Texte paru dans: / Appeared in:

Fanfare Magazine: 39:5 (05-06/2016) 
Pour s'abonner / Subscription information
Les abonnés à Fanfare Magazine ont accès aux archives du magazine sur internet.
Subscribers to Fanfare Magazine have access to the archives of the magazine on the net.


Code-barres / Barcode : 0034571281148


Outil de traduction ~ (Très approximatif)
Translator tool (Very approximate)

Reviewer: Bertil van Boer

Brazil is one of those places (Rio Summer Olympics not withstanding) which is both vast and complex. Ostensibly given to Portugal by Pope Alexander VI in 1494, it was settled by Pedro Cabral about six years later. All right, so the reality is more complex; the Pope, a Spaniard from Valencia, actually tried to diddle the Portuguese out of any New World colonies but apparently was not a very good map reader (if any readable maps existed at the time) and so drew an arbitrary meridian based upon Columbus’s islands, to the west of which the Portuguese were not allowed to colonize. I suppose the idea was to stop them from laying claim to any putative riches, but he forgot that a huge chunk of the continent sticks out east of his line. The monarchs got together and fiddled the treaty a bit thereafter, and once Cabral and his band settled there, Pope Julius III solidified their lines, and ever since the dividing line has been a Portuguese Brazil, and a Spanish everywhere else (save North American, but that’s another story). The purpose of this rather long potted narrative is point out that this disc contains a plethora of musical treasure from the 18th century from a land that was not only prosperous but replete with musical establishments that reflected the homeland but also contained homegrown riches. Musical schools known as Hermandades could be found in many colonial cities in Minas Gerais, with cities such as Recife, São Paulo, and Rio centers of colonial power and prestige, and as time went on towards the end of the century, Empire, a refuge from the Napoleonic tribulations for the Portuguese court.

Indigenous composers were, of course, omnipresent, but not many have had much traction outside the occasional disc. The best known is José Mauricio Nunes Garcia (1767–1830), a masterful symphonist and a composer of opera as well as a large amount of sacred music. His life story as a mulatto priest is a sad one; rising to musical fame as a composer, his position was eclipsed in the early 19th century by musicians brought over by the exiled court. For a while Sigismund Neukomm, a Haydn pupil, was in charge, but soon even his position was undermined by the ironically-named Marcos Antonio Portugal, a rather unsavory intriguer. Nunes Garcia seems to have been a particular whipping post for the arrogant Portugal, and the priest died penniless even as Brazil emerged as its own Empire, distinct from being Empire-in-exile. Of the rest, many were musicians in Minas Gerais, a place which was far from court politics, and therefore was able to have some stability. José Lobo de Mesquita (1746–1805) was a popular organist in the town of Ouro Preto, while André Silva de Gomes (1752–1844) held sway at the cathedral in São Paulo, a rival city to Rio. In Recife, Luis Alvares Pinto (1719–1789; the dates are not exact) created a school in the city that was often the first port of call of ships from Lisbon, and though sadly little of his music has survived, what has demonstrates that he trained some impressive musicians, most of which were of mixed blood. Of Theodoro Cyro de Souza (b. 1761), little too has survived, but the extent of his few works as far away as Italy demonstrates that this Portuguese-born organist living in Salvador, Bahia, did have an international reputation of sorts. There is even a Portuguese villancico whose authorship is unknown.

Before briefly discussing the music, it should be noted that actually finding out this information from the booklet notes can be tortuous, given that these notes seem to be the conductor Jeffrey Skidmore’s personal journey to rediscover and record these Brazilian works. However, information is generally available elsewhere (if not from Wikipedia), so if the names are completely unfamiliar, sources can be found to rectify the situation. In any case, the music is thoroughly delightful, with a twist that is often surprising. The villancico, for example, contains the guitars and percussion that give it an almost Andean flavor, though the basis is a Baroque ground. The rhythms are nicely folklike. The most advanced work is the Nunes Garcia Mass, which is a major composition. Scored for a dark-colored orchestra of violas, clarinets, bassoons, horns (and some trumpets on occasion), and bass, it is deep and rich in terms of texture. The opening Kyrie has a gentle pastoral flavor, while the Gloria bursts forth with some joyous sounds. The Laudamus is formed around a soaring soprano solo, but the Gratias reverts back to a folk tune with darker violas and a lilting clarinet line. Nunes Garcia’s knowledge of the Italian style comes in the Qui tollis, with its Rossinian tone, while both the Cum sancto and Agnus dei (later on the disc) forego the counterpoint in favor of a pastoral mood. The Souza Ascendit Deus is filled with some rather complex counterpoint, all couched within a Mozartean feel, and the Lobo de Mesquita works are flowing and clear, replete with a stream of parallel thirds; here the doxology Gloria patri is particularly rich and sonorous. The Silva Gomes Mass is brilliant, with fanfare trumpet flourishes and a triumphant tone. In short, this music should be more widely known; it is both competent and indicative of the high art forms that flourished in Brazil of the 18th century.

The performance by the group Ex Cathedra is fine, though the acoustics of the recording venue can cause the chorus to be a bit wooly at times. There is some hesitancy in the Nunes Garcia Mass at the beginning, but by the Christe Eleison, the confidence of the group reaches its full form. The result is a disc that contains music well performed that indicates that Brazil was more than just a peripheral subset of European music of the time, but rather home to a vibrant and expansive culture that ought to be better know. This disc is a grand start to what hopefully will be more works by these heretofore little-known composers.

Fermer la fenêtre/Close window


Cliquez l'un ou l'autre bouton pour découvrir bien d'autres critiques de CD
 Click either button for many other reviews