RIO DE JANEIRO -- A forgotten score by the late Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos has been rediscovered and transformed into a daring work featuring electronic music.
A radically modern version of "A Floresta do Amazonas," or "The Amazon Jungle" when translated from Portuguese, is to be released later this year as part of a continuing commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the composer's birth. Villa-Lobos wrote and conducted the piece in 1959, the year he died.
The rediscovered work uses a Yamaha DX-7 keyboard synthesizer and Mirage and Roland S-50 samplers, electronic devices that imitate a symphony orchestra.
"Villa-Lobos was a true revolutionary in music. If he were alive today, I'm sure he would have used digital electronics in the rescoring of this piece," Mario de Aratanha, a Rio artistic producer who coordinated the remake of the work, said in an interview during a prerelease audition of the digital master tape.
The new "A Floresta do Amazonas" is to be issued first as a Brazilian digital LP. A Brazilian-made compact laser disc is planned, and Aratanha said he is trying to arrange overseas distribution of the piece.
Villa-Lobos, Latin America's most renowned classical composer, gained fame in the 1920s in Europe and later in the United States for his dramatically innovative music based on Brazilian folk themes. Pianist Artur Rubinstein promoted his works, as did conductor Leopold Stokowsky, who called the Brazilian "one of the greatest composers of the 20th century."
Critics at first rejected Villa-Lobos' music. He once lamented, "I wear a crown of boos." But now Villa-Lobos is regarded on the same plane with such modernist geniuses as Debussy, Hindemith, Ravel, Schoenberg and Stravinsky.
Villa-Lobos conducted an orchestral version of "A Floresta do Amazonas" in the United States with the Symphony of the Air and Brazilian lyric soprano Bidu Sayao for the sound track of the 1959 movie "Green Mansions," based on W.H. Hudson's jungle fantasy of the same name and starring Audrey Hepburn, Anthony Perkins and Lee J. Cobb. However, director Mel Ferrer, for reasons that remain unclear, dropped it at the last minute.
Last year, Brazilian classical guitarist Turibio Santos discovered a previously unknown score of the work for piano only in three hands at the Villa-Lobos Museum in Rio.
In the rediscovered version of "A Floresta do Amazonas," the piano parts are left exactly as Villa-Lobos wrote them. They are played by Brazilian classical pianist Joao Carlos Assis Brasil and Wagner Tiso, a Brazilian exponent of new age electronic keyboard music but who uses a standard piano for these piano-scored portions.
The rest, however, is the creation of Aratanha, with collaboration from Brasil.
"There were no orchestral notations on the score discovered in the museum, and we made it a point of not listening to the proposed 'Green Mansions' sound track," Aratanha said. "The result is what we feel Villa-Lobos would have done with today's modern musical equipment."
The redone "A Floresta do Amazonas" begins with a combination of piano, voice, cello and percussion. Next there is a segment for two pianos only. Then the piece explodes into a fantasized suite titled by Aratanha "Beyond the Jungle" and filled with the electronic sounds of synthesizers and samplers.