Mignone, Francisco (1897–1986)

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Mignone, Francisco (1897–1986)

Francisco Mignone (b. 3 September 1897; d. 19 February 1986), Brazilian pianist, composer, conductor, and leading figure in the nationalist movement in music. Son of an Italian immigrant musician, he studied piano and flute with his father. At an early age he played both instruments in local dance orchestras and demonstrated an amazing facility for improvisation and the ability to absorb the various styles of popular music. His first compositions date from the year 1917 and display a romantic improvisational style as well as an interest in national subjects. In 1920 Mignone received a scholarship for European study from the São Paulo Committee of Artistic Grants and left Brazil in August to study composition at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory in Milan, Italy. Most of his teachers had received their musical training in France (Vincenzo Ferroni, his composition teacher, had been a pupil of Massenet). Following the completion of his formal studies in 1922, Mignone stayed for several years in Europe, occasionally conducting, presenting programs of his own works, and studying opera repertoire. His first opera, L'innocente, received its premiere in Brazil in 1928, shortly after Mignone's return to his native country. A review of the performance by Mário de Andrade, leader of the nationalist movement, praised the musical qualities of the work while at the same time challenging Mignone to reconsider his position and abilities as a national composer. Mignone accepted the challenge and embarked on a serious period of writing works on national subjects and works based on urban musical ideas.

The period from 1929 to 1959, his most productive period of composition, revealed an intense interest in folk and popular traditions. Mignone's facile pen, improvisational facility, and keyboard skills have produced a large number of works of uneven quality. His compositional style is perhaps best described by Luiz Heitor Correa de Azevedo, who wrote: "His [Mignone's] is a singular spirit, practical and shrewd, capable of perceiving and adapting itself to the more subtle variations of popular taste. The enormous musical facility he possesses gives to all his works a quality of improvisation which takes its path through many diverse positions" (Música e músicos, p. 301).

In works such as his Festa das igrejas (1940), Mignone demonstrates a brilliance and originality of conception which have charmed audiences in Brazil, Europe, and the United States. His twelve Valsas de esquina (Street-corner Waltzes) give the listener sophisticated moments of sounds of bygone days in Rio de Janeiro when popular musicians roamed the streets in night-long revelries. His four Fantasias brasileiras represent some of his best writing. Although Mignone had a lifelong attraction to opera, he is at his best in short piano works. A great admirer of Heitor Villa-Lobos, he wrote Sexta missa, a mass honoring the eightieth anniversary of the birth of Villa-Lobos in 1967. Mignone is remembered by his colleagues and friends for his gracious spirit of generosity.

See alsoMusic: Art Music .


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

Luíz Heitor Correa De Azevedo, Música e músicos do Brasil (1950).

Marion Verhaalen, "The Solo Piano Music of Francisco Mignone and Camargo Guarnieri" (Ed.D. diss., Columbia Univ., 1971).

Additional Bibliography

Capparelli, Cristina. Três estudos analíticos: Villa-Lobos, Mignone e Camargo Guarnieri. Porto Alegre, Brazil: Programa de Pós-Graduação em Música, UFRGS, 2000.

Mariz, Vasco. Francisco Mignone: O homem e a obra. Rio de Janeiro: Ministério da Cultura, Funarte: EDUERJ, 1997.

                              David P. Appleby

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