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García, José Maurício Nunes (1767–1830)

García, José Maurício Nunes (1767–1830)

José Maurício Nunes García (b. 20/22 September 1767; d. 18 April 1830), the most notable Brazilian composer of the early nineteenth century. Son of Lieutenant Apolinário Nunes García and Victoria Maria de Cruz, a black woman, José Maurício (as he is called in Brazil) learned to play the harpsichord and viola and studied solfeggio with Salvador José, a local teacher. Religious brotherhoods played a significant cultural role in nineteenth-century Brazilian society, and in 1784 José Maurício was one of the founders of the Brotherhood of St. Cecilia. Having entered the Brotherhood of São Pedro dos Clérigos in 1791, he was ordained a priest the following year on 3 March. In July 1798 José Maurício was appointed to the most important musical position in the city, mestre de capela of the cathedral of Rio de Janeiro, where his duties consisted of serving as organist, conductor, composer, and music teacher. For twenty-eight years he taught a music course that was open to the public free of charge, in which he trained some of the most important composers and musicians of the following generation, including Francisco Manuel da Silva, composer of the Brazilian national anthem.

The arrival of dom João VI in Rio de Janeiro in 1808 had a decisive influence on the professional career of Padre José Maurício. A member of the Bragança family, which had a remarkable history of musical patronage, dom João was soon informed of José Maurício's talents and appointed him on 15 June 1808 mestre de capela of the royal chapel, where his official duties included acting as organist, conductor, and professor of music. He also composed music for numerous official occasions, thirty-nine musical works in 1809, a year in which dom João decorated him with the Order of Christ.

In 1811 Marcos Portugal, the best-known Portuguese composer of his day, arrived in Rio and was appointed mestre de capela of the royal chapel, for practical purposes replacing José Maurício. Thereafter, José Maurício's standing in the royal musical establishment declined. However, his best-known and most significant work, a requiem mass, was written in 1816 after the death of Queen Maria. On 19 December 1819 José Maurício conducted the first performance of the Mozart Requiem in Brazil.

Accustomed to music composed and performed by Europe's best musicians, dom João was amazed at the abilities of the relatively unknown, native-born mulatto. In a period when musical excellence was judged by adherence to European styles, José Maurício, a devoted admirer of Haydn, made no attempt to deviate from European models.

After dom Pedro I returned to Portugal in 1831, many of his splendid musical reforms languished from lack of funds. José Maurício's lifelong pension was discontinued, leaving him in difficult financial circumstances until his death in 1830.

See alsoMusic: Art Music; Silva, Francisco Manuel de.


Cleofe Person De Mattos, Catálogo temático das obras do Padre José Maurício Nunes Garcia (1970).

Stanley Sadie, ed., The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1980).

David P. Appleby, The Music of Brazil (1983).

Mauro Gama, José Maurício, o padre-compositor (1983), Portuguese and English text.

Additional Bibliography

Mattos, Cleofe Person de. José Maurício Nunes Garcia: biografia. Rio de Janeiro: Ministério da Cultura, Fundação Biblioteca Nacional, Dept. Nacional do Livro, 1997.

                                      David P. Appleby

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