Brazilian Music of the 18th and 19th centuries:
A study of the stylistic origins and performance implications
[Translator for English, edited version: Guilherme Vincens]
This essay investigates the sources and influences of the music produced in Brazil during the eighteenth century and first decades of the nineteenth century, notably the Rome and Naple Schools of sacred music and opera, and the way they were filtered by Portugal. This approach to the study of stylistic origins can help the process of interpretation, suggesting choices for specific techniques, instruments, vocal treatment and even different temperaments.
It is also part of this study to attempt a first and unpretentious list of the Italian and Portuguese composers represented in Brazilian archives, who might have been a direct or indirect source for the consolidation of the language of the eighteenth and nineteenth century composers in Brazil. Due to the lack of specific studies on the subject, several of the conclusions are based on my personal experience as a musician and on the observation and knowledge of this Brazilian repertoire as a researcher.
As an extention of this line of thought, in order to comprehend this musical universe, it is necessary to know the music made in Portugal and Italy from the same period, considering that it is the main source of musical-stylistic influence of this repertoire.
Stylistic influences and musical context
The musical repertories produced in Portugal and colonial Brazil are profoundly interconected and have certain characterisitcs that are singular, if compared to the traditional European repertory. Such particularities begin with the process of 'Italianization” of the music of Portugal in the beginning of the XVIII century, after 1707, when D. João V was crowned.
According to Brito, in his articles published in Estudos da História da Música em Portugal (Study of the History of Music in Portugal), with the growth of mining in Brazil and the export of gold to Portugal that started at the turn of the eighteenth century after the end of the long war of independence with Spain and the Madrid Treatise of 1715, Portugal sought to regain the position in Europe that it had lost after the half of the sixteenth century. Portugal was a country devoted to religion, where most of the land and wealth belonged to the Catholic Church. Thus, instead of putting the wealth of the Brazilian gold to the service of the monarchy in the manner of Louis XIV of France, D. Joao V turned to the exaltation of the ecclesia triumphans, taking the Roman Papal Chapel as a model. Although this was considered an act of extreme religiosity on the part of the King, Rui Nery argues that it wasn't a purely religious choice, but was instead a strategy inspired by Illuminism, an ideological trend based on the ministers who sought to break away from the Aristotelian logic of the time to establish a new scientific spirit. The result, in fact, was a slow submission of ecclesiastic power to royal power through a paradoxical reinforcement of religious institutions. This process happened in three phases: the first began in 1717, when the Royal Chapel of Lisbon was elevated to the condition of Collegiate by Pope Clemente XI; the second stage began in 1737, when the chapelmaster received the title of Patriarch (having command of over half of the Archdiocese of Lisbon); and the third stage began in 1740 when all the archdiocese came under command of the chapelmaster of Lisbon, who ultimately became the chapelmaster to the King.
“Therefore a very ingenious process was completed, in which the old religious institutions of Portugal were put under the ruling of a prince of the church who was himself, despite the pomp, the splendor and the magnificence that were linked to the dual cardinal and patriarchal dignity, simply the chapelmaster of the king of Portugal” (Nery 1991: [page needed])
This political-religious context helps to understand the reasons why D. Joao V sent several young Portuguese composers to study in Rome, as well as why he hired important instrumentalists, singers and composers from Italy to work in Lisbon (See table 1). The most famous examples are Domenico Scarlatti and Giovanni Giorgi, both who worked in the most prestigious Papal chapels, including the Capella Giulia. The intention was to make the musical quality of the ceremonies of the Patriarchal Church of Lisbon comparable to the that of the Holy See in Rome. In 1713, the Seminar of the Patriarchal Church was created. It was intended to be a center for the musical formation of composers, singers and instrumentalists to be integrated into the Royal Chapel. This institution, which endured until the first years of the nineteenth century, was the main center for musical education and practice during all the eighteenth century in Portugal. If this step was indeed part of a political strategy to confirm royal absolutism, it is also true that when the king suffered from hemiplegia, mainly after 1742, he became even more devoted to prohibiting profane entertainment in Lisbon, such as public dances and opera. Restructuring also occurred in the liturgy, and villancicos were prohibited in the entire Portuguese kingdom. This explains the end of the practice of the villancico in all the repertory from Portugal and its colonies after the eighteenth century, which differs from practice in the Hispano-American countries.
After the death of D. João V in 1750 and the crowning of his son D. José I, religious fanaticism gives way to the development of Italian opera in Portugal, initially mostly opera seria. Young Portuguese composers are now sent to Naples and in 1752 the famous opera seria composer Davide Perez is hired (See table 2). A high point is the opening in March of 1755 of one of the largest and most luxurious opera theaters in Europe in that century. It was destroyed only seven months later in a catastrophic earthquake that devastated the city.
This Italianized musical universe directly influences musical practice in Brazil during the entire eighteenth century and part of the nineteenth century. The models for Brazilian composers were the Portuguese composers of the period, as well as the famous Italians in Portugal, such as Niccollo Jommelli and Davide Perez. An exception to this rule occurs only with of the arrival of Sigismund Neukomm from Austria, who brought works of Haydn and Mozart to Rio de Janeiro in 1816, but even this influence did not promote aesthetic change.
In Brazil, important musical activity in the cities of Salvador and Recife in the seventeenth century and into the eighteenth century is registered in the books of activities and payment of churches. Unfortunately, none of the musical documentation has survived. Robert Stevenson gathers precious reports regarding the intense activity in Brazil’s northeast in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in his article “Some Portuguese Sources for Early Brazilian Music History” (Stevenson 1968). These reports, such as Barbosa Machado’s 1747 report cited in the Biblioteca Lusitana, reveal intense musical activity in the See from Salvador and Olinda (a neighbor city to Recife), where polychoral music was practiced until around 1752.
Further evidence of Bahian musical culture in the 1690s comes to light in the career of the virtuoso harpist and chapelmaster Antão de Santo Elias, who received the habit of Carmelite order in Bahía on April 8, 1696, professing his solemn vows there a year later. Santo Elias composed various Christmas responsórios for two choruses, accompanied by rebecas, rebecões, e flautas (violins, bass viols, flutes) and of Masses for 4 or 8 parts with diverse instruments. He also left a Te Deum for four choruses with instruments, several hymns, psalms, a Magnificat, and numerous vilhancicos. (Stevenson 1968: 2-3).
One might surmise from these findings that the intensity and quality of the musical creation and performance in Brazil would not withstand comparison to activity at the large Hispano-American centers, whose repertories have survived to a far greater extent and are extensively studied. However, since so few of the Brazilian works survive to the present, we have to imagine that these composers faithfully followed the repertory practiced in Lisbon. The only composer from the Brazilian Northeast from whom a very small number of works survived was Luís Álvares Pinto (1719 – 1789), chapelmaster of the Irmande de São Pedro dos Clérigos (Brotherhood of São Pedro dos Clérigos) in Recife, Pernambuco (c. 1764-1789). Pinto represents an emblematic case of a Brazilian-born composer who, due to his renowned talent, went to Lisbon to perfect his studies and returned to Brazil afterwards to develop an intense activity as a composer. Pinto may be emblematic but he was not unique. Stevenson identified a predecessor of Luís Álvares Pinto: Manoel de Almeida Botelho. He notes that in the Desagravos do Brasil e Glorias de Pernambuco by Loureto Couto from 1757, Couto writes:
Thoroughly schooled in counterpoint from early youth, Almeida Botelho, has now become one of the most renowned composers of our present epoch, respected alike for the novelty of his musical ideas and for their tasteful and scientifically correct harmonization. In 1749 he migrated to Lisbon, where the court honored him with the highest marks of favor … (Stevenson 1968: 13)
This report proves that Brazilian-born composers traveled to study in Portugal and brought back the most advanced musical styles practiced, showing an exchange of music and musicians across the Atlantic. Stevenson also suggests a common connection between the Portuguese and Spanish polyphonic traditions through the Spaniard Cristóbal de Morales (c. 1500 – 1573). His Masses from 1544 appear in the oldest printed volume found in American archives. They were familiar to Luís Álvares Pinto, who cited them in his treatise Arte de Solfejar (The Art of Solfege). Other works by Morales were used as examples by Portuguese authors of treatises since the previous century.
From what remains in musical scores, the most intense production of the eighteenth century began with the discovery of gold in Minas Gerais at the end of the seventeenth century, resulting in the establishment of urban centers such as Vila Rica, now Ouro Preto, around 1740. In this realm flourished at least three generations of composers, called “mineiros” (N. T. from Minas Gerais), who until around 1830 maintained the tradition of composing for the religious festivities of the Irmandades Leigas (Secular Brotherhoods), brotherhoods of common men contracted for all services related to the “good performance of the religious functions.” These Brotherhoods were created to coordinate the musical activity of the region’s secular service, since monastic orders were prohibited from being established there to avoid supporting the smuggling and hiding of gold. The Brotherhoods competed for the greatness of their festivities by hiring the best musicians and composers, having specific music written for each festivity and brotherhood each year. Several names stand out among the composers in Minas Gerais over four generations, as shown in table 3. This organization by generations covers the period from the second half of the eighteenth century until the first decades of the nineteenth century stressing the composers whose works survive to this day in Brazilian archives, among them: Ignácio Parreiras Neves (c.1730 – 1794), José Joaquim Emerico Lobo de Mesquita (1747 – 1805), Franscisco Gomes da Rocha (1754 – 1808) and João de Deus de Castro Lobo (1794 – 1832). Intense production and circulation of music and musicians occurred in this region of the interior of Brazil, to where musicians from several regions of the country migrated, specially from Bahia, São Paulo, and Goiás e Rio de Janeiro. There are no known studies about the arrival of musicians from Portugal or other countries to work in Minas Gerias or about musicians from Minas Gerais who studied abroad, but it seems possible, and if not provable it is still quite plausible.
The existence of works by Portuguese, Italian, and Brazilian composers from other regions in the archives of Minas Gerais, mainly the ones collected by Curt Lange, prove that the composers from Minas Gerais had contact with the most recent “Italianizing” repertory of the time (see table 4). Davide Perez, José Joaquim dos Santos, João José Baldi, Antonio Leal Moreira and Marcos Portugal are the composers more frequently found if we compare the contents of four of the main Brazilian musical archives: Acervo Curt Lange/Casa do Pilar (Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais), Arquivo do Museu Carlos Gomes (Campinas, São Paulo), Acervo Musical do Cabido Metropolitano de São Paulo (São Paulo) and Acervo Musical do Cabido Metropolitano do Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro).
During the 1760s, the village called “Vila de São Paulo de Piratininga,” now São Paulo, had a population of a little over 2000 inhabitants. Its musical activity focused on the festivities of the See, as well as of the Chamber and the Opera House, and seems very similar to those of other important centers in the nearby province of Minas Gerais. However, there arose an interesting polemic regarding the practice of musical styles in São Paulo. Music in the Opera House was directed by Antonio Manso, a musician from Bahia who used modern music with instruments. At the See, Chapelmaster Matias Álvares Torres, eschewed instruments and practiced only canto de órgão even though the current musical taste was different. Manso began assuming the chapelmaster duties of Torres, who was in his seventies. In his book Música na Sé de São Paulo Colonial (Music in the Se of Colonial São Paulo) Régis Duprat quotes a letter from governor Morgado de Mateus, governor of São Paulo from 1765, stating:
... the people prefer to hear the music of Manso that seems to them more pleasant than the music provided by the chapelmaster of the See which lacks instruments. The Italian voices and elevated style of the Patriarchy [of Lisbon] and in Rome may earn admiration from all, but when performed by boys from the local territory, with no voice, no style, no knowledge of solfege, and without the help of instruments, it remains music that is unpleasant to hear (Duprat 1995).
Morgado de Mateus, defended Antonio Manso arguing that music in his style should be in the churches of São Paulo. His views conflict with those of the third bishop Dom Manuel da Ressurreição, who in 1774 brought a new chapelmaster for the See, with the purpose of returning a more serious style to the See. This chapelmaster was André da Silva Gomes (1752 – 1844), born in Lisbon and educated at the Seminary of the Patriarch, who had as one of his main masters the Portuguese contrapuntalist Jose Joaquim dos Santos. At age 21, Silva Gomes assumed the post of chapelmaster working intensely there until 1797, and continuing to compose occasionally until 1823 (the date of his last dated work). He remained in São Paulo until the end of his life and his works are the only eighteenth-century works from a chapelmaster conserved from in that region.
Paradoxically, despite the nomination of André da Silva Gomes to practice a more serious music style, similar to the stile antico, he also develops a large number of works in the stile concertato for voices and organ, every year adding more sophistication and virtuosity. This includes the addition of instruments to several important works such as the Missa for 8 voices with trumpets, violins and continuo and the Missa for 5 voices with string and wind parts. In this way, André da Silva Gomes can be considered another important example of the Italianate style that came to Brazil via Portugal. Silva Gomes literally carried in his baggage scores from the main composers of Lisbon and from the Patriarchal See.
Musical production in colonial Brazil reached its apex with the arrival of the Portuguese royal family and the entire court in Rio de Janeiro in 1808. Incidentally, this was a unique moment in Western history, where a colonial capital became the main metropolis of an empire from overseas. Rio de Janeiro underwent a real shock of urbanity and gradually became a capital modeled after the centers of Europe.
The main composer in the Royal Chapel was the Brazilian José Maurício Nunes Garcia (1767 – 1830), for whom the prince regent D. João, crowned D. João VI in 1817, had the highest esteem. In its most glorious days (from 1809 – 1816) the Royal Chapel employed more than 120 musicians and the singers and instrumentalists included Europeans and Brazilians, and even Italian castrati. José Maurício Nunes Garcia was one of the most significant composers in all of Brazilian music history and on the American continent. He worked alongside several important European composers, including the Portuguese composer Marcos Portugal as well as the Austrian composer Sigismund Neukomm.Unfortunately much of the “Maurician production,” as well as the repertory from the Brazilian northeast, was lost in various reorganizations of the archive of the Cabildo Metropolitano do Rio de Janeiro, mainly in the 1920s, when sizeable portions of the collection of musical compositions were destroyed as clutter.
The impoverishment of the musical archives of the C.M. [Cabido Metropolitano] is revolting. “Old clutter” was burned for being useless, or to make space. This accounts for the lack of Brazilian musical documentation, decomposed in fire and smoke, material received to communicate to the world the imaginative sparkle of the creative force of the priest J. M. [José Mauricio]. And it was precisely at the archives of the Metropolitan Chapel where the devastation was the most intense. (Mattos 1970: 383)
José Maurício's career is marked and divided by the arrival of the royal court in Rio de Janeiro in 1808. Brazilian musicologists like Mattos divide his production into two periods: from his first work in Tota Pulchra in 1783 until 1808, and his time in the Royal Chapel from 1808 until 1811, including the remainder of his work. One very important factor for the development of José Maurício’s new style was his work as archivist of the Royal Chapel, began in 1809 with the arrival of the archive of the Palace of Queluz. By means of study and daily contact with new scores composed by the major Italian and Portuguese masters, the composer was able to gather the most up to date influences and add them to his work.
Still in this year of intense activity in the Chapel, a new task was added to the laborious life of the priest José Maurício. This one arrived with the musical archive of the Palace of Queluz; to which the Chapelmaster was named Archivist… It is undeniable that the work as archivist was positive for the process of his artistic renewal. His language was enriched by the new techniques acquired from close contact with eclectic and up-to-date repertory. The scores brought him knowledge of new processes of creation, and served as a fountain of the new resources that he incorporated to his writing from this period forth. (Mattos 1987: 84-85)
However, modifications in José Maurício’s compositional style are not due exclusively to his access to the new works that arrived with the cited archive, but derived mainly from a need to write works for great vocal and instrumental apparatus, making use of the large number of well-prepared musicians that arrived in 1809 and 1810. His most important works were written after 1810. Bear in mind that in 1808 his works for the Royal Chapel of Rio de Janeiro were still being performed by the musicians who already worked for the See, before the arrival of the court and the Portuguese musicians who arrived with D. João.
Ensemble Types and Aspects of Performance Practice
The absence of the royal court in colonial Brazil and the extreme religiosity of the Portuguese state significantly affected the character of the Brazilian musical scene. Since there were no musical practices related to the royal court, such as chamber music, musical practices were restricted to two poles: church music and theater music. For these two closely connected practices, the specific situation defining which musicians could be hired in each location determined the language of the active composers. Instrumental solo or chamber music was rarely practiced as an end in itself, or as a significant means of expression, because most musical activities were focused on theatrical church music and to a lesser degree on theater per se via modest operatic activity. Lisbon was home to one of the most complete chapels of Europe (with Italian musicians and renowned castrati), but in Brazilian cities like the distant Vila Rica das Minas Gerais, musical ensembles were managed by religious associations apart from the chapel, such as the secular brotherhood “Irmandades Leigas.”
The remaining documentation regarding the formation of Brazilian music groups, mainly in the 18th century, can be divided in two basic and distinct cases plus a third special case:
- Musical groups in relatively small formations active in the churches of the province of Minas Gerais, most commonly in the festivities of the religious orders.
- Larger groups and polychoral ensembles in the cathedrals of Bahia, Recife, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Very little evidence is left from Bahia and Recife, apart from reports, mainly from the second half of the seventeenth century until the second half of the eighteenth century, that mentions these larger ensembles. However, the remainder of the documentation from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, exclusively centered in the activity of the chapel masters José Maurício Nunes Garcia (before the arrival of the Portuguese royal court in in Brazil in 1808) and André da Silva Gomes, shows modest groups similar to those found in the cities from Minas Gerias.
- Ensembles in the royal chapel of D. João VI in Rio de Janeiro, which had the most distinct musical activity of the Americas during the first half of the nineteenth century, since it was a chapel in the European format, not based on those in the Spanish vice-royalties.
The musical and financial resources available to José Maurício when he was composing for the See in Rio de Janeiro during the 1780s and 1790s, and even until the arrival of the royal court in 1808, were not much different than those of Emerico Lobo de Mesquita (1746? – 1805) in Vila Rica and André da Silva Gomes (1752 – 1844) in São Paulo. Their compositions were written for small vocal groups – often four voices – with boys in the soprano, simple melodic lines, economy of ornamentation and reduced instrumentation.
These characteristics can be determined by observing the vocal and instrumental parts, as well as the use of harmony and formation of the musical groups. The style of José Maurício until 1808, as well as the style of the composers from Minas Gerais, is characterized by homophonic and chordal writing for the choir. Polyphonic or imitative writing is virtually absent; vocal solos are not difficult and the soprano lines are set in the middle to low register.
A special case of extreme contrapuntal writing exists in the works of the chapelmaster of the See of São Paulo, André da Silva Gomes who, we shall remember, studied in the traditional seminary of the Patriarchal See in Lisbon. In the case of João de Deus de Castro Lobo (Vila Rica 1794 – 1831) we can find vocal fugatos and soloistic writing for violin, cello and flutes. José Maurício Nunes Garcia composed grand fugues “alla italiana” in mature works such as the Masses “da Conceição” (1810), “do Carmo” (1818) and “Santa Cecília” (1826), besides his Requiem Mass (1816) and his “Ofício de Defuntos” (1816), where he wrote fugues for the instruments that announce the entrances of the voices.
Among these three important composers from colonial Brazil, José Maurício is the only one whose creative possibilities were profoundly transformed after 1808. In São Paulo, André da Silva Gomes continued to develop the same style of composition and orchestration even after the arrival of the Portuguese court. Among the composers from Minas Gerais, we can see only circumstantial modifications in the next generation, as illustrated by the compositions of João de Deus de Castro Lobo (1794 – 1832) after 1815.
The most characteristic instrumental writing in Italy, Portugal and Brazil in the second half of the 18th century featured strings (with or without violas), pairs of horns (or trumpets, in alternation or as substitutes) and oboes (or flutes). The clarinet is found in the orchestras only after 1800 by José Maurício Nunes Garcia in Rio de Janeiro, and after 1815 in Minas Gerais, in cities such as São João Del Rey, where Francisco de Paula Miranda and Antonio dos Santos Cunha added them to their orchestrations. The clarinet is not found in the original instrumentation of the works of André da Silva Gomes after 1800 in the See in São Paulo or even in orchestral settings by João de Deus de Castro Lobo.
For José Maurício, the clarinet was the most frequently used instrument after the arrival of the Portuguese court in 1808. It acquired the role of obligato or even soloist in several works, characterizing his most mature composition phase. Several of José Maurício’s compositions can be considered concertos for clarinet obligato, choir and orchestra.
Two examples by important Brazilian composers of the eighteenth century might illustrate the independent relationship between voices and instruments in works of this period.
Figure 1 shows measures 6 to 8 of the Gradual para Domingo da Ressurreição by José Joaquim Emerico Lobo de Mesquita. (Ed. De Carlos Alberto Baltazar). In this example from Minas, in spite of the independent parts, the instruments double the vocal lines in a melody and accompaniment structure. There is also a responsorial scheme of question and answer where the questioning concerted vocal line is answered by the choir.
Figure 2 shows an excerpt from Salmo no. 2 of Vésperas das Dores de Nossa Senhora 1793. (Ed. by Ricardo Bernardes.) In this case the voice parts are consistently homophonic and the melodic interest lies in the orchestra. The writing for the orchestra is very independent from the choir. It is interesting that the harmonic function in the choir features slow moving chords, leaving the main melodic lines for the orchestra. This type of writing is characteristic of the works of José Maurício from his first work Tota Pulchra es Maria of 1783 until his last composition In Honorem Beatissimae, dated 1807. After 1808 his vocal writing starts to have more rhythmic movement, with fast syllabic divisions, in addition to an emerging vocal virtuosity.
Despite a lack of information regarding the tuning systems used in Portugal and in Brazil, Brito cites reports of several interesting occasions in which questions related to the pitch of the standard “A” used by the royal chapel of Lisbon in the mid-eighteenth century were discussed. Based on these reports, and on an analysis of the tuning of eighteenth-century natural trumpets found in the Museu dos Coches in Lisbon, Brito suggests that the standard “A” used in the king's orchestra should be higher the than the “A” at 445Hz used in Rome and Naples at the time.
A View of Brazilian Music Research on Italian and Portuguese Influences on Brazilian Repertoire.
As said before, Brazilian cultural life, especially when it comes to music, was directly influenced by the styles practiced in Lisbon and other important ecclesiastic and musical centers of Portugal. In practical terms, the same divisions applied to music produced in Italy and Portugal in this period could be applied to Brazil. However, the sacred Italian and Portuguese repertory of the eighteenth century is quite unknown.
The Portuguese repertoire of the second half of the eighteenth century has not been the focus of modern editions or analytic studies, although practical transcriptions have been realized. These transcriptions enabled the performance and recording of a few operas of Sousa Carvalho and Jerónimo Franscisco de Lima and a few scores of sacred music from the same era. Therefore, it is not possible to trace a stylistic profile of this repertoire, and even less possible to characterize individually each of the main composers of this repertoire (Nery 1991:105).
This interpretation of the facts and influences may sound obvious to modern audiences, however during the first decades of musical research in Brazil, researchers did not established this parallel, and they even refused to accept the possibility. The nationalist mindset present in Brazilian musical research for part of the twentieth century wanted to believe that José Maurício Nunes Garcia, or even the composers from Minas Gerais, resulted from a spontaneous generation of innate genius, characteristic of the celebrated self-taught Brazilian character. Much has been said about José Maurício being completely self-taught or maybe having learned from a composer from Minas Gerais, but never from a Portuguese composer such as Marcos Portugal. Any possible influence of Marcos Portugal, when impossible to be denied, was considered a nefarious and decadent influence of a composer without inspiration favored by the colonizer. There were attempts with no success to find an Afro-Brazilian trace in this repertory in European language produced by mulatto musicians in order to justify its acceptance in the national patrimony.
Such behavior concerning the relationship of Brazilian and Portguese repertoire caused a certain estrangement with music historians in Hispanic American countries. In countries like Mexico and Peru, for instance, it is commonly accepted that Spanish and Italian composers were part of the musical activity of the vice-reigns. Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla (1590-1664), born in the Spanish city of Málaga, is recognized as one of the most important composers from Mexico in the seventeenth century, for his work in the cathedrals of Mexico City and Puebla. The same can be said about the Milanese Roque Cerutti (1683-1760) in Lima and the Napolitano Domenico Zipoli (1688 – 1726) in the Jesuit missions in the Guarani territory, now part of Paraguay, Bolívia, Argentina and Brazil. For comparison's sake, the composer André da Silva Gomes, who was born in Lisbon and studied music in the seminary of the Patriarch didn't have the same fortune. Gomes is considered a Portuguese composer and was seen as secondary when compared to composers born in Brazil, such as the ones active in Minas Gerais, even though Gomes lived in São Paulo from the age of 21 to 94.
Some researchers, such as the Visconde de Taunay, at the end of the nineteenth century, were interested in the music produced during the period from 1808-1821 when the royal court of D. João VI was established in Rio de Janeiro, especially regarding the recuperation of the works of José Maurício Nunes Garcia. Their considerations of potential influences focused on Mozart, Haydn, or even J.S. Bach and influences from Italy or Portugal were viewed as nefarious and decadent (Taunay: 1930). Such ideas still persist in the Brazilian musical subconscious, often making unbiased stylistic research difficult.
In the 1940s, Francisco Curt Lange was one of the first researchers to realize a systematic collection of musical manuscripts in the state of Minas Gerais. He wrote studies that traced parallels between the visual arts, comparing painting, sculpture, and the architecture of the churches of Minas Gerais in the 1700s, with the music of the region. Following the German musicological practice of the time, Curt Lange tried to observe and critique Brazilian production from the perspective of German production, also pointing to composers such as Bach, Mozart or Haydn as possible direct models. He mentions the name of Pergolesi, who was researched during this period but was known almost exclusively for his Stabat Mater. However, there are no references in Lange’s texts that suggest the possible influence of Italian or Portuguese schools.
Even though it may seem absurd, this kind of study has not been developed in Brazil, in part, because of competition among musicologists who preserve manuscripts in private collections, hiding works from other researchers with the hope of presenting them as new and magnificent discoveries. This competitiveness created another problem: competition among investigators who claim that their object of research is more valuable than that of other researchers. If the past era was one of real discovery, of finding musical manuscripts, creating the first archives, cataloging, organizing and writing biographies based on limited information, the present time may be the moment to try to construct a context for this music and these composers. This contextualization might include organization by generations of composers, by musical styles, noting specific chronological and regional characteristics, and as I suggest in this essay, by stylistic origins.