Nonetto (Impressão rapida de todo o Brasil - Rapid Impression of Brazil)

Appleby Catalogue W number: 

The Nonetto (also spelled Noneto) is subtitled "Impressão rapida de todo o Brasil" - "Rapid Impression of Brazil"

One of Villa-Lobos's greatest works, begun in Rio in 1923, and completed in Paris in 1924. Villa-Lobos conducted the premiere of the work in Paris on May 30, 1924. The Nonetto is dedicated to Dona Olivia Guedes Penteado.

"The Noneto achieves what 'tribal' pop aims at, but usually misses." - Wilfred Mellers, Singing in the Wilderness, Urban: University of Illinois Press, 2001, p. 86.

Listen to Gil Jardem conduct the Philarmonia Brasileira in Nonetto at Mbaraka Músicas.

Though recordings and performances are scarce, the Nonetto has not been ignored by the scholars:

There is a single, but eloquent, sentence written by Villa-Lobos about the Nonetto in the Nota Explicativa de Obras section of the book Villa-Lobos: Sua Obra (1972):

"Nova forma de composicao que exprime o ambiente sonoro e os ritmos mais originais do Brasil." (A new form of composition which expresses the noise environment and the most original rhythms of Brazil.) - (my apologies for the machine translation)

The work is dedicated to Dona Olivia Guedes Penteado.

"The Nonetto is sub-titled 'Quick Impression of All Brazil,' a country apparently settled by Stravinsky and the random survivors of an orchestral shipwreck some time after 1920."

- from Richard Goldman's review of two records of the Nonetto in The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 40, No. 1 (Jan., 1954), pp. 157-158 

Year Composed: 
Chamber Music
  1. flute
  2. oboe
  3. clarinette
  4. saxophone
  5. bassoon
  6. celesta
  7. harp
  8. piano
  9. percussion (requires at least three percussionists)

"avec Choeur Mixte"

A performance of this piece of chamber music fills a fairly large stage!

The "Batterie" consists of the following:

Tympanos Timbales
Xylophone Xylophone
Bombo (pedaleou sans pedale) Grosse caisse
Tambourin de campagne Tambourin de Provence
Tambor grande Tambour grand
Pandero grande Tambour de basque grand et sans grelots
Pandero paqueno (ordinario) Tambour de basque avec grelots
Caixa Caisse claire
Tam-Tam Tam-Tam
Plato de bronze Cymbales
Tryangulo Triangle
Caxambu On peut remplacer par un tambour voile
Puita (Original)
Reco-Reos (grande et pequenos) "
Xucalhos (de madera e de metal) "
2 Cocos (de tamanhos differentes) Wood-Blok
Plata de louca grossa Assiette epaisse en faience
Assovios Sifflet



A study score (72 p.) is published by Max Eschig, Paris.
  Nonetto Score. By Hector Villa-Lobos. Editions Durand. 72 pages. Published by Editions Durand. (50562551)
See more info...


This section of this page began as a post in the Villa-Lobos Magazine.

The Nonetto is currently (December 2007) without a modern recording easily available in North America and Europe. I hope this will change shortly. Earlier this year, Conductor Adrian Leaper performed the Nonetto in Madrid with the RTVE Symphony & Chorus. Here is a reference to the concert, which was recently played on Spanish radio:


Desde el Teatro Monumental de Madrid, actuación de la Orquesta Sinfónica de RTVE que, bajo la dirección de Adrián Leaper, interpreta "Sesemaya" de Silvestre Revueltas, "Nonetto, para coro y orquesta" de Heitor Villa-Lobos y "Serenata concertante Op. 40" de Juan Orrego Salas.


Cia Bachiana Brasileira DVDThere is a new Brazilian version of the Nonetto, from the Sociedade Musicale Bachiana Brasileira, available on CD and DVD. You can hear the Nonetto online on the excellent Bachiana Brasileira website (it's on the CD Obras Raras na Música Brasileira de Concerto - choose the final track in the Flash player.) The DVD is called Quadros de Uma Alma Brasileira, and you can preview four of the tracks online in low or high resolution. Unfortunately, the Nonetto video isn't online, but you can see and hear portions of the work on the Documentario (special features) portion of the site.

The works on the DVD were recorded almost exactly a year ago, December 15, 2005, at the Sala Cecília Meireles.

This is a very, very exciting project. I can't find a place on the website where you can order the CDs or DVDs directly, but read this recent post in Tumbling Villa-Lobos to find out about a Brazilian onine retailer who sells the DVD.

The CDs and DVDs on the Bachiana Brasileira website include many other rare Brazilian works; I'll be featuring it in an upcoming post on the Villa-Lobos Magazine.

Nostalgia Alert!

There are two famous recordings of the work from the 40s and 50s; it would be great if both were re-issued. September 2008 update: Bingo! Here they are, in one CD!

On a Capitol LP (CTL 7037), the Roger Wagner Chorale and the Concert Arts Ensemble performed two chamber works with chorus: the Quatour and the Nonetto. The sound on the disc was demonstration quality; the final movement of the Nonetto was included on Capitol SAL-9020 "Full Dimensional Sound: A Study in High Fidelity."

Here is a citation to a contemporary review:

Review: [Untitled]
Reviewed Work(s):

  • Villa-Lobos: Nonetto, for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Saxophone, Bassoon, Harp, Celesta, Battery, and Mixed Chorus; Quatuor, for Flute, Harp, Celesta, Alto Saxophone, and Women's Voices by The Roger Wagner Chorale and the Concert Arts Players, Roger Wagner, Villa-Lobos

Author(s) of Review: Richard F. Goldman
The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 40, No. 1 (Jan., 1954), pp. 157-158

Villa-Lobos thought very highly of Roger Wagner and his singers. Here's a quote from the official RWC website:

"Roger Wagner deserves all my admiration for his dedicated work...a notable achievement in technique and sound as well as perfect interpretation."

The second disc was released as a 78 rpm album by RCA Victor: disc #LCT 1143, the title is "Festival of Brazilian Music." In the Nonetto, Hugh Ross conducts the Brazilian Festival Orchestra and the Schola Cantorum. The album also includes Bachianas Brazileiras #1 (with Walter Burle Marx conducting the Brazilian Festival Orch; the Quatour (with the great Brazilian soprano Elsie Houston, soprano and Ross/Brazilian Festival Quartet/Schola Cantorum); and Cancao do Careiro (sung by Elsie Houston, accompanied by Miguel, piano). This album was recorded in collaboration with The Museum of Modern Art and the Commissioner General from Brazil. Another record number for this set is Victor DM-773(5).

Here's a short review from the May 19, 1941 issue of Time Magazine:

"A Festival of Brazilian Music (Victor; 10 sides; $5.50). First big phonographic collection of works by Heitor Villa-Lobos, Brazil's No. i composer and one of the lustiest living. Beautifully recorded by Soprano Elsie Houston, the Schola Cantorum, conducted by Hugh Ross, a scratch orchestra under Burle Marx. Villa-Lobosities: a Bachiana Brasileira for eight cellos attempting to fuse the spirits of Bach and Brazil; a Nonetto for chorus and small orchestra, purporting to describe Brazil's geography."


So, besides the advantage of having the Nonetto on CD, a reissue of this set would provide us with another rarely heard work (the Quatuor), plus a chance to hear the legendary Elsie Houston.

Let's get to work, record companies!

September 28, 2008: Ask and you shall receive:  Nonetto, Quatuor (el Records)

December 18, 2007: Another CD of Nonetto from Brazil.

The compliation Música em torno do Modernismo includes a performance of Nonetto by the Orquestra do Concurso Nacional de Regência do Rio de Janeiro de 1975.


The premiere of the work was on May 30, 1924.  Villa-Lobos conducted.

The Nonetto is rarely performed. In 1987, the VL Centennial year, it was part of this concert:

NONETTO | ÖE Heitor Villa-Lobos
Karl Ernst Hoffmann _ Dirigent
Pro Arte Ensemble Graz
15.00 Uhr Grazer Congress, Saal Steiermark

I only have one performance noted in the period 1997-2004:

May 29, 1998
Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester
, Berlin
Robin Gritton, Laura Aitkin, Deborah York, Markus Schafer, Rundfunkchor Berlin
Villa-Lobos: Nonetto
Music by Copland, Bernstein, Mozart

New performances finally came with the Ano Villa-Lobos in 2009.