O canto do cisne negro

Heitor Villa-Lobos

O canto do cisne negro

W122, A122 • “Poema ballomístico”

About this work

O canto do cisne negro (Song of the Black Swan) is extracted from Villa-Lobos' symphonic poem Naufragio de Kleônicos. It is a flowing, impressionistic duet for cello and piano that reveals Villa-Lobos' affection for the string instrument his father taught him as a child, and which he lavished with attention throughout his life; the piece occupies a fittingly melancholy space, given its swan-song title. O canto was excerpted from Naufragio in 1917, a year after the source work's composition, along with a version for violin and piano; it has since become a concert favorite for cellist/pianist duos. The music itself is very simple in conception: the piano arpeggiates an endless series of chords -- some sweet, some spicy, always favoring the upper registers -- while the cello sings plaintively, also without interruption. The resulting texture is reminiscent of Ravel and Debussy, especially in harmonic vocabulary, but it also readily announces itself as a work of Villa-Lobos, especially in its fusion of lyricism and sensuality.