En attendant votre réponse urgente...

Villa-Lobos to Stokowski, or the
business side of cultural exchange.

Daniella Thompson

4 March 2002

Heitor Villa-Lobos
A small postscript to the Native Brazilian Music story in Stalking Stokowski, from which I quote:

Stokowski founded several orchestras, including the All-American Youth Orchestra (AAYO), which he conducted in concerts and recordings during 1940 and 1941. It was this orchestra that in the summer of 1940 sailed with him on board the S.S. Uruguay for a Good Neighbor tour of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and a few Central American countries. Their first port of call was Rio de Janeiro, where they played concerts at the magnificent Teatro Municipal on the evenings of 7 and 8 August.

Stokowski was a self-professed aficionado of Brazilian music. Prior to sailing, he wrote to the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, whose works he’d been championing since 1927, and solicited his help in collecting and recording “the most legitimate popular Brazilian music.” The maestro explained that because of his great interest in the music of Brazil, he would pay all expenses involved and even specified the types of music desired: sambas, batucadas, marchas de rancho, macumba, emboladas, etc. The proposed recordings were intended for release by Columbia Records. They were also to be played at an upcoming Pan-American folkloric congress (which never took place).

Villa-Lobos complied with the conductor’s request and turned for help to his friends, the sambistas Donga, Cartola, and Zé Espinguela, who rounded up the cream of Rio’s musicians.

But what happened between Stokowski’s initial request and the actual recordings?
I’m indebted to Aloisio Milani for a scan of the following letter from Villa-Lobos to Stokowski, written in the composer’s special brand of French and reproduced here verbatim (see English translation below):

Rio de Janeiro, le 16 Juillet 1940

Cher Monsieur Stokowski

J’ai bien reçu votre lettre du 3 courant que je me hûte de vous répondre pour vous exprimer tout le plaisir que j’ai éprouvé, en apprenant votre prochaine visite au Brésil.

Je suis vraiment ravi de vos plans d’échange folklorique entre les nations des continents américains par ld’échangeintermède de disques.

Vous pouvez compter sur moi, car je ferai tout mon possible de vous satisfaire, en correspondent à la confiance que vous m’avez témoignée.

Je vous remets ci-joint un plan des enregistrements qui deveront être faits chez les chanteurs populaires (originaires de tous les États les plus typiques et qui démeurent dans les environs de la Capitale), travestis de vêtements typiques, s’il en sera nécessaire pour le filmage.

Pour mobiliser ces éléments il est nécessaire le suivant:

1) - Votre consentement dans un réponse urgente pour
initier la convocation de ces éléments dans ces dix jours;

2) - La garantie de 500 dollars pour les depenses générales;
c’est à dire pour ces musiciens à qui l’on doit payer pour lesrassembler, ce qui est une chose très difficile;

3) - Les copies des disques enregistrés doivest rester à Rio,
même ceux qui seront enregistrés dans les pays américains;

Si vous êtes d’accord avec le plan présenté ci-dessus, il serait convenable que vous envoyiez le plus vite possible, des instructions à l’Ambassade des États Unis de l’Amerique du Nord du Brésil,* pour qu’il eut en entendement matériel avec l’organizateur des éléments typiques qui devront servir à votre projeté enregistrement, car je n’ai pas de moyens matériels pour cette entreprise, cependant, je pourrai, avec plaisir, les organizer et les coordoner.

Quant à la partie artistique de votre excelente orchestre de jeunes américains, je dois vous rappeler que, pour leur plus grand succès e pour la sympathie et l’intérêt de la nouvelle génération brésilienne, il faut organizer des programmes avec la plupart de musiques modernes, ayant dans chaque concert, un auteur brésilien, à votre choix, et un autre des États Unis. Comme vous, j’ai un grand intérêt pour l’échange de la musique artistique entre les deux Continents.

En attendant votre réponse urgente, je vous prie, Cher Monsieur, d’agréer l’assurance de mes sentiments les plus distingués,

Av.Almte Barroso, 81 - Edif.Andorinha, 5° and.
s/ 534 - Rio de Janeiro, Brésil

Rio de Janeiro, 16 July 1940

Dear Mr. Stokowski

I received your letter of the 3rd and hasten to respond in order to express all the pleasure I experienced upon learning of your impending visit to Brazil.

I’m truly delighted about your plans for folkloric exchange among the nations of the American continents by means of [gramophone] records.

You may count on me, for I’ll do all that I can to satisfy you, in accordance with the confidence that you have shown in me.

Attached, I am sending you a plan of the recordings that should be made by popular singers (who hail from the most typical States [of Brazil] and who live in the environs of the Capital), dressed in typical costumes, if this would be required for filming.

To mobilize these elements, the following is necessary:

1) - Your consent, in an urgent reply, to initiate
the convocation of these elements in the next ten days;

2) - The guarantee of 500 dollars for general expenses;
that is, for these musicians, whom we must pay in order to
assemble them, which is a very difficult thing;

3) - The copies of the recorded discs must remain in Rio,
even those that will be recorded in the American countries;

If you are in agreement with the plan presented below, it would be best if you sent as quickly as possible instructions to the Embassy of the United States of North America of Brazil,* so that there is a material understanding with the organizer of the typical elements who are to serve at your projected recording, because I don’t have the material means for this enterprise. However, I would organize and coordinate them with pleasure.

As for the artistic program of your excellent orchestra of young Americans, I must remind you that, for their greatest possible success and for the sympathy and interest of the new Brazilian generation, one must organize programs with mostly modern music, and including in each concert a Brazilian composer of your choice and another from the United States. Like you, I have great interest in the exchange of artistic music between the two Continents.

Awaiting your urgent response, I ask you, Dear Sir, to accept the assurance of my most distinguished sentiments,

Avenida Almirante Barroso, 81 - Andorinha Building, 5th floor.
s/ 534 - Rio de Janeiro, Brésil

* Was this the U.S. embassy in Brazil or the Brazilian embassy in the U.S.? At the time, Brazil’s official name was Estados Unidos do Brasil. While writing United States of America, Villa-Lobos suffered a little lapse and created the United States of North America of Brazil.

• Did Stokowski write a consent letter as requested?
• Did he guarantee the money for the musicians?
• And did copies of the recordings remain in Rio as stipulated by Villa-Lobos?

All these questions remain to be answered.
What is known is that Stoki sent a telegram to Villa’s residence, saying that he was dispatching the producer Michael Myerberg to Rio to take care of the details.

Since then, many things have fallen through the cracks.


Scan of Villa-Lobos’ letter to Stokowski

Donga to Villa-Lobos

Copyright © 2002–2015 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.