How the Concerts were Received
In all the cities there was great interest on the part of the public. Well before the beginning of the concert the theaters were packed.
Precisely on time, because Villa-Lobos insisted on this, the concert began. In some cities, before the concert began, the Prefect made a presentation to the public, with words of praise for the artists. Following that, the concert began. Villa-Lobos came first, with his marvelous cello. At the piano, his wife Lucilia Villa-Lobos accompanied. After that came one of the two singers, Nair Duarte Nunes or Anita Gonçalves, also accompanied on piano by Dona Lucilia Villa-Lobos. The concert always closed with a piano solo by one of the two great pianists: João Souza Lima or Antonieta Rudge.
Rarely was there extended applause [insisting on an encore]. The public in general wasn’t acquainted with this attention given to artists. After the first applause, they got up and left. They were used to this from the movies.
Also, there was rarely interest in complimenting the artists afterwards or asking for autographs, except from people directly tied to the concert.
There were three types of programs, the first for large and well-developed cities, the second for medium-sized cities, and the third for very small cities. Each program was divided into two parts, with an intermission.
a) Cello solo by Villa-Lobos accompanied on the piano by his wife, Lucilia Villa-Lobos.
b) Vocal solo, by one of the two singers, Nair Duarte Nunes or Anita Gonçalves, accompanied on piano by Dona Lucilia Villa-Lobos.
c) Piano solo by one of the two pianists, João Souza Lima or Antonieta Rudge.
a) Lecture by maestro Villa-Lobos
b) Cello solo by Villa-Lobos with piano
c) Vocal solo by the same singer as the first part and piano
d) Piano solo by the same pianist as the first part.
a) Cello solo with piano – Villa-Lobos and accompanist Lucilia Villa-Lobos
a) Lecture by Villa-Lobos
b) Piece for singer and piano: Nair Duarte Nunes or Anita Gonçalves
c) Piano solo by João Souza Lima or Antonieta Rudge.
Special Second Program
This was used only in a few cities during the seventh stage (Central do Brasil Railroad).
In this program, there was neither lecture nor singer. Villa-Lobos just gave some words of appreciation at the beginning of the third part.
First part – Souza Lima
a) Etude Chopin
b) Nocturne Chopin
c) Polonaise in A flat major Opus 53 Chopin
Second part – Villa-Lobo
a) Prelude #4 Bach
b) Chant Triste Tchaikovsky
c) Sonhar Villa-Lobos
d) Trenzinho do Caipira (on request) Villa-Lobos
e) Capricho numero 2 Villa-Lobos
Third part – Souza Lima
a) Cakewalk Debussy
b) Caixinha de Música Quebrada Villa-Lobos
(dedicated to Souza Lima)
c) Dança dos Negros Fructuoso Vianna
Note: this program, the only one to be referred to in its entirety here, is courtesy of Professor Ciro Gonçalves Dias Júnior, who provided it from his archives to better illustrate our book.
a) ) Cello solo by Villa-Lobos accompanied on the piano by his wife, Lucilia Villa-Lobos.
a) Lecture by Villa-Lobos
b) Songs by one of the singers, Nair Duarte Nunes or Anita Gonçalves, with piano accompaniment
Note: In cinemas there was always an orchestra with a piano, and this served for our accompaniments. In this program, there was no piano soloist, and so we did not use our piano.
Most Performed Pieces
The Swan Saint-Saens
O Trenzinho do Caipira Villa-Lobos
Chante Triste Tschaikovsky
By the singers:
A Casinha da Colina, and others
By the pianists:
Polonaise in A flat Major Chopin
Chaconne in D Minor Bach-Busoni
Hungarian Rhapsody Franz Liszt
La Campanella Liszt-Busoni
Alegria na Horta Villa-Lobos
Dança de Negros Fructuoso Vianna
Caixinha de Música Quebrada Villa-Lobos
(dedicated to Souza Lima)
Lectures by Villa-Lobos
The lectures were always opportune, and very well received by the audiences. In general, the public was poorly informed about music.
Villa-Lobos spoke slowly, and said much about musical patriotism. He spoke about good music and about music of bad quality, giving examples. He hated foreign popular music, especially on records, very much in use at that time. He complained that young men dedicated themselves little to music, having the mind turned to kicking a ball with the feet. He was always very friendly to children. He praised children’s choirs, organized principally in elementary and high schools. He gave detailed explanations concerning his compositions.
He spoke a great deal about the value of artists. “Each artist has a special gift to exercise in the area which he chose. Souza Lima and Antonieta Rudge for the piano, Nair Duarte Nunes and Anita Gonçalves for the voice. I, Villa-Lobos, for cello and guitar, but principally for composition. Kekim for the tuning and adjustment of pianos. All of us, from childhood, have practiced our art.”
Concerning the instruments, he spoke about his cello. He said it was a very fine instrument, having been brought from Paris, from a famous French maker, whose name I don’t remember. It was an instrument so sensitive and delicate that any shock could damage it, so that he didn’t entrust it to the hands of anyone else. He transported it himself.
Speaking about the piano, Villa-Lobos said, “Why a grand piano, and not a common vertical one? Because the grand piano was constructed especially for concerts.” Its advantages: being horizontal, opening the lid, the strings were entirely exposed, allowing all the sound to get out. Its mechanism also, functioning horizontally, obeyed the demands of the pianist better. The loud sound, very clear, and the full bass, enhanced the pianist’s playing.
Silence in the audience during the concert was a theme Villa-Lobos returned to a great deal during the excursion. “Silence during the concert is very important in order to be able to appreciate the artist and not impede his performance. You shouldn’t converse or make any other sound while the artist is performing. Silence should be absolute. Thus, you can appreciate all the details of the performance.”
He spoke also of work and sacrifice, which he and his entourage had suffered in order to perform these concerts at these cities, which had never before experienced such things.
He related his own difficulties, his suffering, and how, from childhood, he had struggled so that his music would be accepted and understood.
During the whole excursion, he almost always ended his lecture with this phrase: “Don’t be surprised to see a Christ without a beard.”
Receptions, Luncheons, and Dinners
The organizing commissions for the concerts, informed by the first secretary Cleto Rocha that the artists didn’t dine on the day of the concert, were quick to offer them a reception instead. It was one more courtesy done for the artists, almost always a going away party, as we traveled, in general, on the day following the concert. Usually members of the commissions and local authorities took part. They took place in restaurants, pizzerias, ice cream parlors, bars, club halls. Even a school was used for this purpose.
I can’t give many details about these receptions, because I rarely took part, or only arrived at the very end.
My duty, following the concert, was to accompany the piano from the theater until the final loading into the railcar that was waiting at the station. This took some time, and so I missed the reception. I only took part in the receptions when we didn’t travel the day after the concert. In general, these receptions, when the artists were going to be free the next day, lasted a long time: with music, discourses, talks, presentations by students of the local piano teacher, who was always a member of the commission. One time, in a club, along with the receptions, they offered us a grand ball. In all these events, Villa-Lobos spoke a few words of gratitude to the city, which had received us with such honor, and also some words of encouragement, that they should practice music in whatever fashion, especially the children and the young.
Some cities, when time allowed, offered luncheons and dinners, always with dishes characteristic of the area. And there were visits to schools and important establishments and industries, trips to plantations, and visits to typical attractions of the city.
Since the excursion was officially sanctioned by the government of the state and of the cities, to many it seemed that the artists would gain considerable financial rewards. But this wasn’t the case. There was no money granted by the state or by the cities.
The proceeds of ticket sales, which was given to the excursion, after paying expenses, was very small for the artists and their expenses, which were larger than one might think. I can confirm this, as I made the payments for those various expenses, and in some stages we had a deficit.
No, were it not for the free travel from the railroads, and provision of lodging and theater which the majority of cities provided gratis to the excursion, it wouldn’t have been possible to take such great and self-sacrificing artists to the interior of the state.
There was established a fixed price for all the concerts, 5000 Reis, today 5 Cruzados, a little expensive in comparison to tickets for the cinema, which ran from 300 to 1000 Reis. Only in Theaters did prices reach as high as 3000 to 5000 Reis.
Villa-Lobos had a certain number of tickets printed, and furnished some of them to the organizing commission of the concert, in each city, by means of the first secretary Cleto Rocha, to be sold in advance in the ticket office of the theater. These tickets were the same in all cities.
After the concert, Villa-Lobos went to the ticket office to verify the income received from ticket sales, and to collect the unsold tickets. By the number of tickets sold, Villa-Lobos gauged the interest of the people in the concert, which, calculated as a percentage of the population, became a very important statistic for the excursion.