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Guiomar Novaës

Biography

Born: February 28, 1895; São João da Boa Vista, Brazil   Died: March 7, 1979; Sao Paulo, Brazil  
Guiomar Novaës (Novahes) and Claudio Arrau were the most celebrated pianists born in South America immediately before and after 1900 -- she in Brazil in 1895 (not 1896, as some biographies continue to list), he in Chile, in 1903. They were first to win international acclaim since Venezuelan-born Teresa Carreño (1853-1917), who had studied with Gottschalk. In São Paulo, where the family had moved from a provincial village soon after her birth, she Read more revealed precocity at age four, and began studying at age seven with Luigi Chiafarelli, a Busoni pupil. He helped her developed the basics of tonal nuance, legato, and pedaling that won her a grant from the Brazilian government to study in Paris. At the Conservatoire in 1909 she placed first among 388 candidates for admission (some sources say 398). The jurors were Fauré, Moritz Moszkowski, and Debussy, who wrote to his friend and amanuensis André Caplet that "the most artistic...was a young Brazilian girl of 13. She's not beautiful, but her eyes are 'drunk with music' and she has the ability to cut herself off from her surroundings, which is the rare but characteristic mark of the artist." She was assigned to the class of Isidor Philipp (1863-1958), formerly a pupil of Saint-Saëns, and graduated two years later with a First Prize. Novaës made her formal debut that same year with the Châtelet Orchestra conducted by Gabriel Pierné, then toured throughout Western Europe until the outbreak of WWI. Hardly had she returned to São Paulo when an invitation came from the U.S. She made her North American debut in Aeolian Hall, New York City, on November 11, 1915, and returned often during the next 57 years. Novaës played her U.S. farewell at Hunter College in 1972. To the end, her tone remained mellifluous, her touch varied, her pedaling a wonder, and her legato special, even after sheer strength had ebbed.

In 1922, she married the Brazilian architect and composer Octavio Pinto (1890-1950), who had also studied with Philipp. For their two children he composed Scenas Infantis, which Novaës played regularly as a recital encore. For the same Pinto children, Villa-Lobos wrote the suite Prole do bebê. Novaës appeared with every major U.S. orchestra as well as abroad. In England, Queen Elizabeth invited her to play the opening recital in the new London hall bearing her name on April 30, 1967 -- a program that featured Novaës' beloved Mozart and Chopin, Beethoven, and Debussy.

Her recorded repertoire was astonishing, starting with the Victor Company in 1919 through 1927, Duo-Art piano rolls in the 1920s, then Columbia (now Sony) until 1948. In Vienna and Bamberg after WWII, she recorded 11 concertos for Vox (two each of the Beethoven Fourth and the Schumann A minor, first with Klemperer, then with Hans Swarowsky). They ranged from Mozart to Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain, plus dozens of solo works including the complete waltzes, études, nocturnes, and préludes of Chopin, several of Schumann's major solo works, Book I of Debussy's Préludes, five Beethoven sonatas, and her husband's Scenas Infantis.

She also recorded Liszt, Chopin and Debussy for London; Chopin and Beethoven (Op. 111 for the first time) on Vanguard, and several Brazilian composers on Fermata. International Piano Archives issued a live recording of Gottschalk's Grand Fantasy on the Brazilian National Anthem from a Hunter College concert in 1970, one year after Vox/Turnabout released the same music from a Pan-American Union concert marking the centennial of Gottschalk's death.

Novaës died in her native Brazil at age 84, just seven years after her retirement. Read less

There are 11 Guiomar Novaës recordings available.

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