"The veritable encarnation of the soul of Brazilian music."
- Heitor Villa Lobos
Ernesto Nazareth was born in Rio De Janeiro March 20, 1863. From childhood, Nazareth lived intimately with music. His pianist mother often played polkas, waltzes and modinhas. With his mother as teacher, he learned his first chords of Chopin, Mozart and Beethoven. With the death of his mother in 1873, Nazareth was educated by his father, Vasco Lourenço Da Silva Nazareth, a modest employee who, when leaving for work, left the small Ernesto alone at home with his piano the entire day.
Eduardo Madeira, a young amateur pianist, was contracted to continue the musical education of Ernesto, who made great progress. At 14 he composed his first music, the polka Você Bem Sabe (You Know Very Well), dedicated to his father and published the same year. At 17, he participated in a recital with several famous musicians, among whom was the great flautist Viriato Figueira Da Silva. He composed Gentes! O imposto pegou? and Gracieta. In 1878, he composed the waltz O Nome dela and Cruz, Perigo! At this time Ernesto, more and more attracted by the choro, composed Não Caio Noutra.
To remain financially independent in the modest house in the quarter of Cristóvão, Nazareth began to give private piano lessons, and play at dances, stores and cinemas. It is said that people came to the cinema to hear Nazareth play rather than to see the silent movies. One of his most famous pieces is "Odeon", after the famous cinema where he played. He married and fathered four children: Eulina, Dinis, Maria de Lourdes and Ernestinho. In 1893, confronting financial difficulties, the composer sold the rights to “Tango Brasileiro” to a publisher for 50 thousand réis. The music was an enormous success in Brazil and Europe, and was included in the repertory of Republican Guard of Paris.
In 1907, Nazareth was nominated for the position of clerk at the National Treasury, but was not awareded the position after a public competition. In 1918, his daughter Maria de Lourdes died, victim of the Spanish flu. With the death of his wife in 1929 the health of the composer started to be unstable, and the first symptoms of depression appeared that later would be characterized as "madness".
Despite the crises, Nazareth continued if to perform in public. In 1926, at the invitation of friends, he went on tour, giving performances in the Municipal Theater and the Conservatory of São Paulo that attracted large audiences. On one occasion, the composer was presented with a piano: "To the illustrious composer Ernesto Nazareth, from his admirers in São Paulo". In 1930, he was the first composer to take part in the the Radio Society programs. In 1932, he presented for the first time a solo recital of his music in the Nicolas Studio and in this same year, at the invitation of admirers, he toured southern Brazil. Jose de Oliveira, a friend of Nazareth, recorded how at that time the only way for new music to be known was that private homes organized "demonstrations", "...since radio had not yet come, phonograph records were rare, and the cinema silent. This obliged people to make music at home. The hosts chose the scores and listened to the pianist in their parlors. I remember some pretentious girls who liked to make demonstrations of their piano techniques for Nazareth. The master was very demanding and he did not like to hear his music mistreated. He often ordered them to stop playing, saying, ‘Nazareth does not play like that!’”
In 1932 Nazareth’s health deteriorated, accompanied by deafness in the right ear, which left him in a state of apathy. He started to suffer from emotional problems, and was interned in the Neuro-Psychiatric Institute Praia Vermelha. In 1933, he was transferred to the Colony Juliano Moreira in Jacarepaguá. On February 1, 1934, taking a walk (or running away) from the Colony, Nazareth got lost in the woods of Jacarepaguá. He was found dead three days later beside the Cachoeira dos Ciganos (Waterfall of the Gypsies).
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