Ernesto Nazareth (1863 - 1934)
Ernesto Nazareth is often thought of as the "Brazilian Scott Joplin". The two composers had much in common. Both composers grew up in societies with dual musical cultures; Joplin with the imported Western European tradition and Afro-American culture; Nazareth with the same Western European tradition and Afro-Brazilian culture. Both were trained classical pianists and developed their dual cultural heritages into their own seminal art forms.
Nazareth converted his dual heritage into the Tango Brasileiro. Of his 200 piano pieces most are tango brasileiros, choros, waltzes and polkas. Nazarethís major classical influence was Frederic Chopin who influenced the beauty of his melodies, the elegant virtuosity of his right hand passages, and his rich harmonies.
An example of Chopinís influence can be observed in The Labirinto with its richly voiced chords, its chromatic harmonies, and its Chopinesque left hand passage in the C section.
The latter part of Nazarethís life was tragic. His daughter died in 1917 and his wife in 1932. He was steadily becoming deaf. In 1933, suffering from depression, he was committed to an institution from which he escaped. He was later found drowned in a lake.
Nazareth was deeply admired by his great compatriot Heitor Villa-Lobos, as well as by the French composer Darius Milhaud who had spent considerable time in Brasil and wrote many Brazilian-influenced works. In the words of Milhaud : "It is to be wished that Brazilian musicians would understand the importance of composers of tangos, maxixes and sambas like the genius Nazareth. The rhythmic richness, the ever -renewed fantasy, the verve, the liveliness, the melodic invention of a prodigious imagination that are found in each work make Nazareth the glory and the jewel of Brazilian art."