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Edson Beltrami José Brandão Francisco Mignone
Alberto Nepomuceno Fernando Oliveira Henrique Oswald
Alexandre Travassos Heitor Villa-Lobos
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Chamber Music in Brazil.


Followers of musical movements in Brazil that take note of even small happenings in the world of chamber music tend to believe that not much has been done in the past, in the sense of implanting among us the taste for the strictest style of music. Still, more than sixty years ago in the last decade of the Empire, Kinsman Benjamin, an illustrious amateur founded the “Beethoven Club” in Rio de Janeiro, and its permanent quartet was the first to bring the classic and romantic repertoire to its members. The missionary fervor of these pioneers can be measured by their rule, etched-in-stone, against the membership of the disturbing feminine gender...a short-lived rule, as we see. This Club lasted seven years, held 136 chamber music concerts (averaging almost twenty per year), and ceased to exist along with the [Brazilian] Monarchy. The same period was the “Society of Classical Concerts,” planned by [José] White, a Cuban violinist and favorite of Princess Isabel, who led his own quartet and doubled as conductor of symphonic concerts. The orchestra attracted the public at large, but the chamber music concerts had a membership recruited from among the elite of the times.

Coinciding with these initiatives in the capital [Rio de Janeiro], under the leadership of Alexander Levy, whose activities also revolved around a string quartet, the “Haydn Club” was started in São Paulo. It disappeared after four fruitful years, although the “Paulistano Quartet Society” appeared with a similar fate. Aristocratic art seems to have gone into exile along with the beginning of the Republic. Years went by before there was anyone to imitate the noble examples of Benjamin, White and Levy. Finally, in 1912, Chiaffiteli re establishes this modest tradition with his “Chamber Music Concert Society.” In addition there was the “Cultural Music Society,” which disappeared prematurely.

Two groups became famous for a series of trio performances (piano, violin and cello), the Barrozo Netto, Milano, Alfredo Gomes Trio and the Brazilian Trio (Maria Amélia Rezende Martins, Paulina d’Ambrosio, Alfredo Gomes). Two societies were recently founded, the “Quartet Society” and the “Chamber Music Society,” both of which give monthly concerts. The first is made up of the Jacobine Quartet, and the second of the Borgerth Quartet with the collaboration of a wind instrument quintet. In São Paulo the Municipal Department of Culture maintains a trio and a quartet.

A new group, the Rio de Janeiro Quartet, organized by Anselmo Zlatopolsky, ex first violin of the São Paulo Quartet, this year [1946] presented a series of Pan-American music organized by the Interamerican Institute of Musicology in collaboration with the National School of Music and the Embassy of the United States of America.

In spite of the lack of chamber groups and their societies that one sees in Brazil, Brazilian composers have worked for many years to supply interested parties with a good selection of works.

Excerpted from Arnaldo Estrela, "Música de câmara no Brasil," published in volume six of the Latin American Music Bulletin (Boletín latinoamericano de música, April 1946). Translation by John L. Walker.


For more information about the music of this country, including links to conservatories, university music departments and other institutes and organizations, please see our country resource page for Brazil.

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