Rudepoêma: Masterpiece of Modernism, or Latent Sonata Form? An Analytical Study of Heitor Villa-Lobos's Greatest Piano Masterpiece
Staupe, Andrew P
Doctor of Musical Arts
Rudepoêma is Heitor Villa-Lobos’s paramount masterpiece for solo piano, and one of the most impressive and difficult compositions in the entire piano literature. It was completed while Villa-Lobos was in Paris in the 1920s, during his second journey to Europe to promote his music abroad. During his maturation as a composer, Villa-Lobos was inspired by the music and aesthetic of many composers, including the ballets of Igor Stravinsky, at the time one of the most prestigious composers in Europe. Villa-Lobos was particularly inspired by Stravinsky’s rebellious attitude towards musical form and function, on view in his seminal work Le Sacre du Printemps (1913), and sought to emulate this aesthetic while creating Rudepoêma. Villa-Lobos used many musical features from both Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps and Petrushka (1911), including a tableau structure that openly resists traditional aspects of musical form and development. Yet, despite sharing in Stravinsky’s own style—as a post-Romantic or Modernist rebel—this study will demonstrate that while Rudepoêma appears to embody the avant-garde, and reject musical tradition, the opposite is in fact true: he adds many traditional elements to the piece, including tonal function, motivic unification, and harmonic progression. Chapter 1 discusses the historical context in which Rudepoêma was composed, including Villa-Lobos’s own development as a composer in Brazil. It traces his two journeys to Paris in 1923–24, and more importantly in 1927–30, and considers what effect this European environment had on the creation of the piece. The various external influences on Villa-Lobos’s style while in Paris will be discussed, as well as Villa-Lobos’s own reasons for creating Rudepoêma: to be a significant composer in Paris, and to cater to the Parisian public’s fascination with and demand for exotic art. He also sought to earn publishing rights at the distinguished publishing house of Max Eschig in Paris. Chapter 2 provides an overview of the primary musical components of Rudepoêma that are discussed fully in subsequent chapters. Although Villa-Lobos seems to eschew traditional forms and functions, upon closer inspection it is clear that he worked systematically using a variety of musical processes. Each of the main musical devices associated with Rudepoêma is discussed: localized tonal centers, motivic unity, tableau structure, black and white superimposition, the Momentum Formula, and rhythmic or melodic ostinatos. The final five sections of chapter 3 place the elements described in the previous chapter in their musical context, and are divided according to the formal organization of Rudepoêma. Each tableau is fully analyzed, showing Villa-Lobos’s unification procedures. This will challenge Villa-Lobos's representation of himself as a composer who rejected traditional compositional techniques in the 1920s. The extensive analysis of the musical landscape of Rudepoêma will prove that even in Villa-Lobos’s most extreme and rebellious compositions, he is firmly rooted in tradition. Rudepoêma is, at a deeper musical level, a highly controlled matrix of musical material that echoes the Western classical tradition from which he publicly sought to distance himself.
Rudepoêma; Heitor Villa-Lobos; piano