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ClassicsOnline Home » NEPOMUCENO: Piano Works
antiga, Op. 11
No. 1 in Major (for the left hand)
Op. 27, No. 2
in F Minor, Op. 9
No. 2 in G Major (for the left hand)
Op. 13, No. 4
prequenas peças (for the left hand)
Nepomuceno occupies an important position as a pioneer of Brazilian music. Born
in Fortaleza in 1864, the son of a violinist, teacher and organist at the
Cathedral in Fortaleza, and a mother, Maria de Oliveira Paira, who was the
daughter of a distinguished Brazilian writer, he moved with his family to Recife
in 1872 and there continued music lessons with his father, until the latter's
death in 1880. He took lessons in harmony from Euclides Fonseca and by 1882 was
able to direct concerts for the Recife Club Carlos Gomes. The following year
found him serving as a violinist in performances of Fonseca's opera Leonor at
the Teatro Santa Isabel and active in the cause of republicanism. These last
activities he continued on his return to his native district of Ceará in 1884.
By 1885 he was in Rio
appearing as a pianist for the Club Beethoven and touring with the cellist Frederico
Nascimento and the next year assuming duties as a teacher for the Club and
studying harmony with Miguel Cardoso. In spite of his republican sympathies, he
was invited to the Imperial Palace by Princess Isabel, an
official recognition of his abilities.
first compositions of Nepomuceno appeared in 1887 with his Opus 1 Mazurca for
cello and piano, a song, two piano pieces and a Marcha fúnebre for orchestra.
The next year he played his Dança de negros at the Club Iracerna in Fortaleza and toured the region
with Nascimento. In August he left for Europe, studying in Rome at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia. An official
award allowed him to remain in Europe, meeting Brahms and Hans von Bülow, the Norwegian Walborg
Bang, a pupil of Grieg, his future wife, and finally Grieg himself. In 1892 he
had entered the Stern Conservatory in Berlin, graduating two years later. In Berlin his Scherzo für
grosses Orchestrer and Suite antiga were performed and a period
spent in Paris allowed him to meet
Saint-Saëns, Bordes and d'Indy and to study the organ with Alexandre Guilmant.
His marriage in Cristiania (Oslo)
in 1893 brought a close relationship with Grieg.
1895 Nepomuceno returned to Rio de Janeiro as teacher of the organ at the Instituto Nacional
de Música. Invited to start a conservatory in Recife, he declined, remaining in
Rio to direct the concerts of the Associação das Concertos Populares and to
teach composition at the Instituto and to promulgate his musical nationalism,
not least in his controversial use of the vernacular in vocal works, summed up
in his own words: Não tem pátria um povo que não canta em sua lingua. Further
compositions followed, including the operas Artemis and Abul, the
first of which he discussed staging in Vienna, during a meeting in Vienna with Mahler in 1900.
During the following years his work for the Instituto Nacional continued, with
a gap between 1903 and 1906, when he relinquished the position of Director. In
1910 he was sent to Europe to conduct performances
of Brazilian music, including his own compositions at the Brussels Fair and in Geneva and Paris. In Brazil once more he solicited
a scholarship for the gifted young Glauco Velasquez, celebrated the Wagner
centenary in 1913 and had his opera Abul staged at the Teatro Constanzi
in Rome. In 1916 he resigned
definitively from the Instituto Nacional, devoting his final years to
composition and the direction of concerts in which he was able to introduce,
among other examples of newer music, the Cello Concerto of the young
Villa-Lobos, for whom he arranged publication in Brazil. He died in 1920 at the age of 56.
Súite antiga was written in 1893 and published at the insistence of Grieg
by his own publishers. The four movements of the suite, neo-classical in form,
are perfect examples of the genre. The two Nocturnes for the left hand
were written for Nepomuceno's daughter Sigrid, who was born without a right
arm. Both were played by Sigrid Nepomuceno at a concert in Rio in 1919. The Improviso,
Opus 27, No. 2, written in 1904, was first performed by the composer in
1905 at the Club dos Diarios in Rio. In style it suggests the influence of
Schumann, a composer he much admired.
Sonata in F minor, Opus 9, is the first such work by a Brazilian
composer, its three movements suggesting at times the style of Brahms, a reminder
that he had studied in Berlin with Brahms's friend Herzogenberg.
Composed in 1893, the sonata was first performed in Rio at the Instituto Nacional
by the composer in August 1895. The Nocturne, Opus 33, was written in
1907 and first performed by the Portuguese pianist and composer Vianna da Motta
at the Berlin Beethovensaal in January 1913. Galhofeira is the fourth of
Nepomuceno's Quatro peças líricas (Four Lyric Pieces) of 1894 and is
derived from the street music of Rio. It was first performed by the composer at the Instituto
Nacional in Rio in 1895, in the recital
that included the first performance of the F minor Sonata.
Cinco pequenas peças (Five Little Pieces) of 1906, for the left hand,
were again written for Nepomuceno's daughter Sigrid and are partly didactic in
intention. Here the opening Barcarola is followed by Melodia, Dança, a
playful Brincando and a final Polca. The pieces were first
performed by Sigrid Nepomuceno in August 1907 at the Auditório Colegio Sion in Petrópolis.
Brazilian pianist Maria Inês Guimarães started her study of the piano at the
music school of her native town of Uberaba, in Minas Gerais, later continuing lessons with
Eudoxia de Barros and Magdalena Tagliaferro. Between 1976 and 1985 she won a
number of prizes in national competitions and enjoyed a career as a soloist,
recitalist and chamber music performer throughout Brazil. In 1987 and 1988 she
was in charge of the Brazilian Music Centre in the city of Campinas, near São
Paulo, in the latter year moving to France, where she has undertaken further
piano study, while embarking on research at the Sorbonne for a doctorate in
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NEPOMUCENO: Piano Works