The musical world of Brazil at the beginning of the 20th century was a complex one. The influence of European trends in the arts, particularly those related to Portugal, was extremely strong. But the Portuguese influence was just another wave among several which affected Brazilian music tradition, which centers around music of indigenous peoples and of African slaves. Together, these sounds formed a synthesis that gave rise to the complex and emotionally moving Brazilian music of today.

 

Around the turn of the 20th century, Brazil’s political scene was in an uproar. Slavery had been abolished, but much social unrest lingered. Having won its independence from Portugal in 1822, Brazil eventually declared itself a republic in 1889. This tumultuous period of social upheaval set the scene for a particularly dynamic period in the arts, including a stronger assertion of a new, uniquely Brazilian national identity; music was no exception to the wave of change.

 

European dance forms such as the waltz, the schottische, and the polka were all folded into a distinctive mélange of music performed within the nineteenth century salons of Rio de Janeiro. Local Brazilian musicians experimented at length with these European forms and melodic ideas, shifting articulations and accents to more closely mirror the more syncopated sounds of their own music traditions.

 

The composers featured on this disc are Joachim Antonio da Silva Callado (a flutist and composer and Brazilian native who is considered the father of all choroes, or musicians who play Brazilian traditional choro music --- choro meaning “to cry”); Mathieu-Andre Reichert (a Belgian flutist and composer who was born in Brussels but spent much of his life in Rio de Janeiro, introduced the Boehm-system flute to Brazil, and whose compositions were particular favorites in 19th-century Rio’s salons); and Pattapio Silva, who came from very humble origins but rose to surprising heights by local social standards of the time. Silva's stunning flute technique propelled him to become one of the most prominent figures amongst Brazilian flutists, despite his untimely death at the age of only 26.

 

French piccoloist and flutist Jean-Louis Beaumadier attended Marseilles Conservatory and the Conservatoire National de Musique de Paris, studying first with Joseph Rampal and then Jean-Pierre Rampal. He became particularly fond of wooden flutes and piccolos as a young child after his family bought him a beautiful ebony piccolo. He was a piccolo soloist for the Orchestre National de France for twelve years, and has collaborated with conductors Karl Bohm, Leonard Bernstein, Lorin Maazel, and Seiji Ozawa, among others, over several decades.

 

Beaumadier’s performances on this disc are smooth and lyrical, even during extended passages of strongly articulated arpeggios and broad melodic leaps which could easily defeat lesser players to the point of a mechanical, choppy sound.  Better still, passages with a soaring, smooth melodic line come off sounding like a feather floating in the air, even in the notoriously difficult high third register. The piccolo all too rarely attains a “mellow” sound, but not so in Beaumadier’s hands.

 

Pianist Maria Jose Carrasquiera has spent her career not only in pursuit of overall musical excellence as a soloist and an accompanist, but also the promotion of the culture of her native Brazil.  A recipient of a Doctorate of Arts from Sao Paulo University and a musicologist in addition to her work as a performer, she contributed to a biography of Pattapio Silva (one of the disc’s featured composers).  She also a co-author of the volume The Best of Pixinguinha. The name Pixinguinha 

refers to the popular nickname of composer Alfredo da Rocha Viana Filho, a choro composer, arranger, flutist, and saxophonist born in Rio de Janeio. Embracing the legacy of chorocomposers of the 19th century and of the Afro-Brazilian tradition, Pixinguinha produced the most important 

choro works of all time during his life, which spanned much of the 20th century.

 

Bresil 1900 paints a vivid picture of the glorious cultural collision that is so central to modern Brazil’s identity. In the bargain, the accomplished technique and obvious reverence that Beaumadier and Carrasquiera bring to the material make Bresil 1900 a worthy addition to any flutist’s collection.

Bresil 1900

Jean-Louis Beaumadier, piccolo

Maria Jose Carrasqueira, piano

Scarbo Records, 2009

 

Greater Boston Flute Association

Gazette, 2009