In their latest release with Sono Luminus, the celebrated artists of Cuarteto Latinoamericano have brought together a stunning collection of selections from Brazil entitled Brasileiro: Works of Francisco Mignone. They are also joined on the Seresta No. 2 by the talented La Catrina Quartet.
Francisco Mignone (1897 - 1986) was one of the most accomplished musicians Brazil has ever had. In addition to being a masterful composer, he was also a great teacher, a successful conductor, an exceptional pianist, a great orchestrator, and in addition, a man of extensive culture. Because he settled in Rio de Janeiro in 1933, many people forget that Mignone was born in Sao Paulo, in 1897. A son of Italian immigrants, he began studyingRead more music with his father, who was an excellent flutist. In 1920 Mignone travels to Italy, where he studies with Vincenzo Ferroni (1858-1934), who had taught other Brazilian composers. It was there that he composed his first opera, “O Contratador de Diamantes” (“The Diamond Contractor”). He returned to Brazil in 1929, and in 1933 Mignone moves permanently to Rio de Janeiro and begins to occupy important chairs in the musical life of what was then the federal capital, including Music Director of the National Institute of Music’s Orchestra.
Francisco Mignone (1897–1986), a Brazilian of Italian background, was a much-loved figure in the musical circles of Rio de Janeiro. BIS produced a disc of his orchestral music in 2005 (see Fanfare 28:6), and here we have a disc of his string-quartet music from the distinguished Latinoamericano Quartet. Mignone was a secondary composer, exhibiting all the good points of that species, such as highly refined craftsmanship, a working knowledge of instruments, and a solid sense of form. His music for string quartet is by no means groundbreaking, either technically (Bartók) or expressively (Shostakovich—or, nearer to home, Revueltas), yet while it may lack individuality, the composer’s incorporation of Latin American rhythms and bluesy harmonies into his work does give it a distinctively nationalistic voice. A breeziness to his music invokes an idealized Brazilian countryside; moreover, unlike the music of Villa-Lobos, there is never any suggestion of note-spinning or filler passages. Mignone is succinct.
The masterpiece is the Second Quartet, which opens the disc. Its first movement contains flowing melodic writing, with a cheeky use of portamento, while the concluding third movement has a bracing rhythmic zest. The slow movement, however, is the real gem; beginning with a soulful Villa-Lobos type theme from the cello, it progresses to an agitated middle section (featuring slithery chromatic harmony) to close on a beguiling jazz-flavored cadence.
The First Quartet follows the same structural pattern of fast/slow/fast. Its first movement is more fragmentary; the second movement is notable for a hint of the tango within its intricate and evocative textures. The finale is a relatively amiable, full-toned rondo. Both quartets were composed simultaneously in 1957, Mignone’s annus mirabilis for string-quartet writing.
The remainder of the program consists of small works where the composer’s creative impulse might be termed more easygoing. Most of them date from earlier in his career. My favorites are the Three Spanish Songs, transcriptions Mignone made of songs he wrote while visiting Spain in 1932. Despite their provenance, they are pervaded by a lyricism that could only be called Italianate. The first song, a subdued lullaby titled Nana, is particularly lovely. Similarly, the Andante cantabile (the first of the Two Essays) is unashamedly romantic.
The Latinoamericano plays this program to perfection. We owe the group so much for its tireless investigation of Latin repertoire, of which this disc is yet another shining example. I would recommend it for those times when Bartók feels too aggressive or Shostakovich too melancholy. In fact, in terms of melodic flow and expressivity, the quartet composer who comes to mind as a yardstick is Borodin.
Spanish Songs (3)by Francisco Mignone Orchestra/Ensemble:
Period: 20th Century Written: 1932
Essays (2)by Francisco Mignone Orchestra/Ensemble:
Period: 20th Century Written: 1958
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Quartets from another Great Brazilian ComposerNovember 30, 2014By Jerry Ketron (Ivoryton, CT)See All My Reviews"I love the Villa-Lobos quartets recorded by the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, and wanted to try these by Mignone, whom I know better from great piano music. Brazilian folk/dance music informs all these works. The sophisticated numbered quartets from the 1950's are melodic with a bit of Bartok, in the international style of that era. The earlier incidental pieces are more neo-Romantic and dance-driven, more overtly Brazilian. I'm listening to these dynamic works over and over."Report Abuse