Defining a Nation

Velásquez©NationalLibraryofBrazil

For many classical enthusiasts Brazilian music can be summed up in the folk-inspired compositions of Villa-Lobos. Naxos’s multivolume series The Music of Brazil is set to broaden awareness, beginning with several 19th- and 20th-century composers whose string and orchestral works at once mirrored and defied their country’s colonial history, writes ...

Brazil is an old country, with a history as changeable as its climate, as rich as its gold mines and as variegated as its plant life. In some respects, Italy and Germany, for example, are much younger, having arrived at their present unified identity less than a century and a half ago. But in the matter of music as a naturally social action as opposed to music as an actively cultivated pursuit, European nations lay claim to a much longer lineage.

So much of what ‘we’ – with English-speaking, European and North American mindsets – regard as Brazilian music is comparatively recent in origin, and our understanding of it commensurately shallow. For string players, pernambuco is a wood, and a useful one, but for Brazilians the name covers an entire region of their country, nine million strong – and thousands of miles east of the Amazon, where the world’s horrified gaze is presently directed.

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