Nepomuceno, Alberto (1865–1920)

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Nepomuceno, Alberto (1865–1920)

Alberto Nepomuceno (b. 6 July 1865; d. 16 October 1920), Brazilian composer and conductor, the "Father of Brazilian music." In an era in which the most important Brazilian music critic, Oscar Guanabarino, championed the Italian language as the language of art songs, Nepomuceno frequently stated that "a people who do not sing in their own language have no native land." In spite of fierce resistance from Guanabarino and other critics, Nepomuceno wrote arts songs in Portuguese now recognized as some of the finest works of the genre. Nepomuceno's wide range of musical activities were not confined to championing works by Brazilian composers. He helped Heitor Villa-Lobos, a young and very controversial composer at the time, get his works published by Sampaio Araújo, a Brazilian publisher, but he also conducted the first Brazilian performance of Debussy's Prélude à l'a près-midi d'un faune; he not only arranged to have Arnold Schoenberg's Harmonielehre translated into Portuguese but also had it adopted at the National Institute of Music, in spite of the fierce resistance of members of the faculty and critics. One of Nepomuceno's most significant contributions in providing Brazilian musicians with a historical sense of their heritage was his revival of the works of Padre José Maurício Nunes Garcia, the most important Brazilian composer of the early nineteenth century. Nepomuceno's contributions as a composer included several operas; string quartets and chamber music; instrumental, vocal, and piano music. His orchestral composition Série brasileira greatly offended Brazilian critics by utilizing the reco-reco, a percussion instrument commonly employed only in popular music. The incorporation of rhythmic patterns previously used only by salon composers was, moreover, an important element in the emerging nationalist music.

See alsoGarcía, José Maurício Nunes; Music: Art Music; Villa-Lobos, Heitor.


Marcos Antônio Marcondes, ed., Enciclopédia da música brasileira, vol. 1 (1977).

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

Additional Bibliography

Martins, Floriano. Alberto Nepomuceno. Fortaleza: Edições Demócrito Rocha, 2000.

                                       David P. Appleby