Friendships were important in helping Walter Burle Marx sustain his dreams and continue composing in spite of setbacks. Walter considered himself an intimate friend of Villa-Lobos for 45 years, although the relationship got off to a rocky start (Cohen, 2003). Villa-Lobos dedicated his Caixinas de Boas Festas as well as his Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1 to him. Walter wrote his Saudades do Nosso Amigo H.V.L, a work for solo guitar, to honor Villa-Lobos, following his death in 1959. The only time his daughters saw their father cry was when he learned of Villa-Lobos’ death. In 1955, at the invitation of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Walter was the commentator on Villa-Lobos’ programs, where he had the opportunity to talk about the life and work of his great friend. He also wrote articles about Villa-Lobos (Burle Marx, 1939; Marx, 1959).


Walter also considered himself a friend of Segovia, who told him during a visit at his home in Philadelphia, when Segovia was 82, “Burle Marx, you are the greatest living composer for the guitar.” Walter dedicated his guitar works to Segovia, who had promised to play them. However, Segovia lost his eyesight and was unable to perform the new pieces.


He and Mieczyslaw Horszowski had become friends when Mieszyslaw played in Brazil and later taught at Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. The great pianist inspired Walter to compose his only piano pieces, two Concertinos for Piano and Orchestra, the first of which was dedicated to Horszowski.


His friendship with the Brazilian ambassador, Oswaldo Aranha, sustained him when his orchestra in Rio folded. Marx lived in his home in 1935 in Washington, D.C. and acknowledged the important role of Aranha in helping to get Brazilian music heard in North America, heretofore almost entirely unknown (“Passou por São Paulo o maestro Walter Burle Marx”, 1941).

Lange, Ross, and others

He was a friend of Francisco Curt Lange, Uruguayan musicologist, with whom he collaborated on works of Brazilian musicians.

He considered Hugh Ross, conductor of the Schola Cantorum in New York a friend and collaborator, as well. Ross got interested in South American music after a meeting with Villa-Lobos in 1929, leading his chorus in South American music and working on the Brazilian Festival together in 1940 (Schola Offers Choral Music from Brazil, 1940).

He became close friends with Joe Zizza, music librarian for the New York Philharmonic, and with John DeLucca, with whom he shared interest in stamps.

Conrad Hammerman, a Swiss-born landscape architect who lived many years in Brazil and then moved to Philadelphia, became a close friend. Hammerman worked with Walter’s brother, Roberto, the three bonding over interests in Brazil and Europe.

Another friend was Bill Greiner and his wife, Aina. His nickname was “Botany Bill” because of his love of nature. He would take the family for ambles into the woods to hunt for mushrooms, or look at trees, or ferns. When Walter’s wife, Fannie, died, Bill led the memorial walk in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia.

Roberto Burle-Marx

Walter was perhaps closest to his Brother, Roberto, who attained his fame as a landscape architect and Renaissance man in his 40s, while Walter achieved his glory in his teens through about age 40. Even though they were separated by continents, they wrote to each other often, supported and critiqued each other, and shared passion for Brazil and social/environmental justice. Walter dedicated his Third Symphony (Macumba) to his brother, while Roberto created a series of stage set drawings for Walter’s “Witch Kids” music play (Cohen, 2008).