About this Recording
8.223548 - NEPOMUCENO: Piano Works

Alberto Nepornuceno occupies an important position as a pioneer of Brazilian music

Alberto Nepomuceno (1864-1920)

Suite antiga, Op. 11



Air Rigaudon


Nocturne No. 1 in Major (for the left hand)

Improviso, Op. 27, No. 2

Sonata in F Minor, Op. 9

Allegro con fucco

Andante espressivo

Allegro con spirito


Nocturne No. 2 in G Major (for the left hand)


Nocturne, Op. 33


Galhofeira, Op. 13, No. 4


Cinco prequenas peças (for the left hand)







Alberto Nepomuceno occupies an important position as a pioneer of Brazilian music. Born in Fortaleza in 1864, the son of a violinist, teacher and organist at the Cathedral in Fortaleza, and a mother, Maria de Oliveira Paira, who was the daughter of a distinguished Brazilian writer, he moved with his family to Recife in 1872 and there continued music lessons with his father, until the latter's death in 1880. He took lessons in harmony from Euclides Fonseca and by 1882 was able to direct concerts for the Recife Club Carlos Gomes. The following year found him serving as a violinist in performances of Fonseca's opera Leonor at the Teatro Santa Isabel and active in the cause of republicanism. These last activities he continued on his return to his native district of Ceará in 1884. By 1885 he was in Rio de Janeiro, appearing as a pianist for the Club Beethoven and touring with the cellist Frederico Nascimento and the next year assuming duties as a teacher for the Club and studying harmony with Miguel Cardoso. In spite of his republican sympathies, he was invited to the Imperial Palace by Princess Isabel, an official recognition of his abilities.


The first compositions of Nepomuceno appeared in 1887 with his Opus 1 Mazurca for cello and piano, a song, two piano pieces and a Marcha fúnebre for orchestra. The next year he played his Dança de negros at the Club Iracerna in Fortaleza and toured the region with Nascimento. In August he left for Europe, studying in Rome at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia. An official award allowed him to remain in Europe, meeting Brahms and Hans von Bülow, the Norwegian Walborg Bang, a pupil of Grieg, his future wife, and finally Grieg himself. In 1892 he had entered the Stern Conservatory in Berlin, graduating two years later. In Berlin his Scherzo für grosses Orchestrer and Suite antiga were performed and a period spent in Paris allowed him to meet Saint-Saëns, Bordes and d'Indy and to study the organ with Alexandre Guilmant. His marriage in Cristiania (Oslo) in 1893 brought a close relationship with Grieg.


In 1895 Nepomuceno returned to Rio de Janeiro as teacher of the organ at the Instituto Nacional de Música. Invited to start a conservatory in Recife, he declined, remaining in Rio to direct the concerts of the Associação das Concertos Populares and to teach composition at the Instituto and to promulgate his musical nationalism, not least in his controversial use of the vernacular in vocal works, summed up in his own words: Não tem pátria um povo que não canta em sua lingua. Further compositions followed, including the operas Artemis and Abul, the first of which he discussed staging in Vienna, during a meeting in Vienna with Mahler in 1900. During the following years his work for the Instituto Nacional continued, with a gap between 1903 and 1906, when he relinquished the position of Director. In 1910 he was sent to Europe to conduct performances of Brazilian music, including his own compositions at the Brussels Fair and in Geneva and Paris. In Brazil once more he solicited a scholarship for the gifted young Glauco Velasquez, celebrated the Wagner centenary in 1913 and had his opera Abul staged at the Teatro Constanzi in Rome. In 1916 he resigned definitively from the Instituto Nacional, devoting his final years to composition and the direction of concerts in which he was able to introduce, among other examples of newer music, the Cello Concerto of the young Villa-Lobos, for whom he arranged publication in Brazil. He died in 1920 at the age of 56.


Nepomuceno's Súite antiga was written in 1893 and published at the insistence of Grieg by his own publishers. The four movements of the suite, neo-classical in form, are perfect examples of the genre. The two Nocturnes for the left hand were written for Nepomuceno's daughter Sigrid, who was born without a right arm. Both were played by Sigrid Nepomuceno at a concert in Rio in 1919. The Improviso, Opus 27, No. 2, written in 1904, was first performed by the composer in 1905 at the Club dos Diarios in Rio. In style it suggests the influence of Schumann, a composer he much admired.


Nepomuceno's Sonata in F minor, Opus 9, is the first such work by a Brazilian composer, its three movements suggesting at times the style of Brahms, a reminder that he had studied in Berlin with Brahms's friend Herzogenberg. Composed in 1893, the sonata was first performed in Rio at the Instituto Nacional by the composer in August 1895. The Nocturne, Opus 33, was written in 1907 and first performed by the Portuguese pianist and composer Vianna da Motta at the Berlin Beethovensaal in January 1913. Galhofeira is the fourth of Nepomuceno's Quatro peças líricas (Four Lyric Pieces) of 1894 and is derived from the street music of Rio. It was first performed by the composer at the Instituto Nacional in Rio in 1895, in the recital that included the first performance of the F minor Sonata.


The Cinco pequenas peças (Five Little Pieces) of 1906, for the left hand, were again written for Nepomuceno's daughter Sigrid and are partly didactic in intention. Here the opening Barcarola is followed by Melodia, Dança, a playful Brincando and a final Polca. The pieces were first performed by Sigrid Nepomuceno in August 1907 at the Auditório Colegio Sion in Petrópolis.


Maria Inês Guimarães


The Brazilian pianist Maria Inês Guimarães started her study of the piano at the music school of her native town of Uberaba, in Minas Gerais, later continuing lessons with Eudoxia de Barros and Magdalena Tagliaferro. Between 1976 and 1985 she won a number of prizes in national competitions and enjoyed a career as a soloist, recitalist and chamber music performer throughout Brazil. In 1987 and 1988 she was in charge of the Brazilian Music Centre in the city of Campinas, near São Paulo, in the latter year moving to France, where she has undertaken further piano study, while embarking on research at the Sorbonne for a doctorate in musicology.

Close the window