LEOPOLDO MIGUEZ (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 twenty-one, 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 Conversatoire 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.