Raul’s investment in his son’s musical training went much further, though. Villa-Lobos recounted
that his father adapted a small cello for him, placing a support on a viola, and obliged him to
“discern the genre, style, nature and origin of the musical works to which he made [him] listen.”
Since he had neither built up a wide circle of relations, nor invested in a career yielding higher
financial returns, this precocious initiation in classical music was practically the only legacy that
Raul left to Heitor; in 1899, when he was 37 years old, he died after contracting smallpox.
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After the lunch, the artists became engrossed in a lively conversation which drifted into a discussion
on the art of musical improvisation. Villa-Lobos, who had already composed an extensive repertoire
of piano solos, then sat down to Tarsila’s Erard concerto to improvise. Immediately, Jean Cocteau,
known for his boutades and his playful behaviour, sat underneath the piano on the ground, “so he
could hear better.