Villa Lobos - Rosa Amarela


Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887 – 1959) has become perhaps one of the most significant of 20th Century Latin American composers.

His work typically shows a fusion of Brazilian and European styles, his interest in contemporary European styles stemming from meetings with Diaghilev and Milhaud in 1917.

Two separate trips to study in Paris gave rise to meetings with many of the great influential Parisian musicians and artists of the 1920s.

Pupil Match & Suitability

There are fairly large chord stretches here, so be certain to check hands size before suggesting this piece.

You could get away with a less than subtle performance of this piece although, musically, it craves for careful textures and gentleness.

Performers need to feel the Latin rhythm well as a backbone to any performance.

Style & Tempo

Like many pieces, Rosa Amarela can work in a variety of ways. There are few markings in the score. Therefore there is liberty to be had in forming an interpretation.

Whatever tempo is chosen, it needs to have a very solid underlying Latin rhythm to it. It is worth starting out by grasping the simple rhythmic motif which runs throughout.

Rhythm Exercises Villa-Lobos.sib.pdf

Phrasing & Articulation

Following the brief introduction, the phrases structure is 2 x 4 bar phrases, followed by an 8 and then a 9 bar section.

The dal segno repeat simply signifies a complete repeat - something which makes good musical sense, although not suggested for examination purposes.

Tone & Texture

If you consider tone to be the result of musical intention you are likely to discover a world of colour and artistic satisfaction in playing the piano.

'Dynamics' are one dimensional whereas 'tone' encompasses a much greater depth of meaning and spectrum of musical qualities.

Performances which exude beauty come from a deeper knowledge of the piece and its musical context and not simply the application of dynamics.

The technique of producing this tone is the subject of illustration in this section.


"Technique" is defined in one source as "a way of accomplishing a task that is not immediately obvious."

That suggests that there may always be something to be learnt from new, so to speak, as if to accomplish the ability to play is about finding out the way to do something for ourselves.

That is therefore something unique and something which will be different for every person.

It is only part of the process to think of technique as just something to do with playing fast or hard passages.

In this piece technique relates to the means of achieving a flowing Latin mood.


Much of the chord playing will not give much choice over fingering, especially in the LH. However, be certain to play these kind of chords with the thumb covering both of the top notes.

Note the RH equivalent.

Slide the thumb sideways to cover the crack between the two notes. Most pianists cannot stretch sufficiently to use a 1 & 2. The thumb alone is a good strong solution.

Villa-Lobos Fingering Use of Thumb.pdf


There are simpler and more complex areas here. It is worth spending time to get this right since this could otherwise be the factor which ruins the effect.

Simply pedalling in alternate crotchets (2 to a bar) will not work.

However, it makes sense to break the pedalling down into clear patterns as listed on the tabs below:

Teaching Strategies

It is well worth immersing yourself and your students in some Latin American music as the starting point to musical understanding here.

Think of the difference between reading a play and acting it - the performance has to come alive to be effective.

Practice Tips

There is quite a bit of repetition here so careful detailed work, whilst seeming to take longer initially, does really pay off.

The rhythmic features do need to be absolutely solid, so time spent internalizing the rhythms will be time well spent.


Good coordination is essential here, so care is needed to ensure independence or RH and LH parts.

Tapping out the rhythmic intricacies on a table top is a good way to understand the rhythm and to hear how the hands fit together.

A very slow tempo is likely to help, initially.

Final Performance

An excellent performance will be one in which the textures are sensitively managed and the mood unmistakeably that of the Latin American character. The tone in chord playing will be confidently cultivated and not overjudged in its dynamic levels. Playing will show plenty of persuasive refinement.

A good performance always leaves the listener feeling persuaded about the character and worth of the piece. There may be elements of technique or musical judgement which are not entirely right, but there will be confidence and colour in the playing, nonetheless.

A sound performance may not be entirely rhythmically solid. The chord playing might sound somewhat opaque and give a rather heavier feel to the mood that was intended. It will acceptably accurate and with a good overall pace, although the listener may well not be engaged by the playing.

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