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ClassicsOnline Home » MIGUÉZ, L.: Piano Music - Morceaux lyriques / Souvenirs / Scènes intimes / Noturno / Faceira / Allegro appassionato (Velloso)
Leopoldo Américo Miguéz trained as a violinist, but became a significant figure in his home country of Brazil as director of the National Institute of Music. His musical influences can be traced to his time in Europe, where the music of Wagner and Liszt made a deep impression. Miguéz’s piano pieces were aimed at Brazil’s society elite, but the Chopin-like technical demands of works such as the Allegro appassionato reflect the brilliance of his pianist colleague Arthur Napoleão. Well-known works such as the Nocturne, Op 10 can be found here alongside the nostalgic Lamento, light-hearted Faceira (Valse-Impromptu) and burlesque Scherzetto.
Leopoldo Miguéz (1850–1902)
Leopoldo Américo Miguéz was born in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, and was raised by a Brazilian mother and a Spanish father. He was only two years old when his family moved to Europe to live temporarily in Spain, where he stayed until he was seven, then going to Portugal. In Porto he devoted his time to learning how to play the violin, taught by Nicolau Medina Ribas. He made rapid progress, performing in public and dedicating a fantasia with themes from La Traviata to his teacher. In accordance with his father’s wishes, at the age of seventeen he started commercial work, and, back in Brazil at the age of 21, he continued in business until 1882. Miguéz, at this point, changed course in order to dedicate himself exclusively to music.
During a brief two-year stay in Europe, Miguéz studied at the Paris Conservatoire under Emile Durand. He also visited Belgium. Upon returning to Rio de Janeiro in 1884 he was appointed opera director in a partnership created by Claudio Rossi and founded an Artistic Centre. With the establishment of the Republic in Brazil in 1889, Miguéz took part in the Hymn to the Proclamation of the Republic composition contest, winning first prize. He also served as director of the National Institute of Music, where he was professor of composition and of violin. In order to improve his administrative skills, he returned once more to Europe. This allowed him to learn and adopt strategies to improve his Institute in matters such as the hiring of qualified teachers, setting new schedules for classes, and collecting new scores, manuscripts and instruments. He also acquired a Wilhelm Sauer organ. In 1885, during a visit to France, Belgium, Germany and Italy, he found further inspiration for the development of the Institute.
In addition to piano music, Miguéz composed the opera Saldunes, which drew high acclaim, the symphonic poems Parisiana and Ave Libertas, and a sonata for violin and piano among other compositions. He died in 1902 in Rio de Janeiro.
Leopold Miguéz’s musical style reflects two aspects. First, his European musical education—he had lived in Europe for a long period and this played a vital rôle in his music. He remained oblivious, however, to the influences of folklore and Brazilian songs. Secondly, when he returned to Brazil, he found a musical environment where elitism prevailed, with a tendency to copy and align itself with Europe. At that time, in the early days of the Republic, the introduction of musical elements derived from popular songs or dances meant a mixture of social classes, unwanted by the elite. Miguéz, therefore, made no attempt to establish a sense of nationalism for Brazilian music.
During a trip to Europe in 1882 he was introduced to Wagner’s music, which left a very deep impression on him. From then onwards he began to incorporate Wagner’s creative processes in his own pieces. Although his orchestral works contain Wagnerian characteristics, in fact Liszt had a greater influence, especially in the way the themes are treated. His compositions, in short, have a European style, acquired during his musical education. The influence of Liszt, Chopin, and to a lesser extent, of Schumann can be observed. Characteristics from Liszt works can be particularly observed in Miguéz’s themes, form, harmony and rhythm. The pieces are distinguished by the dense writing of innovative harmonies and a special care of their form. The titles of the pieces are in French because they were targeted at the elite, the only people who had access to music lessons and concerts. French was then considered the appropriate language for the titles since it was the one used in the salon and in private concerts. Although his musical training was mostly the violin, Miguéz’s piano compositions show great mastery of this instrument. The public for whom they were destined also dictated their short duration. There were obvious advantages for the composers and the publishers in this choice. Miguéz symbolized erudition, both due to his musical training in Europe, and as the director of the National Institute of Music in Rio de Janeiro. Most of the works included here belong to the period in which Miguéz was director of the National Institute of Music in Rio de Janeiro.
Souvenirs, Op 20
 Nocturne: dedicated to Alfredo Bevilacqua, teacher at the National Institute of Music (Rio de Janeiro). This lyrical piece, true to the Romantic style, presents an A-B-A structure. It begins with a descending and nostalgic phrase which is the theme of its first part, followed by a restless central part with an oscillating and repetitive melody.
 Mazurka: has elements of Chopin’s style and evokes a kind of dance common in the salons of the Second Empire.
 Scherzetto: originally composed for orchestra, Scherzetto is virtuosic, brilliant and it has a burlesque streak, with a clear resemblance to Liszt’s March of the Dwarfs. The piano version was written by João Nunes (1928).
 Lamento (Rêverie): dedicated to the memory of Alexandre Levy, Lamento offers a contrast with the preceding piece owing to its mood of nostalgia.
Scènes intimes, Op 24 (1894)
 Berceuse: among the works recorded here Berceuse has the simplest form, as is natural in lullabies.
 Chanson d’une jeune fille: with variations on its theme, Chanson d’une jeune fille shows the influence of Grieg, especially in the chromaticism in the left hand, resembling a lament. Miguéz uses a thick, polyphonic texture.
 Conte Romanesque: dedicated to the famous Portuguese pianist and composer Arthur Napoleão, Miguéz’s colleague. As the title suggests, the first part presents a simple melody supported by arpeggios in the left hand, followed by a first episode in the central part replete with syncopated rhythm in the musical accompaniment, followed by an agitated second episode.
 Bavardage (tagarelice): dedicated to Frederick Birth, teacher at the National Institute of Music. Schumann’s style is evident, with syncopated rhythm and binary triple metre. The subtitle of the suite is Quatre Morceaux Lyriques and there are orchestral versions of Chanson d’une jeune fille and Conte Romanesque written by the composer.
 Faceira (Coquette) – Valse Impromptu, Op 28 The first performance of Faceira took place at the National Institute of Music in 1897. Following the title, the piece is light-hearted and ends in a coda with an undulating melody, first with ascending octaves, then returning to the lower register.
Morceaux lyriques, Op 34
 L’Improvisateur (Etude Poétique): Schumann’s influence can be heard in L’Improvisateur.
 Saudade (Song without words): there is an orchestral version of Saudade by Leopoldo Miguéz.
 Pologne (Mazurka): the well defined rhythm of Pologne, with dotted notes in both hands, gives the piece a different character from that of Mazurka, Op 20, No 2. One cannot rule out the influence of Chopin in this piece. La Mendiante (Romance sans Paroles): in song-form, the choice of E minor for La Mendiante emphasizes the poverty and helplessness of the beggar of the title. The central part is in G major. Plaisanterie (Humoresque): marked Presto, Plaisanterie reminds us of Schumann, particularly in its central part (affettuoso), as can be observed at the end of Arabeske, Op 18.
 Nocturne, Op 10 Nocturne is the best known of Miguéz’s piano pieces. Its texture is more complex and varied than Nocturne, Op 20, No 1, and this appeals to pianists. It had its first performance in 1886 with the Portuguese pianist and composer Arthur Napoleão.
 Allegro Appassionato, Op 11 The date of composition of Allegro Appassionato, 1883, coincides with the year of Miguéz’s return to Brazil. It was first performed two years later by Arthur Napoleão. This is the most intense work of those included here and resembles Chopin’s preludes or scherzi. It is an extensive score of remarkable technical and interpretative demands.
Sergio Bittencourt Sampaio
Translation: Marcela Lanna
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