Ernesto Nazareth (1863–1934) wrote his opus 1 in 1920. It was a Noturno for piano. He was fifty-seven years old, had already published more than a hundred works, and had dozens of his polcas, valsas, and tangos recorded. Yet, he never published this piece. Why not? And why did he decide to start numbering his compositions at such a late date? For his publishers, it could be that featuring opus numbers on the cover of his catchy piano tunes could make them look pretentious, and diminish their commercial appeal. Maybe the annotation signaled that he was contemplating a new beginning as an “art music” composer. Or maybe it was a confession that he wished things could have been different. Whatever the reason, he was already canonical. During the 1910s, Nazareth’s Dengoso and Brejeiro became hits in France and in the United States, being printed, recorded, and imitated many times. In that year of 1920, Darius Milhaud premiered Le boeuf sur le toit in Paris, quoting three of his tangos—Ferramenta, Carioca, and Escovado—and one polka—Apanhei-te cavaquinho—although [End Page 314] without giving credit. Unaware of any of this, Nazareth continued to publish hit after hit, until his death in 1934, apparently never bothering to write an opus 2.
Brazilian elite musical circles were slow to understand Nazareth’s significance. The debate whether he was a popular or a classical composer polarized performers and intellectuals for decades. The controversy seems to have been settled for now: he was popular and classical. After Joaquim Callado and Francisca (Chiquinha) Gonzaga, Nazareth was the third person of the early choro trinity. He was also a key figure in the development of a distinctive Brazilian pianistic style in the late nineteenth century, as much as his contemporaries Alberto Nepomuceno and Alexandre Levy. Yet, he is far more popular and influential than any of these figures.
This is the first volume of a much-needed critical edition of Ernesto Nazareth’s complete works. With five additional volumes planned, the collection will include a total of 211 works plus a number of fragments. For this volume, editors Alexandre Dias and Sarah Cohen selected thirty-six piano pieces that the composer wrote between 1877 and 1896. With the exception of the tango Brejeiro (pp. 130–32), and to a lesser extent also the tangos Favorito (pp. 154–56) and Nenê (pp. 146–49) and the polka Pipoca (pp. 170–72), the works featured here are not amongst Nazareth’s biggest hits. The chronological arrangement brings awareness to Nazareth’s lesser-known works, and raises expectations for the publication of future volumes. The editors have made judicious use of autograph manuscripts and first editions, held at Rio de Janeiro’s Biblioteca nacional and in private collections. During the research phase, the editors have also discovered a number of works that exist only in manuscript form, and have never been recorded.
The volume opens with a preface by Luiz Antonio de Almeida (pp. 12–15) and a short essay by Maria José Carrasqueira (pp. 16–21), both addressing the biography and reception of Nazareth’s music. In the introductory notes that follow (pp. 22–33), the editors provide information on sources, chronology, normalization of names and titles, dedications, and genres. They also explain how they dealt with Nazareth’s inconsistencies and particularities in notation and markings. These introductory texts are in English and Portuguese, arranged in parallel columns. The same format is used in the critical...