Saturday, September 20, 2008

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

[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; Jade 75443-2 (1991)]

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 in English and Portuguese with numerous audio samples, José Mauricio Nunes Garcia:  The Webmaster has made his wealth of resources available for use at, and 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.

Garcia wrote his earliest surviving work, “Tota pulchra Es Maria”, in 1783. Garcia joined the brotherhood of Saint Cecilia as a music teacher in 1784. He wrote “Litany for Our Lady in 4 voices and organ”, and by 1788 he was composing anthems and acapella works for church services. He gained fame in 1790 with his “Funeral Symphony”. Garcia was ordained as a priest in March, 1792. The chapel master died in 1797 and was succeeded by Garcia. The Royal Family took refuge in Brazil in March 1808, and clerics who accompanied them tried to remove Garcia from his position because of his race. Garcia was then told to concentrate on composition. His works that year included the “Missa Pastoril”, recorded in 1998 by Ensemble Turicum. Two masterpieces were the “Requiem Mass” and the “Officium for the Dead”.

A Royal wedding in 1817 included skilled musicians from Europe, giving Garcia the opportunity to compose “12 Divertimenti”. That was also the year in which Garcia composed the first Brazilian opera, “Le Due Gemelle” (“The Two Twins”), which was destroyed by fire in 1825. Monteiro Neto tells us that in December 1819 Garcia conducted the first Brazilian performance of Mozart's “Requiem” (K 626). His last work was the “St. Cecilia's Mass”. José Mauricio Nunes Garcia died on April 18, 1830. Garcia's “Missa Pastoril para Noite de Natal” is among his compositions found on YouTube:

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