:: These reviews were originally published
:: in Daniella Thompson on Brazil.


Pixinguinha, Nazareth
& the Nau Catarineta

Brought to you by
Alcofra & Company,

Daniella Thompson

2 April 2003

Água de Moringa

Conservator: custodian, guardian, keeper.
Music schools are called conservatories not because they are bastions of conservatism but because conservatorio used to be the Neapolitan word for orphanage—a place where tender young foundlings (much like tender young plants in a hothouse) were nurtured and also received music instruction.

Coincidence notwithstanding, music and conservation go hand in hand whenever a new recording is made of little-known material or when an established tune receives a new arrangement. If a Conservator of the Year award were to be handed out to a musician, guitarist Luiz Flavio Alcofra would surely qualify for it on the strength of three discs he and his colleagues released in 2002.

With the choro group Água de Moringa, Alcofra recorded previously unpublished Pixinguinha tunes in As Inéditas de Pixinguinha. With clarinetist Lena Verani, he created new arrangements for Ernesto Nazareth’s compositions in Confidências. With the early-music group Terra Brasilis, he released folkloric songs of centuries past in Terra Sonora Brasilis. An impressive body of work by any measure. I asked Alcofra to relate how the three discs came about. On the Pixinguinha disc, he said:

In 1997, Sony Music Publishing (which is independent from the record company) bought 40 Pixinguinha music scores from his family. The company invited Jayme [Vignoli, of Água de Moringa] and me to go through those scores to make sure that they were really composed by Pixinguinha. Some of the compositions were incomplete, while others turned out to be famous Pixinguinha tunes with different titles. There were also arrangements by Pixinguinha for other composers’ work (e.g., “Cabeça de Porco” by Anacleto de Medeiros). At last we selected 28 tunes that we judged to be genuine Pixinguinhas—their scores were signed, and they displayed his compositional style. Sony Music Publishing bought only those 28 scores. In its contract with Pixinguinha’s family, Sony was under obligation to record a CD of these tunes with an established choro ensemble, so they invited Água de Moringa to produce it. Our task included arranging (most of the scores consisted of melody only), playing, recording, and studio direction. We completed the CD at the beginning of 2000, but owing to internal politics at Sony, the disc wasn’t released until 2002.

First recording of “No Terreiro de Alibibi”

Despite early fears that tunes left to languish in the composer’s drawer might not have measured up to his best output in his eyes, As Inéditas de Pixinguinha is a shiny string of pearls, interlacing a joyous maxixe (“Viva João da Baiana,” dedicated to the composer’s bosom friend and lifelong companion) with lyrical waltzes (“Valsa Triste” and “Os Que Sofrem”), a polka (“Eu Te Quero”), and even a baião (“Vamos Lá”).

There are three lundus africanos, all with lyrics by Gastão Vianna, who also penned “Yaô” and “Bengelê.” “Kalú” is sung by Martinho da Vila, “Maria Conga” by Monarco, and “No Terreiro de Alibibi” by Nei Lopes. “Alibibi,” curiously enough, had already been recorded in 1932 by J.B. de Carvalho’s Conjunto Tupy, but with no mention of Pixinguinha as composer. The choro “Dengo Dengo” also has a history, in as much as it quotes a 1913 polka of the same title, a carnaval hit composed by Emília Duque Estrada Farias.

As Inéditas de Pixinguinha is a miniature portrait of the giant composer, accurately mirroring his personas: chorão, macumbeiro, festeiro.

Água de Moringa: As Inéditas de Pixinguinha
(Sony Clássicos Brasileiros 2-502762; 2002) 36:38 min.

01. Viva João da Baiana (Pixinguinha)
02. Machuca Mané (Pixinguinha)
03. Valsa Triste (Pixinguinha)
04. No Terreiro de Alibibi (Pixinguinha/Gastão Vianna)—Nei Lopes
05. Eu Te Quero (Pixinguinha)
06. Dengo Dengo (Pixinguinha)
07. Espere um Pouco (Pixinguinha)
08. Os Que Sofrem (Pixinguinha)
09. Kalú (Pixinguinha/Gastão Vianna)—Martinho da Vila
10. Vamos Lá (Pixinguinha)
11. Valsa Teu Nome (Pixinguinha)
12. Meu Sabiá (Pixinguinha)
13. Maria Conga (Pixinguinha/Gastão Vianna)—Monarco

Rui Alvim (clarinet & bass clarinet)
Marcílio Lopes (bandolim & tenor guitar)
Jayme Vignoli (cavaquinho)
Luiz Flavio Alcofra (guitar)
Josimar Gomes Carneiro (7-string guitar)
André “Boxexa” Santos (drums & percussion)
Humberto Araújo (tenor sax)—track 7
Cristóvão Bastos (piano)—track 10
Eliseu Moreira Costa (atabaque)—track 1
Zero & Gordinho (percussion)—tracks 4, 9, 13

Lena Verani & Luiz Flavio Alcofra

If the arrangements for Pixinguinha are typical of what the composer himself might have done, the approach in Confidências was quite different. Ernesto Nazareth wrote his compositions for solo piano, and adaptations for other instruments haven’t always been successful. Lena Verani and Luiz Flavio Alcofra’s clarinet-guitar duo maintains the composer’s elegance while eschewing the fustiness that can attach to recordings of century-old music. Says Alcofra on the process:

In 2000, Lena and I were invited to play every Tuesday for a month at the Bistro of Casa França-Brasil, where we did a tribute to Pixinguinha. As the show was a success, we continued for another month, this time with an homage to Ernesto Nazareth. This is how the idea of making a CD took form. Nazareth’s music is very beautiful, romantic, and virtuosic, and the transposition from piano to guitar and clarinet was working well. So we asked some excellent musician friends to make arragements for this CD. Besides doing research in libraries, our friends Marcílio Lopes and Bia Paes Leme helped us with recordings and scores.

Information about Confidências may be obtained at the artists’ site (please let me know if you had success entering this site; I never managed it). The disc also may be purchased via e-mail.

Lena Verani & Luiz Flavio Alcofra: Confidências
(Independent LVLF 2002; 2002) 46:52 min.
All compositions by Ernesto Nazareth

01. Confidências
02. Nenê
03. Atlântico
04. Ferramenta
05. Carioca
06. Tenebroso
07. Fidalga
08. Mandinga
09. Labirinto
10. Escovado
11. Ameno Resedá
12. Floraux

Both Verani and Alcofra participate in the early-music group Terra Brasilis, whose other members are Sônia Leal Wegenast (vocals), Sula Kossatz (harpsichord & vocals), Francisco Pestana (viola), and Paulino Dias (percussion). About the origins and aims of this ensemble, Alcofra says:

At the beginning of 1999, Wagner Campos (a director of Sesc Nacional) invited Lena Verani to do some research about Brazilian colonial music. She invited me to help her. We researched in libraries and with musicians who work with this type of music. Then we formed the group Terra Brasilis, thinking of a lineup that would suit this music. We decided to focus on vernacular music, presenting a panorama of music from the “discovery” of Brazil in 1500 through the end of the 19th century. The “Romance da Nau Catarineta” was a natural choice, because it’s a popular folkloric motif of the Northwest, and its history was very interesting: it’s all about the disastrous journey of a ship that left the port of Recife in 1565, carrying our first poet (Bento Teixeira), and took 21 (some people say seven) years to reach Lisbon. Água de Moringa had recorded some of the “Nau Catarineta” tunes in Teca Calazans’ CD Firoliu, and we got to know the rest through Antônio Nóbrega’s recordings. Some we found in Mário de Andrade’s book Danças Dramáticas do Brasil. The negro and Indian songs (“Xangô” and “Cantos de Çairé”) were collected from Villa-Lobos’ adaptations. We also recorded the first registered instrumental lundu; it had been collected by the Bavarian naturalist Karl Friedrich Philipp von Martius (1794–1868) in the early 19th century.

Terra Sonora Brasilis is a lovely blend of the erudite and the vernacular. Here we find candomblé percussive motifs superimposed over European Renaissance chant (“Xangô”) and a ribald duo aria with strong Mozartian flavor (“Você Trata Amor de Brinco”) side by side with a popular modinha (“A Loirinha”). The disc culminates with the saga of the Nau Catarineta that has been given a broad spectrum of arrangements, from rhythmic choro to country dance. Song lyrics and Samuel Araújo’s learned notes are included. The disc may be purchased from the artists via e-mail.

Terra Brasilis: Terra Sonora Brasilis
(Independent TERRA 2002; 2002) 46:03 min.

01. Xangô
02. Cantos de Çairé
03. O Rei Mandou Me Chamar
04. Foi Assim o Seu Amor
05. De Mim Já Se Não Lembra (instrumental)
06. Você Trata Amor de Brinco
07. Lundu (instrumental)
08. A Loirinha
“Romance da Nau Catarineta”:
09. Dobrado da Chegada
10. Primeira Barcarola
11. Barcarola da Pança
12. Romance da Nau
13. Tempestade
14. Barcarola Final
15. Saudades da Saloia


Copyright © 2003–2008 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.