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Serenata: Brazil Before the Samba


Serenata – Brazilian Music For Chamber Orchestra—English Chamber Orchestra/Neil Thomson (Naxos 574405)

2022 marked the Bicentennial of Brazil’s independence and this album is part of a series on Naxos developed in collaboration with the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Last year, WCLV featured music by composer/king Dom Pedro I, who signed Brazil’s version of the Declaration of Independence in 1822. This is Brazil before the samba. Brazilian composers in the 19th century often sought state scholarships to enable them to study in Europe, so it’s not surprising that what we think of as ‘Brazilian music’ is in short supply in these works from 1893-1902. The European vogue for writing suites based on ancient dances is reflected here in pieces by Alberto Nepomuceno and Leopoldo Miguez. In fact, Nepomuceno’s delightful Suite Antiga had its first performance at the home of Edvard Grieg! Pieces like Francisco Braga’s Madrigal-Pavana evoke the belle époque ballrooms of Rio de Janeiro. Leopoldo Miguéz’s Suite in the Old Style is polyphonic and lively, while Carlos Gomes, known for his operas, is represented by the Sonata for Strings, his finest instrumental work.