KS2: Heitor Villa-Lobos – Bachianas brasileiras No. 2, The Little Train of the Caipira (finale)

Heitor Villa-Lobos

  • Born: 1887
  • Died: 1959
  • Nationality: Brazilian

Why is he a Trailblazer?

It took time for classical orchestras to discover the sounds of Brazilian music.

Trailblazer Heitor Villa-Lobos led the way – bringing the instruments, rhythms and melodies of his home, Brazil, into the concert hall and creating a vibrant, exciting new sound.

Heitor Villa-Lobos
Naomi Wilkinson explores The Little Train of the Caipira by Heitor Villa Lobos. This piece is packed full of the bustling sounds of Brazil – it’s folk music and local instruments.

Fast Facts

  • Villa-Lobos was born in Rio de Janeiro. He began to learn the cello at the age of six and, as a teenager, enjoyed playing guitar with the street musicians of Rio.

  • During travels around Brazil, including trips through the Amazon, Villa- Lobos discovered the folk music of his home and the tribal songs of its peoples. The melodies and rhythms he heard helped to shape Villa Lobos’s own musical ideas.

  • Classical composers like Bach were also very important to Villa-Lobos. The Little Train of the Caipira belongs to the fifth of a series of nine pieces called the ‘Bachianas brasileiras’ that apply the technical ideas of Bach to the Brazilian music Villa-Lobos had come to love.

Watch the orchestral performance of Villa-Lobos’s piece performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Roderick Cox.

The Little Train of the Caipira

Villa-Lobos travelled by train on some of his musical adventures through Brazil.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that one of his most famous pieces re-creates the journey of a shuddering, juddering steam train, carrying the ‘caipira’ or ‘people of the countryside’ off to pick berries in the fields.

Villa-Lobos harnesses the musical power of the orchestra to bring the plucky locomotive to life: clarinets and trombones become steam whistles; percussion instruments, like the ganza and reco reco, re-create the clattering, hissing engine; syncopated rhythms propel the wheels; and folk tune-inspired melodies add a distinctive Brazilian flavour.


KS2 Lesson plans
KS2 Powerpoint slides
Downloadable mp3
Multi-ability instrumental arrangements

Where next?

  • Why not meet the mysterious A Bao a Qu and discover how Mason Bates uses percussion in amazing ways to dream up a very different musical journey?

  • Or you could listen to Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach – a composer who was a huge inspiration for Villa-Lobos.

  • Get creative and upload your responses using the Ten Pieces Uploader!

Ten Pieces Uploader