the importance of this composer's ouvre and his contribution to a national Brazilian style is well established, particularly with regard to his instrumental works, his sacred choral compositions are generally considered to be peripheral in his overall compositional productivity. Although his major sacred choral works such as Bendita Sabedoria, Missa Sad Sebastian, and Magni scat Alleluia are programmed occasionally, the smaller sacred choral pieces found in his Musica Sacra collection remain less well-known.Musica Sacra, initially published by Vincente Vitale in 1951-52, is an out-of-print collection of twenty-three unaccompanied motet-style pieces, composed throughout Villa-Lobos's lifetime. Limited availability to many of these pieces has resulted in a paucity of programming of this music by choral conductors, as well as a lack of understanding of its place in his collected works.This study provides an updated and corrected performance edition of selected choral pieces from Musica Sacra, providing choral conductors with appropriately edited material for concert programming. It includes historical background, editorial notes, and performance notes to provide context and clarity.In this study, I have compared seventeen pieces from the original Vitale edition with manuscripts provided by the Museu Villa-Lobo, in an effort to represent the composer's musical intent in a manner accessible to the contemporary choral conductor. I have alsoidentified and discussed salient musical traits in this music, exemplifying not only the Spanish Renaissance influence as it existed in the Brazilian society during Villa-Lobos's lifetime, but more broadly reflecting, through its diverse assortment of musical features, an expression of the overall religious syncretism in Brazil at the time.Within the sacred choral framework of Musica Sacra, one discovers the composer's stylized representation of Brazilian musical eclecticism. This is exhibited through elements of musical spontaneity, Brazilian multi-cultural ethnicity, nationalism, European impressionism, Renaissance imitation, and twentieth-century harmonic dissonance. These features represent Villa-Lobos's synthesis of style that, according to Latin American music scholar, Gerard Behague, illuminates "Brazil's Musical Soul."