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8.223556 - VELASQUEZ: Piano Works

Glauco Velasquez (1884 -1914)

Glauco Velasquez (1884-1914)


The life and work of Glauco Velasquez bear witness to an exceptional personality. His sad life-story, full of events worthy of a novel, seems to be drawn from the work of some fin-de-siècle writer. His music, when placed by the side of that of his conternporaries in Brazil, is distinguished by its notable originality.


Glauco Velasquez had two biographies, one official, in his life-time, and never wholly convincing, and the true life-story, that he himself never knew. His official biography, as given in various works on the history of music in Brazil, states that he was born in Naples, the son of a Spanish father, José Velasquez, and a Brazilian mother, Adélia Velasquez. Having lost both parents at an early age, he was brought up by a Protestant pastor, or some say a painter. Later, however, when he was brought to Brazil, he was adopted by the family Alambary Luz, from the high society of Rio de Janeiro. According to recent researches, he was, in fact, born in Naples, on 23rd March 1884. His father was a well enough known figure in musical circles in Rio de Janeiro, the Portuguese baritone Eduardo Medina Ribas. His mother was the young single woman Adelina Alambary Luz, who, because of her single state, found it necessary to take refuge in Italy when she became pregnant. There the boy studied in the Evangelical Methodist School in Naples and was taken to Brazil in 1896, going to live on the idyllic island of Paquetá, in the bay of Guanabara, adopted by his real mother, who never told her son of the true situation.


Glauco Velasquez spent all his short life thereafter in Rio de Janeiro. From 1898 he attended the Instituto Nacional de Música, where he was a pupil of Frederico Nascimento and Francisco Braga. Precocious, he aroused the enthusiasm of his teachers and was often excused examinations. His first public appearance as a composer in 1911 awakened the interest of critics and of the audience. Later, during his war-time residence in Brazil, the composer Darius Milhaud became enthusiastic about his work, to the point of completing his third piano trio and taking some of his scores to Europe with him on his return. With the creation of the Glauco Velasquez Society Luciano Gallet kept his name alive in the years between 1914 and 1918, even if only for a short time. Velasquez died of tuberculosis on 21st June 1914 at the age of thirty.


Between 1903 and 1913 Velasquez wrote more than a hundred works, testimony to his remarkable creative talent. It must be admitted that some of these are only exercises in certain compositional forms and that most are short enough. The list of his works is rich in songs, some forty of them. Second are sonatas for violin and for cello and piano, of which there are more than thirty examples. In addition to this there are some pieces for organ, for chorus and for string quartet, with four piano trios, considered by the few who have examined them to be the summit of his achievement.


Within this over-all picture, the works for piano represent about a fifth of the whole oeuvre of Glauco Velasquez and were written between 1905 and 1911. He seemed content to write short divertimenti, dances and preludes for the piano, generally in a spirit that only rarely goes beyond the character of an "album-leaf" in the taste of the day. The influences that these pieces display are various, including Wagnerian chromaticism and a clarity of writing derived from France. These are transformed through the particular character of the composer, who succeeded in imprinting the mark of his originality on his work. The most notable characteristics of these works are refinement of writing, with many nuances, richness of harmony which occasionally brings surprises and a formal asymmetry that in certain cases shows courage in its attempt to conquer new areas of expression.


The first pieces that Velasquez wrote, the two album-leaves of 1905, Prelúdio e Divertimento, Valsa lenta and the Suite No. 1, are true heirs of the spirit of romanticism, to which he always remained bound. The compositions of the two years immediately following, Reverie e Impromptu of 1906 and the Prelúdio of 1908, reveal greater diversity of invention, with a certain exoticism, found in the Canzone Strana of 1907. The highest point of his achievement as a composer for piano comes in 1910 with his Brutto Sogno (Pesadelo), which shows some of the more radical harmonic procedures of the composer. Other new elements are dynamics which go from ppp to fff, changes of tempo, which vary from lento to molto agitato and a range that explores the entire length of the keyboard. The expressionist climate that stems from the juxtaposition of these strong contrasts brings these pieces near contemporary practices in music in Europe. The works that follow, Melancolia, Valsa romântica, Minuetto e Gavotte Moderni and Prelúdio e Scherzo, all written in 1910, and Devaneio, written in 1911, show various new stages of a development sadly interrupted.


J. Jota de Moraes (English version by Keith Anderson)


I have lived with the work of Glauco Velasquez since 1975, when it was first brought to my attention by the music critic J. Jota de Moraes. His manuscripts, contemporary copies and rare editions were found in the music section of the National Library in Rio de Janeiro, where I live, and the director of this library, Sra. Mercedes Reis Pequeno, lent me most valuable assistance in my researches. A part of this material was recorded on two discs, one on the London label in 1977 and the other for Philips in 1984. Bearing in mind that very little of this material has been recorded, it seems fitting to record now all the piano works of Velasquez, a composer little known, even in Brazil.


I continue in the rediscovery of Glauco Velasquez in a labour at the same time solitary and fascinating. The original artistic project seems to me every time more attractive, as I study again his scores. Among the first piano pieces of 1905 are some that appear mere exercises in composition by a brilliant and correct student. There is a surprising leap forward in 1906, when he appears already a mature composer of great originality. The melancholy lyricism of certain pieces, the grand dramatic force of others and the constant excitement of his writing seem to me to be the more salient marks of a composer who, in his time, was the most talented in the music of Brazil.


Clara Sverner (English version by Keith Anderson)


Clara Sverner


Clara Sverner was born in São Paolo, where she studied with José Kliass. In 1953 she won the Wilhelm Backhaus Competition and in the following year appeared as a soloist in the first performances in Brazil of Khachaturian's Piano Concerto. Further study in New York under Leonard Shure was followed by an active international concert career and to her dedication to the performance of neglected examples of earlier Brazilian music, as well as to a broad international repertoire that includes the contemporary.

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