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Hekel Tavares, The Master Of Brazilian Folklore

Hekel Tavares.jpg

We often speak of certain Brazilian composers suffering in the shadow of Heitor Villa-Lobos. After all, he was the one who possessed not only musical genius, but also the ability to attract attention.

He was, in many ways, bigger than life, which made it a struggle for other very able composers to be seen and heard. These others included Camargo Guarnieri, Franciso Mignone and Claudio Santoro. The music of these composers is still struggling to be heard outside of Brazil.

Now imagine the plight of Hekel Tavares, a man who lingered in a second layer of shadow; the shadow cast by Guarnieri, Mignone and Santoro. Of these, Tavares is the elder. He lived from 1896 – 1969, and outside of a few paragraphs here and there, little information is available regarding Tavares.

There are only a few of his orchestral works cited, and very few recordings through which to sample his music. Nevertheless, it is well worth the effort to know a bit more about Hekel Tavares.

The notes for Felicja Blumenthal's recording of Tavares' "Concerto in Brazilian Forms" read:

"Hekel Tavares was the son of a wealthy plantation owner and lived and worked close to the land and people of Brazil. He cared more for the evocation of the spirit of national folksong and dance than with their use as melodic material.
"Tavares wrote some 100 songs of which 'Casa de caboclo' (published in 1928) was his biggest success."
"Between 1949 and 1953, Tavares traveled throughout Brazil collecting folk material for us in his own works. This research found expression in works such as his tone poem 'O Anhanguera' which calls for the use of Tucuna Indian percussion instruments."

I wish I could find a recording of "O Anhanguera" or of his "Violin Concerto," which I have seen referenced! Fortunately, the Blumenthal recording of "Concerto in Brazilian Forms No. 2" is still circulating. I wonder if anyone has recorded No. 1?

There is also a very attractive collection of his songs sung by Ana Salvagni. It's high time more of Hekel Tavares music emerges from the shadows of Brazilian musical history. I, for one, would love to hear it.

James first introduced himself to KPAC listeners at midnight on April 8, 1993, presenting Dvorak's 7th Symphony played by the Cleveland Orchestra. Soon after, he became the regular overnight announcer on KPAC.