Friday, September 21, 2007

José Mauricio Nunes Garcia, Afro-Brazilian Composer Born Sept. 22, 1767

[Top: La Passion du Baroque Brésilien; Missa de Nossa Senhora do Carmo; José Mauricio Nunes Garcia; Association of Choral Singing; Cleofe Person de Mattos, Director; Camerata de Rio de Janeiro; Henrique Morelenbaum, Director]
[Bottom: Método de Pianoforte (1821); Portrait by José Mauricio Nunes Garcia, Jr.; Text Revised: Giulio Edoardo Draghi; Irmaos Vitale CPM 236 (2000)]

José Mauricio Nunes Garcia (1767-1830) was an Afro-Brazilian composer and organist who was the grandson of slaves. Antonio Campos Monteiro Neto is Webmaster of an extensive illustrated Brazilian Website with numerous audio samples, José Mauricio Nunes Garcia:

The Website is bilingual, in Portuguese and English. The Webmaster has generously made his site's content available to, with the stipulation that credit be given when material at the site is used. He begins by noting that 240 works of music by José Mauricio Nunes Garcia have survived, and that early biographers estimate his total output at nearly twice that number. He continues with a dedication of the page:

Today, thanks to an extraordinary work made by Professor Cleofe Person de Mattos (1913-2002), José Mauricio is the sole composer from the Brazilian colonial period whose biography is clearly established, and his remaining works are entirely catalogued.

To her memory we dedicate this page.

José Mauricio Nunes Garcia's mother was Vitória Maria da Cruz and his father was Apolinário Nunes Garcia, a tailor. Antonio Campos Monteiro Neto says they were married in 1762. He tells us each parent was the child of a slave and a plantation owner:

Her mother was Joana Gonçalves, a slave of Simão Gonçalves, and Apolinário was son of Ana Correa do Desterro, and they both had no known fathers, that is another way to say they were both their landlord´s children.

The child was born in Rio de Janeiro on September 22, 1767. Antonio Campos Monteiro Neto tells us an aunt lived with the family and helped raise young José Mauricio after his father died in 1773. One way they aided in his development was to ask their friend Salvador José de Almeida e Faria to share his education in music with the youth. Monteiro Neto relates that some evidence indicates that José Mauricio sang in the choir of the Cathedral of Rio Janeiro as a soprano. He adds that choir members attended the Seminary of St. Jacques, where they were taught to read Music, Greek and Latin. Monteiro Neto gives further details of the youth's music education:

According to Manuel de Araújo Porto Alegre, his early biographer, he had "a beautiful voice and a great musical memory"; "reproduced everything he heard", and "created melodies of his own and played the harpsichord and the guitar without ever have learned to".

In 1779, at twelve, he began to teach music. José Mauricio never had a piano or a harpsichord, and trained himself by teaching harpsichord to the society´s ladies. To learn the organ, he was assisted by some good organists in the churches.

José Mauricio completed his education in the "Royal Classes", with lectures in history, geography, latin grammar and philosophy, and rhetoric as well.

The Webmaster of the Brazilian site next recounts the process Nunes Garcia followed to be ordained as a priest in the Archdiocese, or See, of Rio de Janeiro:

At 16, José Mauricio composed the first work that came to our days: the antiphon Tota pulchra Es Maria (CPM 1) in 1783, dedicated to the Cathedral and See.

During the decade of 1780, he studied the necessary disciplines to the examinations he had to go through to be ordained a priest, and began a collaboration with the old chapel master of the See, deacon Lopes Ferreira. This would be the first step to his final goal, to be Lopes Ferreira´s successor as the See´s chapel master.

We next learn from Monteiro Neto of the compositions which established the composer as a recognized figure in the musical life of Rio de Janeiro:

In 1784, a group of musicians founded in Rio de Janeiro the brotherhood of Santa Cecília, whose objective was to regulate their professional life. José Mauricio signed the foundation act as a music teacher.

At this time he composed the following works: Litany for Our Lady in 4 voices and organ, in 1788, the anthems O Redemptor Summe Carmen and Pange Lingua, in 1789, and the works a capella "for all the Holy Week of the See" (Bradados), from those the most important is Bradados de 6ª feira maior (CPM 219), for Holy Friday, which includes the motets Crux Fidelis (CPM 205), Heu Domine (CPM 211), Popule Meus (CPM 222), Sepulto Domino (CPM 223), and Vexilla Regis (CPM 225).

In 1790 he composed an instrumental work that made him famous in Rio de Janeiro: the
Funeral Symphony (CPM 230).

Antonio Campos Monteiro Neto details the requirements for ordination as a priest, and the steps by which José Mauricio satisfied them. These included a request that the bishop not hold him ineligible due to "any color defect":

He requested his ordination in 1791. The ecclesiastic career would join his religious education and his musical art, and compensate his low origin as well.

Two requisites to be ordained were: to prove the true Catholic faith from himself and from his parents, and to be free from "any colour defect". The first had been proved through research and witnessing from his parents' and grandmothers' friends on their faith. To overcome the second obstacle, he requested from the bishop to be dismissed from his "defect", in which he was successful.

In June, 1791, he began the necessary examinations.

In March, 1792, he was ordained. The last requirement, to own any asset, was gone through with the help of one of his student's father, Thomaz Gonçalves, who gave him a house at Rua das Bellas Noutes.

In the year of his ordination as a priest, we learn from Monteiro Neto, Padre (Father) José Mauricio Nunes Garcia entered a religious order, the Brotherhood of Sao Pedro dos Clerigos, located in St. Peter's Church in Rio de Janeiro. From the same source we learn that the young priest began teaching public music classes in his home in 1795, using only a single steel guitar.

Garcia had a very productive period of composition after his ordination. The death of the Chapel Master, Lopes Ferreira, in July 1797 led to the appointment of José Mauricio as his successor, we learn from Monteiro Neto, who adds that José Mauricio's membership in a Literary Society brought him into contact with a leader of the Brazilian struggle against Portuguese rule, and led him to add Brazilian popular music and folk music to his liturgical compositions.

Ensemble Turicum, based in Switzerland, has recorded music of José Mauricio Nunes Garcia, and has contributed this assessment of his career:

At the heart of the creation of Brazilian musical history, José Mauricio was considered by his contemporaries to be a peerless organist and an excellent improvisor. His first period of creativity, which ended with the arrival of the royal court from Portugal, was defined by a refined and elegant melody in the manner of Haydn and Mozart.

Events in Europe caused the Royal Family of Portugal to take refuge in Brazil in March, 1808, we learn from the Brazilian Website, and the Prince Regent Dom João brought with him leading members of the Portuguese Catholic Church. Some of them tried to have José Mauricio removed from his post because of his color. Musicians were summoned from Portugal to bring the Church music in Brazil into line with the standards of Dom João, Monteiro Neto tells us, and José Mauricio was told to concentrate on writing new works. He did so in great number.

Among the works of 1808, the account continues, was the
Missa Pastoril (CPM 108). It was recorded in 1998 by the Ensemble Turicum, whose website is: We learn from Monteiro Neto that both the Queen of Portugal and Vitória Maria da Cruz, José Mauricio's mother, died on the same day, March 20, 1816. Their deaths led him to compose the two works now considered his best masterpieces:

It is not known where Vitória Maria was buried. But the sorrow of her son would be revealed in his Missa de Requiem (CPM 185) - Requiem Mass and in the Ofício dos Defuntos (CPM 186), - Officium for the Dead, requested by the Ordem Terceira do Carmo to their funeral mass in the memory of the queen. These are regarded today as his two masterpieces.

On July 4th Fortunato Mazziotti was nominated master of the Royal Chapel. This nomination was a way to make clear to José Mauricio he would work no more for the Chapel.

Monteiro Neto tells us that a Royal wedding in 1817 included a group of 16 skilled musicians from Europe, giving José Mauricio the opportunity to compose 12 Divertimenti for the ceremony. The year 1817 was also when José Mauricio Nunes Garcia composed the first Brazilian opera, Le Due Gemelle (The Two Twins). His output in 1818 included, we are told by Monteiro Neto, a Novena (CPM 67), a Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Carmel (CPM 110), a Qui Sedes and Quoniam (CPM 163) and three Motets, as well as a Mass for Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist. We are further informed by Monteiro Neto that in December 1819 he conducted the first Brazilian performance of Mozart's Requiem (K 626).

The account of Monteiro Neto relates that the score of Le Due Gemelle was destroyed by fire in 1825, and that José Mauricio wrote his last work, St. Cecilia's Mass the following year. The Brazilian Webmaster says the wages of Church musicians had long been unpaid, due to financial problems, and a demand for payment was made in 1828 but was not successful. He reports that lack of money contributed to José Mauricio Nunes Garcia's loss of health, and reports that he died on April 18, 1830.

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