Valsas Brasileiras: The Brazilian Waltzes of Francisco Mignone - Volume I
Alexandra Mascolo-David, piano
This recording of the Brazilian Waltzes of Francisco Mignone is very significant, because it is the first time that these waltzes have been recorded outside of Brasil. The compositions of Francisco Mignone, like much of the Brazilian art music of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, show the influence of the three cultures that form the country’s complex heritage. European music, Amerindian music, and African music collided, mixed, and gave rise --over the course of centuries-- to a uniquely Brazilian idiom. Mignone’s life as a composer contains well-defined periods that demonstrate a microcosm of this cultural history: his earliest works showcase his Italian-French training, while his mature output gives voice to a new genre of Brazilian art music, rich in folk tonalities within Romantic structures. Although Mignone explored serialism and atonality in his later years, he is best known for his nationalistic works, especially his orchestral pieces and art songs. Yet, he was equally accomplished as a composer of music for solo piano. Mignone wrote over two hundred pieces for pianoforte, in which the evolution of his style, as well as the quality and versatility of his writing, show his mind as one of an exceptional artist. Among his piano compositions are études, preludes, legends, sonatinas, sonatas, and waltzes.
All of Mignone’s waltzes carry the influence of his youthful practice of serenading in the streets of São Paulo, improvising choros (popular songs, often with a nostalgic character) on his flute, to the accompaniment of cavaquinhos (ukeleles) and violões (guitars). Consequently, he makes frequent musical allusions to guitar figurations in his waltzes. In some cases, Mignone implies the analogy by the characteristics of the musical writing, while in others, he specifically notates imitando o violão (imitating the guitar) in the score. These guitar-like devices include arpeggiated chords, repeated pitches, and staccato touch, all combined with rubato—that defining characteristic of Brazilian guitar and dance music.
Mignone composed the 24 Valsas Brasileiras in two sets of twelve pieces. He completed the first set between 1963 and 1979, and the second in 1984, two years before his death. Mignone dedicated the first set to a number of his friends, and the second to his second wife, Maria Josephina. These waltzes represent the culmination of his musical style and are, in essence, an emotional diary. To help in capturing a nostalgic mood, he emphasizes minor keys throughout each set. Although Mignone wrote them late in his life—at a time when he experimented with more contemporary styles of composition—they are clearly tonal. They unite nationalistic and traditional nineteenth-century musical elements, and contain a rich melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic vocabulary.
Young Portuguese pianist Alexandra Mascolo-David's debut disc is a treasure: a set of little-known waltzes by Brazilian-born, Italian-trained composer Francisco Mignone (1897-1986). This is Volume 1 of a projected complete set of this prolific composer's waltzes and includes just the first dozen, all in minor keys. They're loaded with imagination and emotion, an attractive blend of smooth Italian lyricism and pulsating, if subtle, Latin rhythms. Mascolo-David plays them with a poetic, almost improvisatory spirit, in full command of the composer's urbane voice — a worldly artist in thrall to street musicians and folk singers, but always restrained. Mignone's emotions lend a bittersweet tone to several of these waltzes, as a lonely outsider peering into a world he can't enter, or as an old man realizing the promise of youth slipped away, unfulfilled.
- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia)
No. 1 in C-sharp minor/ Do sustenido menor
No. 2 in F-sharp minor/ Fa sustenido menor
No. 3 in D minor/ Re menor
No. 4 in G minor/ Sol menor
No. 5 in A minor/ La menor
No. 6 in E-flat minor/ Mi bemol menor
No. 7 in B-flat minor/ Si menor
No. 8 in A-flat minor/ La benol menor
No. 9 in B minor/ Si menor
No. 10 in F minor/ Fa menor
No. 11 in E minor/ Mi menor
No. 12 in C minor/ Do menor