Organicism in Brazilian romantic music: The cases of Alberto Nepomuceno and Leopoldo Miguez

Unlike the often studied and well-documented Italian and French influences on Brazilian music during the colonial, pre-romantic and modern periods, the assimilation of constructive, aesthetic, and stylistic Austro-German characteristics in works by Brazilian romantic composers still awaits more in-depth research. Although some academic works highlight the importance of Liszt, and, especially, Wagner in compositions written at the turn of the twentieth century, which was marked by a political change from monarchy to republic (in 1889) and by the ideals of the new regime, including the “music of the future” (Volpe 2001), there are reasons to believe that some Brazilian composers were also influenced by Brahms, especially in their approach to thematic treatment, namely the adoption of organic constructive procedures. From this perspective, the present paper addresses two works by two composers partly trained in Europe—Alberto Nepomuceno´s Third String Quartet and Leopoldo Miguez´s Violin Sonata Op. 14. According to Dudeque (2005), Nepomuceno studied with Heinrich Herzogenberger, Brahms’ pupil, from whom he presumably assimilated organicist procedures. Even though little is known about how Miguez might have acquired this knowledge, traces of organic and distilled thematic construction have surfaced in a recent analysis of the first movement of the sonata Op. 14 (Mayr 2015). In addition to proposing a discussion that includes contextual aspects, this paper adduces analytical evidence that relates thematic elements in both works to the Brahmsian practice of gradual and economic development (Frisch 1984) grounded on the principles of developing variation and Grundgestalt, as elaborated by Arnold Schoenberg.