Music Director/Score Adaptor/Orchestrator
Songs Composed by
Piano Works By Heitor Villa-Lobos
Alfred Heller, Pianist
Enter Piano Works Sound Gallery
ALFRED HELLER was a protégé of Heitor Villa-Lobos, and Villa-Lobos was responsible for his first published composition. He had the opportunity to study several late works directly with the composer, including The Emperor Jones, Eu te amo, the fantasy opera A Menina das Nuvens (The Girl from the Clouds) and Forest of the Amazon, a symphonic poem arranged by Villa-Lobos from the score he wrote for Green Mansions, the MGM film starring Audrey Hepburn, Anthony Perkins and Lee J. Cobb. He worked with Villa-Lobos in preparing Bidú Sayão for the original recording of this work in 1959. He authored a critical edition, and in 1996, conducted the world premiere recording of the complete Forest of the Amazon work with Renée Fleming and the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra. He is an internationally renowned expert on the music of Villa-Lobos. He wrote his doctoral document on the music of Villa-Lobos, and has published articles on Villa-Lobos in Keynote Magazine, Review: Latin American Literature and Arts, and Guitar Review. He has been called upon to appear on radio and television many times in this capacity. Many of his recordings of the works of Villa-Lobos are considered to be the definitive recordings of these works.
In addition to his work with Villa-Lobos, he is a composer, conductor, and pianist whose work has spanned all musical genres including classical orchestral music, opera, ballet and musical theater. He received his doctorate in Instrumental Conducting from Indiana University (studying under Henry Charles Smith and Tibor Kozma), his masters in music in piano from the Manhattan School of Music (studying piano under Robert Goldsand, as well as choral conducting under Hugh Ross), his Bachelor in Music degree in composition (magna cum laude) from Syracuse University (studying under Ernst Bacon). He also studied conducting with Toscanini protégé Leon Barzin. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Opera Conducting, and studied at the Rome Opera House (under Luigi Ricci) and at the Venice Conservatory (under Renato Fasano). His principal piano teacher was Siegfried Lichstein, a student of Leschetitzky.
His own compositions have been performed extensively around the world. His songs have been performed by such artists as Arleen Auger (his settings of the poetry of Emily Dickinson), Renée Fleming (his setting of In the Silent West, also of Emily Dickinson), Marc Heller (his settings of the Chamber Music poems by James Joyce, recorded on the Etcetera label), Herbert Handt (his settings of the poetry of Heinrich Heine in Germany) and Patricia Neway (his Quattro Liriche settings of poetry by the Italian poet, Leondino Ferri). His song cycle New England Times and Places (settings of poetry by Robert Frost) was premiered by Peter Shea in South Amherst, Massachusetts. His instrumental and orchestral works have been performed worldwide, including by Anton Guadagno (who conducted his A Monterrey Overture in Mexico), harpist Susanna Mildonian (who played his Sonata for Harp and Cello in Trieste and Rimini), trombonist Henry Charles Smith (who commissioned his Sonata for Trombone and Piano), cellist Miranda Su Lan Harding (who premiered his Suite Asiamericana). His Steinway Sonata, written to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Steinway & Sons was featured by George Preston on the WNYC FM Tribute to Steinway. His compositions have been recorded on the Etcetera label, including Great Poets in Song (which includes his settings of poetry by Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost and James Joyce). In 2003 he was commissioned to write a cantata honoring the elevation of Renato Cardinal Martino, which was first performed by bass baritone Daniel Cory in Rome, also in 2003, and has been performed since several times in New York City (at Steinway Hall and at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall).
He also has composed for musical theater and film. His operetta Perfect Love! was performed as an Equity Approved Showcase at the National Arts Club in New York City. His Manhattan Serenade (for which he compiled and arranged the music of Louis Alter) was performed at the AMAS Repertory Theatre in New York City. His opera Sister Carrie was presented in the opera workshop at Indiana University. His chamber musical Lover to Lover (co-authored with Sue Lawless and based on the Chamber Music poems and writings of James Joyce) was presented at Steinway Hall. He composed the soundtrack for the documentary film A New Home for Art, for the opening of Huntington Hartford’s Gallery of Modern Art on Manhattan’s Columbus Circle, designed by Edward Durell Stone.
As a conductor, he has appeared with the Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra in Budapest, the Brasov Philharmonic in Romania, and toured the Soviet Union, conducting engagements in Bakú, Tblisi, Riga, and Kazan. He also conducted in the United States and Italy, fulfilling engagements with the North Carolina Symphony (Assistant Conductor), the Baton Rouge Symphony, and the Vacanze Musicali in Venice. He formed and conducted the Villa-Lobos Orchestra for two seasons in New York City. In the world of opera, he was the Chorus Master for the Connecticut Opera Association (preparing Turandot for a production with Birgit Nilsson) and the Dallas Civic Opera (preparing Lucia di Lammermoor for a production with Maria Callas). He was Tullio Serafin’s assistant for a production of Falstaff at the Chicago Lyric Opera.
He has appeared numerous times as a piano soloist in the United States, as well as in Italy and Brazil. He recorded several piano solo CDs for the Etcetera label. He has coached/accompanied Metropolitan Opera stars Frank Guarrera, Jerome Hines, Walter Cassel, Fernando Corena, Giuseppe di Stefano, Frank Guarrera, and Jan Peerce, as well as Broadway stars Christine Andreas, John Raitt (as conductor), George S. Irving, Clive Revill, Karen Ziemba, and Avon Long.
He is the Founder and President of the Villa-Lobos Music Society, Inc., an organization dedicated, among other things, to sustaining and increasing the awareness of the music of Heitor Villa-Lobos. He is listed in Who’s Who in Music, American Keyboard Artists and Who’s Who in Entertainment. He is a composer member of ASCAP.