Two of Brazil's most important composers are the little-known pioneer Alberto Nepomuceno and the world-famous Heitor Villa-Lobos. Both were admirers of each other's work, and both participated in a common effort to endow the music of their country with its own identity and autonomy. These two major influences on the classical music of Brazil are represented here by works that, although separated by more than half a century in time, still reflect the composers' mutual intent to create a music distinctively Brazilian in idiom and character.
Alberto Nepomuceno was born in Fortaleza on July 6, 1864, and died in Rio de Janeiro on October 16, 1920. From his father, a school teacher in Pernambuco, he learned the rudiments of music and then, at sixteen, was sent to Italy to study at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome. During his five-year sojourn in Europe, he also studied in Berlin and Paris. Returning to Rio, he was appointed director of the Institute Nacional de Música, a post he held for almost fifteen years. In addition to many instrumental and vocal pieces, Nepomuceno also composed operas, a Symphony in G Minor, and a Piano Trio in F-Sharp Minor.
His Quartet No. 3 in D Minor, subtitled "The Brazilian," was written in Berlin when he was twenty-seven. However, throughout the composer's life, the work remained unknown and unperformed. It was not until 1956 that the quartet, together with Quartets Nos. 2 and 4, came to the attention of musicologists, for then it was discovered in the Biblioteca da Escola Nacional de Música (The National Music School Library) in Rio by Sergio Alvim Corrêa. The quartet received its first hearing on a radio program entitled "Music and Musicians of Brazil" on September 11, 1960. Two years later, it was performed at a concert in São Paulo.
Sergio Alvim Corrêa has described this work as "the first characteristic Brazilian work to introduce, a well-defined folk theme." This occurs in the Andante movement, which utilizes a motif based on the Brazilian folk song "Tutú Marambá." The quartet as a whole, however, is strongly European influenced, but it does demonstrate Nepomuceno's warmly lyrical style and pioneer, though limited, use of national material.
Heitor Villa-Lobos is not only Brazil's foremost composer, but is also one of the outstanding musicians of the Western hemisphere. He was born on March 5, 1887, in Rio de Janeiro and died in that city on November 17, 1959. Early in his career, he developed a deep interest in native Brazilian songs and dances and made several expeditions into the interior of his country to collect such music. During his lifetime, he traveled widely throughout Europe and America, but he never neglected his beloved Brazilian folk idioms. His lack of formal musical training forced him to evolve his own techniques and to experiment with many methods of composition. Because he first earned his living as a cellist, that instrument figures prominently in many of his works, as here in his Quartet No. 17 and, most notably, in the famous Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 for Soprano and Eight Cellos.
The Quartet No. 17, composed in 1957, is the last in a monumental series of quartets initiated by Villa-Lobos in 1915. A late work, it was first performed in Washington, D.C., by the Budapest Quartet on October 16, 1959, just a few weeks before the composer's death. It is a work of typical Villa-Lobos color and power, and some of its opening phrases recall the introduction to his early symphonic poem "Uirapurú," composed in 1917.
About the performers:
The Brazilian String Quartet, the official quartet of the National School of Music, is made up of violinists Santino Parpinelli and Jaques Nirenberg, violist Henrique Nirenberg, and cellist Eugen Ranevsky. The Quartet has appeared extensively throughout the Americas and in Europe and the Orient. After an appearance in Washing¬ton, D.C., the Daily News there reported that "the splendid Quartet from the University of Brazil was overpowering."
Because of its outstanding contribution to the cause of Brazilian music, the Quartet has been decorated with the Medal of Honor and Merit by the Music School of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and also recently received the "Ordem do Rio Branco" (White River Order) from the President of the Republic of Brazil.
- Villa-Lobos: Quartet No. 17 - I Allegro non troppo
- Villa-Lobos: Quartet No. 17 - II Lento
- Villa-Lobos: Quartet No. 17 - III Scherzo
- Villa-Lobos: Quartet No. 17 - IV Allegro vivace
- Nepomuceno: Quartet No. 3 - I Allegro non troppo
- Nepomuceno: Quartet No. 3 - II Andante sostenuto
- Nepomuceno: Quartet No. 3 - III Intermezzo—Allegretto
- Nepomuceno: Quartet No. 3 - IV Molto allegro
Other Music by Heitor Villa-Lobos:
- Villa-Lobos: Complete Music for Solo Guitar
- Villa-Lobos: Bachianas Brasileiras
- Villa-Lobos: Bachianas Brasileiras (Complete)
- The Best of Heitor Villa-Lobos
- Villa-Lobos: Piano Music Vol. 1 / Rubinsky
- Villa-Lobos: Forest of the Amazon
Other Music by Alberto Nepomuceno: