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THE MUSICAL LANGUAGE OF MARLOS NOBRE
THROUGH HIS ORCHESTRAL WORKS
ILKA VASCONCELOS ARAUjJO
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
O 2007 Ilka Vasconcelos Arauj o
To Aleksa and Isabella,
for everything they mean to me.
This dissertation would not have been possible without the assistance of many people,
especially those at the University of Florida.
I would like to thank composer Marlos Nobre for his assistance in providing me with
information. He made himself available to answer all my questions, allowed me into his home,
and shared his ideas and insights. I am very grateful to Dr. David Z. Kushner, a lifelong mentor
who has guided me through my studies at the University of Florida. Much appreciation is also
felt for the rest of my committee: Dr. Larry Crook, Dr. Paul Richards, Dr. Charles Perrone, and
Professor Boaz Sharon. Professor Sharon is responsible for a large portion of my piano training
and my decision to come to UF.
I also owe much gratitude to all of my professors, who supported me and contributed to my
knowledge throughout my studies at UF. I would like to thank Robena Cornwell and Michele
Wilbanks-Fox for assisting me in many ways and for helping me with the acquisition and
handling of Marlos Nobre' s scores and recordings.
Lisa Emmerich was instrumental in the editing of this document. Dr. Chan-Ji Kim was of
great help in exchanging compositional ideas. I am thankful to Michael Deall for helping me
with figures. I am particularly grateful to Dr. Larry Crook and to the late Dr. Gerard Behague for
helping me develop the interest in and enthusiasm for Marlos Nobre. I am grateful to Dr. Jorge
Richter for providing me with his dissertation and recordings as well as pianist Maria Luiza
Corker-Nobre for providing me with her dissertation and sharing her knowledge and insights.
I would like to thank the whole staff of the University of Florida, who directly or indirectly
contributed to my work. Many thanks go to all of my friends who made life in Gainesville so
pleasant. There are many friends I am particularly grateful for everything they did to help me
accomplish this document. Among them are Graziela Corr~a da Costa, Beverly Butts, Mary
McCollum, and Dr. Leandro Britto and his family, especially Patricia, and Gabriela, for their
friendship, care, and assistance at the final stage of this process. I would like to thank Mario
Binelli and his family, especially Ms. Dinda, for their warm hospitality and guidance while I was
in Rio de Janeiro developing my research.
Finally, I would like to thank my family. My parents, Jose Mario and Cleomar, and my
grandfather, Francisco Honorato, gave constant love and support. My sisters, Ilnah and Ingrid,
offered friendship and admiration. Immeasurable appreciation goes to my husband, Aleksa, for
his love, help, patience, encouragement and to our daughter, Isabella, who has taught me a great
deal about the wonders of motherhood.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENT S .............. ...............4.....
LI ST OF T ABLE S ................. ...............8....__.__.....
LIST OF FIGURES .............. ...............9.....
AB S TRAC T ............._. .......... ..............._ 13...
1 INTRODUCTION ................. ...............15......... .....
Methodology ..........._...__.......... ...............17.....
Need for Study ................. ...............19...............
Review of Literature ..........._..._ ...............21.......__......
Books ..........._...__.......... ...............22.....
Textbooks ................ ...............26...
Theses and Dissertations .............. ...............27....
Articles, Reviews, and Interviews .............. ...............28....
Biographical Dictionaries and Encyclopedias ................. ...............36................
2 MARLOS NOBRE .............. ...............38....
Marlos Nobre: The Man .............. ...............38....
Marlos Nobre: The Composer .............. ...............62....
3 SEARCH FOR AN IDENTITY .............. ...............81....
Biosfera, Op. 3 5 (1970) .............. ...............8 1....
M~osaico, Op. 36 (1970) ........._.._.. ...._... ...............95...
In 2emoriamn, Op. 39 (1973/76) ............ ..... ._ ...............106.
Converg~ncia~s, Op. 28 (1968/1977) ................. ...............115.............
Conclusion ................ ...............124................
4 EARLY MATURE STYLE (1980-1985)............... ..............12
Concerto Ilfor String Orchestra, Op. 53 (198 1)............... ...............126
Abertura Festiva, Op. 56 bis (Festival Overture) (1983) .................... ............... 142
Conclusion ................ ...............148................
5 LATER MATURE STYLE (1990-2004) ................ ...............150........... ..
Saga arista: Passacaglia for Orchestra, Op. 84 (1997). ........._.___..... ._ ..............150
Kabbalah, Op. 96 (2004) ................. ............_........164.... ....
Conclusion ................. ...............171......_ ......
6 RECEPTION AND CONCLUSION ..............._ ........_....._.. ...........17
Marlos Nobre's Reception among Contemporaries .............. ...............173....
Conclusion .........._...._ ...............180......_ ......
APPENDIX. MARLOS NOBRE'S WORKS (1959-2004)............... ..............18
Orchestral works: ....._ ..185.__ .....__ ....
String Orchestra ............. ...... ._ ...............186..
Student String Orchestra............... ...............18
Chamber Orchestra ............. ...... ...............186...
Chorus and Orchestra .............. ...............186....
Piano and Orchestra ................. ...............186.__._ ......
Solo Instruments and Orchestra ................. ...............187...............
Voice and Orchestra .............. ...............187....
Ballets .............. ... ...............188..
Voice and Ensemble .............. ...............188....
Chamber music ................. ...............189......... ......
Guitar ................ ...............190......... ......
Voice and Guitar............... ...............190
Two Guitars .............. ...............191....
Piano .............. ...............191....
Voice and Piano ................. ...............192................
Instrumental Music ................. ...............192......... ......
Choral Music (A Cappella)............... ...............19
Choral Music and Guitar .............. ...............195....
Band ................ ...............195...............
LIST OF REFERENCES ......_. ................ ........_.._.........19
Selected Bibliography ....__. ................. .......__. ..........19
Writings of Marlos Nobre ....__. ................. ........__. ........19
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .............. ...............200....
LIST OF TABLES
3-1 Biosfera, Op. 35: formal structure ................ ...............84..............
3-2 M~osaico, Op. 36: formal structure .............. ...............96...._._._....
3-3 In 2emoriamn, Op. 39: formal structure .......................... ......... ...........0
3-4 Converg~ncia~s, Op. 28: formal structure ................. ...............116........... ..
3-5 Pitch diminution in Converg~ncia~s................. ......... ...............118 ....
4-1 Concerto Ilfor String Orchestra, Op. 53: formal structure ................. ......._.._.. ......127
4-2 Formal Structure of the first movement. ....__. ...._.._.._ ......._.... ...........2
4-3 Formal Structure of the second movement. ............. ...............132....
4-4 Formal Structure of the third movement. ....__. ...._.._.._ ......._.... ...........3
4-5 Abertura Festiva, Op. 56bis: formal structure ........._.. ...._..._... ......... ..._.......14
5-1 Ballet plot of Saga arista .............__..... ...............152
5-2 Passacaglia for Orchestra, Op. 84: formal structure .............. ...............154....
5-3 Kabbalah, Op. 96: formal structure ................ ...............167..............
LIST OF FIGURES
3-1 BACH motive used by Marlos Nobre in several of his pieces ................. .............. .....84
3-2 Opening page for Biosfera, Op. 35, measures 1 through 24............... ...................8
3-3 Horizontal twelve-tone development of Variation I mm. 25-41 (left). Rhythmic
diminution at the end of Variation I and beginning of Variation II mm. 53-64 (right) .....88
3-4 Tremolos and Glissandi around BACH motive of Variation II, mm. 80-91 ........._..........88
3-5 Pizzicato Glissandi from Variation III mm. 106-114 ........._. ...... .. ........._......90
3-6 Variation III mm. 115 through 131 with  motive from measures 117-120
followed by mandolin-like section mm. 121-124, followed by string chordal
3-7 End of first movement and beginning of second movement, mm. 217-227 ................... ...92
3-8 Viola solo line of the second movement, mm. 228-239 ................. ...._._ .............92
3-9 Artificial harmonics passage mm. 245-256 .............. ...............93....
3-10 Climax section of the second movement, mm. 269-283 ................. ................ ...._.94
3.11 Three-note initial motive in M~osaico, Op. 36............... ...............97...
3-12 Full score mm. 1-3 (left). Aleatoric box 1 m. 3 (right top); aleatoric box 2 mm. 4-5
(right middle); and aleatoric box 3 m. 14-15 (right bottom)............... ...............97
3-13 Second section of2~osaico, mm. 46-47 with beginning of chromatic motive in the
strings (A). Extension of chromatic motives through descending chromatic lines on
the strings (B)............... ...............98..
3-14 Melodic lines: Oboe mm. 88-91 (top), trumpet mm. 93-95 (bottom) ................... ...........100
3-15 Gradual presentation of twelve tones, mm. 107-109 ....._____ ... ......_ ...............101
3-16 Gradual presentation of twelve notes: Three-note initial motive m. 78 (top left), four-
note development m. 92 (bottom left), and complete twelve-note motive m. 119
(right) .............. ...............102....
3-17 Initial  motive m. 135 (left). Gradual appearance of twelve tones mm. 154-158
(right) .............. ...............103....
3-18 Climax of first movement m. 45 (top) and climax of third movement m. 162
(b ottom) ................. ...............104................
3-19 Vertical clusters mm. 173-176 (left), and aleatoric box mm. 181-182 (right) .................1 05
3-20 Broken chord motivic idea and aleatoric boxes, mm. 183-184 (left), mm. 187-188
(right) .............. ...............106....
3-21 Descending minor second motives (left), and tritone (right) ................. ............... .....109
3 -22 Aleatoric boxes in In M~emoriamn mm. 27-28 ...........__...... .__ ......__.......10
3-23 Polyphonic modal lines accompanied by harmonic glissandi in the strings, mm. 34-
4 1............... ...............111..
3 -24 Beginning of middle section with open-string-guitar motive and prolongation of
pitches, mm. 84-89 ........... _.......__ ...............112...
3-25 Minor second pervasive interval adding to the tension after long pause, mm. 113-118 .113
3-26 Sense of agony presented by composer through chaotic timpani interference mm.
108-112 ................. ...............114......... .....
3-27 Final section of In M~emoriamn mm. 1 79-183 ...........__...... ......__......15
3-28 Strings part only from Converg~ncia~s' initial motive mm. 1-12 ................. .................1 17
3-29 Section B of Converg~ncia~s, mm. 3 1-3 6 ................ ...............119............
3-30 Trumpet melodic motive mm. 50-54 .............. ...............120....
3-31 New rhythmic motive in trumpets with chromatic notes on horns and percussion,
mm. 97-102 ................. ...............121...............
3-32 Slow melodic section mm. 116-127: first on the oboe (m. 116), then flute (m. 119),
and finally first violin (m. 123)............... ...............121.
3-33 Canonic melody in winds and strings, mm. 140-147............... ...............122
3-34 Grand Einale of Converg~ncia~s with a sense of resolution in E, mm. 294-299. ..............123
4-1 Concerto II for String Orchestra, Op. 53 pp. 1-2 mm. 1-29. Theme based on BACH
motive presented polyphonically in four voices ................. .............. ......... .....128
4-2 Variation I: Repetitive development of the BACH motive mm. 3 1-42.............._._. ........129
4-3 Variation III: New motive constructed of minor thirds mm. 58-69 ................. ...............130
4-4 Variation VII: Mid-point at measure 126 on B natural, mm. 114-132. ...........................131
4-5 End of first movement in a B natural ................. ...............131........... .
4-6 First violin twelve-tone melody of the second movement, mm. 1-4 .............. ..... ........._.133
4-7 Second presentation of twelve-tone melody on the first violin, second movement,
mm. 5-6. Here the melody is transposed with some of the intervals reversed ................133
4-8 Second Movement mm. 1-9: three presentations of twelve-tone melody on the first
violin ................ ...............133................
4-9 B section of second movement mm. 27-45............... ...............134.
4-10 End of B section with bass line preparation for A' section, mm. 46-63 ................... .......13 5
4-11 Section A' of the second movement; use of inverted chromatic notes, mm. 64-75 ........137
4-12 End of second movement emphasizing tonal center in E, mm. 117-139 ................... ......138
4-13 Third movement, BACH motive as introduction to twelve notes, mm. 1-30..................139
4-14 Vertical presentation of Twelve Tones, mm. 43-54 ................. ................. ........ 140
4-15 Section C with quartal/quintal harmonies, mm. 81-87 .............. ...............141....
4-16 End of Concerto II for String Orchestra, mm. 13 7-155 ..........._... ......_.._............142
4-17 Chromatic ascending chords in Abertura Festiva, Op. 56 bis, mm. 1-8, woodwind
and brass sections only............... ...............144.
4-18 Eleven-note-melody polyphonic statement on strings, woodwinds and brass,
respectively, mm. 30-38............... ...............145.
4-19 B section with eleven-note melody in four voices and imitation on the strings, mm.
65-74 .............. ...............146....
4-20 BACH motive on xylophone and strings mm. 75-81 .............. ...............147....
4-21 BACH motive transposed on xylophone and strings, mm. 91-95 .............. ..................148
4-22 Dominant-Tonic cadence in the end of Abertura Festiva, mm. 126-130. ....................... 149
5-1 Ostinato Theme mm. 3-7 followed by Main Theme over Ostinato Theme mm. 8-12 ....155
5-2 Gradual increase of speed and activity mm. 25-28 ................. ............................157
5-3 Samba-like rhythm first in the piano and percussion (top), then on the strings
(b ottom) ................. ...............158................
5-4 Northeast melody accompanied by chromatic notes and quartal/quintal harmonies,
m m 76-79 ................. ...............160......... ......
5-5 "Peixe Vivo" melody mm 84-87 .............. ...............161....
5-6 "Prenda M~inha" melody, xylophone, piano and strings section mm. 108-111 ..............162
5-7 "Calrimbo" rhythm plus strings, mm. 118-121 .......____ ..... ._ ............16
5-8 Transformation of Main Theme on the Brazilian National Anthem, brass and timpani
sections, mm. 204-207. ............. ...............163....
5-9 Triple meter set by percussion and second pitch set from glockenspiel and
vibraphone in the opening of Kabbalah, mm. 5-8 ........._.__ ..... ._ ........._.......168
5-10 Initial pitch sets along with bassoon line mm. 1-15............... ...............168.
5-11 Section B, "energy,"mm. 13-20 ........... ......__ ...............169
5-12 Horn melody accompanied by chromatic chordal expansion mm. 83-90 .......................170
5-13 Rhythmic preparation for the kabbala theme, mm. 102-105 ................. ............... .....171
5-14 The kabbala theme in the trumpets with rhythmic support mm. 106-109 ................... ....172
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
THE MUSICAL LANGUAGE OF MARLOS NOBRE
THROUGH HIS ORCHESTRAL WORKS
Ilka Vasconcelos Araujo
Chairman: David Z. Kushner
Marlos Nobre (b. 1939) has achieved enormous respect over the years among the public
and musicians all over Brazil and abroad; in fact, in the late 1960s, he had already occupied a
prominent position among Brazil's most promising composers.
The development of the musical language of Marlos Nobre combines a series of influences
from different periods and styles of music. In his concept, the greatest formal structures are those
of eighteenth- and nineteenth- century classical works, which he combines with modern
techniques. The multifaceted music of this composer, who has Debussy, Bart6k, Stravinsky, and
Lutoslawski as maj or influences, displays a vigorous, distinguished rhythmic vitality, colored
with elements drawn from Brazilian folklore and nature, striking sound combinations, and
Marlos Nobre's orchestral works belong to his last three style periods. They display a
much more mature approach, and represent Nobre's strongest characteristics. Unfortunately
these works had not been studied and analyzed within and outside academia until now. The
orchestral works have been the medium in which Nobre has had the widest possibilities to
express his musical ideas and thoughts. The works discussed in the present study summarize all
his compositional development; they cover the year 1968 through 2004.
Among contemporary composers in Brazil, Marlos Nobre has come to occupy a prominent
position within the Brazilian avant-garde. He is widely considered by Brazilian musical
establishments and the world community to be the successor of Villa-Lobos.l
On November 29, 2005 in Spain, Nobre won the Tomas Luis de Victoria Prize. Earning
the sixth edition of the prize, he was the first Brazilian composer to achieve such prestige. Judges
voted unanimously for the first time in history, selecting Nobre from among 57 nominated
composers from 17 countries. The international jurors said they were impressed by "the excellent
traj ectory of Nobre, the proj section and importance of his works, and the originality of his
Essentially a Latin American composer and, more specifically, a Brazilian composer,
Nobre maintains the unique personal qualities that connect him with his origins while entering
the world stage as a universal composer. His musical language speaks profound sentences of
western art music, with a Brazilian accent.
The development of Marlos Nobre' s musical language combines a series of influences
from different periods and styles of music. Nobre combines the greatest formal structures of
eighteenth- and nineteenth-century classical works with modem techniques. The result is
powerful music which displays a vigorous, distinguished rhythmic vitality, colored by elements
from Brazilian folklore and nature, striking sound combinations, and spontaneity.
SThe comparison between Marlos Nobre and Villa-Lobos has come from a long tradition. Besides occupying Villa-
Lobos' chair at the Brazilian Academy of Music since 1959, Nobre has achieved a significant position that no other
Brazilian composer has since Villa-Lobos. Nobre's music has reached a similar impact in the nation and abroad.
Like Villa-Lobos' music, Nobre's has power, impact, brilliance, and conveys some of the most important features of
the culture of Brazil and Latin America in general.
2 NObre, Marlos. Personal Website. http://marlosnobre.sites.uol.com.br/indexhtl accessed on November 2006.
Although Marlos Nobre is considered one of the most prominent composers of the late
twentieth- and early twenty-first century, there is very limited literature dealing with his works.3
In the genre of orchestral pieces, in-depth studies are basically non-existent.4
The orchestral works of Marlos Nobre represent an important achievement in the
composer' s output but have been neglected by many within and outside academia. Therefore it is
the primary goal of this author to analyze these works from a musicological point of view. The
analysis of such works serves to show the path of Nobre' s musical language trajectory, which
has been a challenge in the hands of scholars in Brazil and abroad.
Each chapter of this document is devoted to a group of orchestral works. The chapters
follow a chronological order. A historical background of each work is provided, as well as a
formal, rhythmical, melodic and harmonic analysis. The works are organized according to their
opus number followed by the year of composition. Important achievements of Nobre's career
and important aspects about the composer are addressed in chapter 2. This chapter also provides
a certain look into the twentieth-century Brazilian musical scene in order to expose the
influences that surround the composer, as well as to position Nobre vis-' a-vis his
Chapter 3 discusses four major works composed in the 1970s: Biosfera, Op. 35; M~osaico,
Op. 36, which became one of the most important works written by Nobre in the early 1970s; In
M~emoriamn, Op. 39, another important work written in 1973, and, finally, Converg~ncias, Op. 28,
3 Marlos Nobre-El sonido del realismo mrgico by TomIIs Marco recently published in 2006 has been the most
complete work related to Marlos Nobre and his compositions. Nevertheless as a survey of the composer's general
output, the book is not an exhaustive or definite analysis or interpretation of the composer' s life and compositional
achievements. The chapter related to his orchestral works, for instance, only briefly discusses basic compositional
aspects of only a few of the compositions.
SThe only previous study related to Nobre's orchestral works is the D.M.A dissertationAn
Analytical Study of us 1,,. Nobre 's Saga Marista: Passacaglia for Orchestra, Op. 84 by Jorge Richter
(Michigan State University, 2002).
a work that had origins in the late 1960s, but evolved into a more mature creation in the late
1970s. Chapter 4 discusses two important works composed in the 1980s, a time when the
composer reached maturity and expressed his most important musical concerns. The pieces are
Concerto II for String Orchestra, Op. 53 and Abertura Festiva, Op. 56bis. Chapter 5 discusses
his latest orchestral works, which serve to summarize all of his compositional tendencies. These
works were written in the late 1990s and early 2000s. They are Saga Marista: Pa~ssacaglia for
Orchestra, Op. 84 and Kabballahll~~~~~1111~~~~ Op. 96.
Finally, chapter 6 closes with the reception of Nobre in today' s musical scene and a
conclusion detailing important aspects of the composer' s compositional language and style as
seen throughout his orchestral works. Although eight pieces are discussed in this study, Nobre
has several other orchestral compositions still in preparation and, therefore, are not included in
The inclusion of two compositions for string orchestra, Biofera and Concerto II, was
necessary, as opposed to simply including works for full orchestra. Aside from containing great,
unique value, this author believes the works for string orchestra that were selected for this study
share common characteristics present in the works for full orchestra.
Copyrights for the scores and recordings presented in this dissertation belong strictly to
Marlos Nobre, who was contacted by the author in the beginning of the research process. Besides
bibliographical references, much of the information presented was obtained through
conversations between the author and the composer, either in person or through the Internet.
5 The pieces are Desatio XXX Op. 31, No. 30, composed in 1968 and revised in 1978, Football, Op. 50 (1980) and
Xingu, Op. 75, composed in 1989.
The author contacted the composer through the University of Florida Library System to
purchase all the scores and a few recordings of the works discussed. The author also personally
acquired several other recordings and books. It was important to have knowledge of and access
to Marlos Nobre' s personal website: http://marlosnobre.sites.uol.com.br/indexihtl which
provided insights and a great deal of information.
The methodology included the analysis and the listening of the orchestral scores, the
interpretation of written material, the exchange of compositional ideas with contemporary
composers and scholars in the USA and Brazil, and, especially, interviews and personal
conversations with the composer.
Several books on music, music encyclopedias and music j ournals, most of them written in
Spanish and Portuguese, along with newspaper and magazine interviews were used as primary
and secondary sources. The quotations and sources used in this dissertation that were originally
in different languages have been translated into English by the author. Furthermore, the author
has analyzed all orchestral works used in this study through a musicological perspective. In order
to analyze, understand and compare Nobre' s orchestral works with other current compositional
trends, the author studied, and consulted several sources. Among those sources are: Robert
Morgan' s TE l enil'th-Century Mtusic and Anthology of TE l enil'th-Century Mtusic; Allen Forte's
The Structure ofAtonal Music and Contensporary Tone-Structures; George Perle's Twelve-Tone
Tonality and Serial Composition and Atonality: An hItroduction to the Mtusic of Schoenberg,
Berg, and Webern; Gerard Behague' s Mtusic in Latin America: An hItroduction; Maria Luiza
Coker-Nobre' s dissertation, Aspectos Tecnicos e Esteticos de .Gndne i i I III de Marlos Nobre:
unta hItrodupdo 'a Problentatica da hItuigdo versus Cerebralisnzo Jorge Richter' s D.M.A.
dissertation Marlos Nobre: an Analytical Study of Saga arista: Passacaglia for Orchestra, Op.
84; Jose Maria Neves' Muzsica Contemporcinea Bra~sileira; and, the most recent, Marlos Nobre-
El sonido del realismo magco by Tomas Marco. The need to know other twentieth-century
composers' compositional techniques was of great importance in order to understand the
influences present in Marlos Nobre's music. Therefore, the author studied compositional styles
and works of Bela Bart6k, Igor Stravinsky, Charles Ives, the Second Viennese School, John
Cage, Earle Brown, Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Alberto Ginastera, Krzysztof
Penderecki, Witold Lutoslawski, and twentieth-century Brazilian composers such as Heitor
Villa-Lobos, Camargo Guarnieri, Cesar Guerra-Peixe, Claudio Santoro, Hans-Joachim
Koellreuter, Almeida Prado, Edino Krieger, and Ricardo Tacuchian. It was also important to get
familiarized with other works composed by Nobre, especially those which involve chamber or
string orchestra, and the concertos.
This author visited Marlos Nobre at his home in Brazil and several libraries in order to
collect the necessary data for this document. Among the libraries visited were the National
Library in Rio de Janeiro, the Library of the School of Music of the Federal University of Rio de
Janeiro, the Library of the Brazilian Conservatory of Music in Rio de Janeiro, and the Benson
Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin.
Need for Study
The international knowledge of Brazilian art music is mostly concentrated on Villa-Lobos.
He remains the best known and most representative Brazilian composer of all times.
Unfortunately, there are several other important composers whose lives and works have
remained virtually unknown outside Brazil. The consequence is that the bulk of Brazilian music
to reach international reputation and acclaim has been mostly characterized by its relationship to
nationalism and the figure of Villa-LobOS6. This hardly undervalues the achievements of Villa-
Lobos as a great composer, but simply extends and amplifies openness to other representative
aesthetic tendencies in Brazilian musical since the 1930s. Along with other composers, Marlos
Nobre represents progress in the Brazilian musical scene that goes from post-nationalistic works
to extremely avant-garde collages, without forgetting the variants between these two categories
and the achievements of electronic-music composers.
Nobre has enjoyed an increasingly international reputation over the past 40 years through
his achievements and commissions, and through theses and dissertations about him and his
compositions, recordings, articles, and performances. Among contemporary Brazilian
composers, he has been the most recognized in the past few decades and has been acknowledged
as "one of the most creative personalities since the 1960s."7 Sadly, he is still known primarily in
countries where either Portuguese or Spanish is the primary language, including South America
and parts of Europe. Although he has been to the United States several times, and a few doctoral
dissertations about him and his music have been defended in American universities, he is still
little-known by the majority of international composers and scholars, especially in the United
The need for this study, therefore, is obvious: to bring attention to different aesthetics
present in contemporary Brazilian music through the musical language of Marlos Nobre, as
represented in his orchestral works and the knowledge of these great late twentieth- and early
twenty-first century compositions. Although much has been written about him and his music in
6 Even Villa-Lobos got into a dilemma when he found himself immersed in a trend between Modernism and
Nationalism in the late 1920s. Nevertheless, Nationalism still became a stronger characteristic in his compositions.
In the 1930s, he adhered to nationalistic ideas combined with neoclassical tendencies, which gave him the power of
populism and at the same time the political support of government authorities.
SB~hague, Gerard. "Reminisedncias Op. 83 and Homenagem a Villa-Lobos," in Latin 4merican Music Review.
Austin: University of Texas Press, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 85-89, 1996.
Portuguese, Spanish, English, German, and French, very little of this literature has focused on his
orchestral works and none on their relationship to Nobre' s musical language. Most of the
literature devoted to Nobre explores his piano works and nationalistic aspects in his music. Very
few people have written about his more advanced works. Musical analysis of his orchestral
works does not exist, except for Jorge Richter' s doctoral dissertation, Marlos Nobre: an
Analytical Study ofSaga arista: Passacaglia for Orchestra, Op. 84, as mentioned earlier in
this chapter. This imposes another need for this study.
It is hoped that this dissertation will not only bring attention to this great composer and
some of his finest works, but also will further expand knowledge about Brazilian music and its
composers, who follow aesthetic tendencies other than nationalism and neoclassicism.
This author also hopes that the study becomes an additional resource to schools and
departments of music, so that it will enhance the study of the history of music and, in particular,
composers in Latin America. Furthermore, it is important to note that the works described in this
document are of great value and certainly deserve to be considered for performances by
orchestras, conductors, and program organizers.
Review of Literature
Much has been written regarding twentieth-century music. Considerable sources deal with
art music written after the 1960s. However, textbooks that exclusively dedicate themselves to
twentieth-century music are often limited, with only a short examination of the latest maj or
trends in music history and their most prominent representatives. The problem gets more severe
when dealing with living composers, especially those who come from countries other than
France, Germany and the United States.
Although most of them remain unknown, Latin American composers have contributed a
great deal to the development of the history of western art music. In Latin America, Heitor Villa-
Lobos (1887 1959), Carlos Chavez (1899-1978), and Alberto Ginastera (1916-1 983) are the
composers who usually dominate the field.
Many important composers remain obscure, and even the few studies dedicated to them are
not translated into English. This is the case in the history of art music in Brazil. Most literature
regarding the subject is in Portuguese and only native Brazilian scholars or scholars dedicated to
Latin American studies gain access to the sources. This generates a restricted group with interest
in the topic.
Useful sources were used in the research process of the present document. Music in Latin
America: An Introduction, by Gerard Behague, is perhaps the most comprehensive source related
to art music in Latin America in the English language.8 Its only edition was published in 1979,
leaving out a great deal of significant updated information. Nevertheless, it contains important
information on maj or figures in Latin America. Several musical examples, with their analysis,
make the volume more complete than any other book written on Latin American music and
composers, especially Brazilian musicians. The sections related to Brazil are somewhat
substantial due to the author's connection to the country. However, the attention is focused
primarily on Villa-Lobos. The book is divided into three sections: The Colonial Period; The Rise
of Nationalism; and Counter-Currents in the Twentieth Century. Marlos Nobre is described with
much respect. However, he is mentioned only on one page in the third section. A short
SIt is important to remember Nicolas Slonimsky's Music of Latin 4merica published in 1945. Although Slonimsky's
volume did not provide substantial information and musical analysis, it was from the publication of his book that
interest in and research on the art-music traditions of Latin America increased.
biographical description is provided, along with the listing of seven major works written before
1973. A brief analytical description of Gkrinmakinkrin, a piece for soprano, wind instrument,
and piano composed in 1964, and of the 1970 orchestral work M~osaico is provided.
The M~usic ofBrazil (1983) by David Appleby is one of the few existing sources about
Brazilian art music in the English language. The volume, written in six chapters, ranges from
"Music in the Colony" until "After Modemismo." A glossary of specific Brazilian terms and
instruments is provided. However, they are sometimes incomplete and even misleading. For
instance, Appleby describes a cavaquinho as a small guitar. The cavaquinho looks like a small
guitar but it has only four strings, a different tuning, and it serves primarily for harmonic and
rhythmic functions. The book describes the maj or Brazilian composers along with their works,
and some musical examples with detailed analytical information. Marlos Nobre's section falls in
the post-modemismo chapter under post-nationalism. Nobre garners four pages in this book, with
three illustrative musical examples. Appleby focuses more on the big names and does not give
enough attention to the composers of this new generation. After giving some biographical
information, the author describes Nobre's stylistic compositional characteristics as exemplified
by his piano piece Nazarethiana, Op. 2 (1960) a chromatic piece in duple meter with simple
syncopation. The piece suggests the style of Nazareth, a composer whom Nobre deeply admired.
The book also describes Beirama~r, Op. 21 (1966), a set of three songs for voice and piano that
displays a traditional style and the use of Afro-Brazilian themes, and Sou~ltinc itl\ I, Op. 37
(1972), a piece for percussion and piano combining extreme dynamic range, tone clusters and
intricate rhythmic techniques. The musical analyses are not very detailed, but the author makes
mention of Nobre's compositional phases.
A number of books have been written in Portuguese by Brazilian scholars who attempt to
construct the history of western art music in Brazil, along with its important representatives.
Nevertheless, few provide in-depth information about specific composers and compositions, and
almost none show detailed analysis and musical examples. Most of the information relies on
historical facts and biographical information along with a few lists of compositions.
Muzsica Contemporcinea Bra~sileira by Jose Maria Neves has been by far the most
informative source in the Portuguese language. Although it was written in 1981, the study has
never been re-issued and is out of print today. Some libraries dedicated to Latin American
Studies hold a copy of the book. Neves elaborates on the evolution of music in Brazil since the
beginning of the twentieth century. Although Marlos Nobre is only mentioned later in the book
in a short chapter, it is possible to understand his musical language simply following Neves'
analysis of evolution and influences present in Brazilian music. It is almost as if, from the
beginning to the end, Neves was describing the compositional aspects of Marlos Nobre. His
description of Nobre is fairly accurate, especially for being written in the early 1980s. Neves
mentions how accomplished Nobre is and how big a future awaits him.
Another important source in Portuguese is Vasco Mariz's Historia da Muzsica no Bra~sil,
first published in 1981 and now in its fifth edition, which was published in 2000. The book is a
good source for a panoramic view of the development of music in Brazil. From the Colonial
period until the latest generation of composers, Mariz is fair enough to give space to every single
composer, independent of how important that composer has been to the development of the
compositional trends in Brazil. This is a positive factor, especially in referring to the new, young
generation of composers. The book reads more like a novel, and the musical analyses are not
very deep. There are no musical excerpts and the few analyses are mostly about vocal works. It
is important to know that Vasco Mariz is a singer himself. Nevertheless, the book does not lose
all value. Chapter 22, devoted to the second generation of independent composers, describes the
life and works of Marlos Nobre in eight pages. It is a valuable source of knowledge about
Nobre's main achievements and a fair description of Nobre's compositions. Very little
information is given about the composer' s orchestral works. Mariz lists the maj or works written
by Nobre, divided into compositional periods, and gives a brief comment on Nobre's musical
Figura~s da 2Mzsica Contemporcinea no Bra~sil (2nd ed. 1970), al so by Vasco Mariz,
contains some important information. But it is not as updated as the information in the above-
mentioned book. This book contains 17 chapters and includes most of the contemporary
composers with a succinct biography as well as an aesthetic stylistic position of their most
important works. Unfortunately there are no musical examples, which is characteristic of the
writer. Another downside to the book is the lack of information about primary sources. However,
Mariz provides a list of compositional catalogues of certain composers, followed by their
respective publisher's addresses. It is a useful book, but not as complete as his Historia da
IMzsica no Bra~sil.
The most important source for Marlos Nobre is the recently-published Marlos Nobre-El
sonido del realismo magco, by Tomas Marco. The book is as complete as possible within its
limitations and it is an excellent source for all scholars interested in life and works of Marlos
Nobre. An English version would increase its reach to a wider audience and it would
consequently provide better knowledge of Marlos Nobre. Marco groups Nobre's compositions
by genres and devotes a chapter to each group. There are no musical excerpts and little analytical
detail is given. However, Marco's personal insights in attempting to describe Nobre's style and
compositional techniques are of great value. The book also contains photographs that enrich its
text. This source also provides an appendix with an updated list of works and a list of Nobre' s
writings and discography. The book was written for the celebration of Nobre' s acquisition of the
sixth edition of the Tomas Luis de Victoria prize in Spain in the summer of 2006.
General books on the history of music such as The Development of Western M~usic: A
History (third edition), by Marie K. Stolba, or A History of Western M~usic (fifth Edition), by
Donald Jay Grout and Claude V. Palisca, place little emphasis on music since the 1960s.
Although they are widely used in colleges and universities, these general histories lack
information regarding the development of music in a post-serial period as well as information on
other parts of the world, such as Latin America. Palisca' s book has one paragraph on music in
Latin America, and that refers mostly to nationalism. He mentions Villa-Lobos, Revueltas,
Chavez, Ginastera and one of each of their pieces.
General music appreciation textbooks such as, M~usic: An Appreciation (eighth edition), by
Roger Kamien, or Understanding M~usic (third edition), by Jeremy Yudkin make no mention of
Marlos Nobre. Both textbooks mention music in the twentieth century and briefly cover music
after the 1960s. Kamien' s book is more informative in that sense, but there is no inclusion of
music in South America.
Music in the M~odern Age, edited by F. W. Sternfeld (1973), has one chapter devoted to
music in Latin America. Written by Robert Stevenson, the chapter mainly describes the maj or
figures of Latin America in the twentieth-century: Chavez, Villa-Lobos, Ginastera. To those,
Stevenson adds Castro in Argentina, Revueltas in Mexico, Soro and Allende in Chile, and
Castillo and Delgadillo in Central America. In the section covering Brazil, Stevenson mentions a
list of other important and promising composers of the twentieth-century. Marlos Nobre receives
more attention than any other composer in this section, with eight lines of biographical
description and information on important festivals.
Important books on twentieth-century music such as M~odern M~usic andAfter: Directions
since 1945 (1995), by Paul Griffiths, and TaI I'ntil'th-Century M~usic: A History of2~usical Style in
Modern Europe and America, by Robert P. Morgan, make no mention of South America.
Nevertheless, they remain excellent, fundamental resources for important stylistic developments
in modern and contemporary art music.
Theses and Dissertations
Marlos Nobre and his works have been the topic of several theses and dissertations in
Brazil, Austria, Canada, and the United States over the past ten years. Unfortunately, the
maj ority of these writings are not published, so most people have no access to them.9 Very few
of these works deal with compositions other than piano and topics other than the nationalistic
traits in his work. This author was able to find specific dissertations that were very helpful to the
development of this document. In order to obtain and study these works, the author had to
contact the respective writers and borrow their private copies.
Maria Luiza Corker Cardoso Nobre de Almeida' s Aspectos Ticnicos e Estiticos de
.GII ilu inc ia III de Marlos Nobre: Uma Introdupdo 'a Problema~tica da Intuigdo versus
Cerebralismo, was written in 1995 for a Master' s Degree at the Federal Univeristy of Rio de
Janeiro. The thesis contains important and insightful information regarding the composer' s
compositional process through one of his most valuable compositions, .Cloutinc itl lll, Op. 49
(1980). The thesis starts with an analysis of intuition versus cerebralism and then follows with
technical aspects, notation and aesthetic interpretation. An analysis of the piece along with its
9 Ph.D. dissertations are accessed through UMI, however most of these documents are D.M.A. dissertations and they
are not always found in the system.
entire score is provided. The analysis, however, focuses more on form, rhythm, and aleatoric
content in the work. A harmonic analysis based on pitch material would make the approach more
complete. In general, the thesis provides useful information. However, the thesis is not
published, but one can get a good glance at its content and information by looking at Corker-
Nobre' s article "SoutllincL itl\ III, Op. 49 de Marlos Nobre," published in 1994 in the Latin
American M~usic Review. It is important to note that the article is written in Portuguese.
The only available work related to Nobre' s orchestral works is An Analytical Study of
Marlos Nobre 's Saga arista: Passacaglia for Orchestra, Op. 84, by Jorge Richter. This is a
D.M.A. dissertation for Michigan State University (2002). Unfortunately, the work is not
published. Richter' s document contains deep, analytical information on one of Nobre' s latest
orchestral works. But it does not attempt to present deeper insights into Nobre's music and does
not situate the work in relation to Nobre's other works. It also does not contextualize the
importance of that specific work to Nobre's musical language and compositional development.
Richter divides the chapters into separate aspects of his analytical approach, such as formal,
melodic, and harmonic analysis. A list of pitch set material is provided in one of the appendices.
The document confirms Richter' s knowledge as a theorist and conductor, generating interesting
and valuable information.
Articles, Reviews, and Interviews
Articles, interviews and reviews on Marlos Nobre and his works abound. In fact, these are
the bulk of references about him. A small portion of this material is related to Nobre' s orchestral
works and there is some mention of his compositional techniques, especially in interviews.
"Marlos Nobre en Londres," by Luis Merino published in Revista Musical Chilena vol. 42,
no. 169, 1988, pp. 95-96, describes Nobre's musical creation as a clear combination of several
styles from the avant-garde styles of the moment, where he consciously extracts elements that he
needs and, at the same time, unconsciously makes use of other elements from Brazilian national
folklore. The author emphasizes the personal and characteristic result ofNobre's music, which is
intellectual and at the same time, evocative. He confirms Nobre's use of absolute control over
aleatoric passages and how the effects reflect the composer's creative imagination and
experience. The article is helpful to understand the creative process of the composer.
Another article by Luis Merino "Marlos Nobre, Cantata del Chimborazo, Op. 56 para
Tenor, Baritono, Coro y Orquestra sobre un texto de Simon Bolivar," was also published by
Revista Musical Chilena, vol. 38, no. 162, 1984, pp. 154-158. Merino analyzes the three parts of
this great piece, which was commissioned for the bicentennial of Simon Bolivar in 1982. The
piece was premiered at the Bellas Artes National Theater in Maracaibo, Venezuela. The article
explains some musical ideas the composer uses in this piece. The piece was composed in 1982, a
period in which the composer had reached maturity and had better defined his musical language
and style. The first part is a passacaglia and the principal theme is a series of 16 chromatic notes,
each with its own chord. These chords represent a harmonic structure in expansion. The
composer utilizes tonality, atonality, polytonality, and some serial resources, all with the
intention of simply expressing the musical ideas behind the work. Interestingly, in the second
part the composer uses blocks of tonal chords instead of the usual clusters or ecstatic sound
blocks characteristic of the time. The third movement recapitulates the passacaglia idea and the
piece ends in E maj or. This article is helpful in understanding the analytical aspect of this
cantata, which is the basis for his orchestral piece Abertura Festiva, composed a year later.
"Un discurso de Trascendencia: la ponencia presentada por el compositor brasilefio Marlos
Nobre en el Festival de Maracaibo en noviembre de 1977," by Francisco Curt Lange, was
published in Revista Musical Chilena, no. 142-144, 1978, pp. 126-130. This article is based on a
summary of Nobre' s lecture "La problematica de la Musica Latinoamericana," at the Festival
Latinoamericano de Musica Contemporanea in 1978. It also makes use of additional information
in the first edition of Colonial Sacred Music of Venezuela, written by composer and musicologist
Juan Bautista Plaza, and an edition of music by contemporary composers from Latin America by
Curt Lange. Nobre's lecture addresses the difficulties faced by composers in Latin America to
publicize their music. He encourages the organization of more music festivals within Latin
America, so that Latin American composers do not need to travel so far to Europe or the
United States to have their pieces performed. He also supports exchanging pieces and
programs so that performers, ensemble groups, and orchestras of different countries can perform
one another' s works. He pushes for better communication between composers and shows interest
in creating research centers of information and divulgation in order to promote international
music. Nobre emphasizes a need to help young composers understand national music in their
native countries and appreciate their rich folklore, in hopes that they might use, for example,
Ginastera and Villa-Lobos as models, instead of Penderecki and Prokofiev. The article
demonstrates the kind of work Nobre developed in his administrative positions, which were
comparable to his ideas as a composer.
Gkrinmakrinkrin de Marlos Nobre," by Maria Ester Grebe, published in Revista2~usical
Chilena, vol. 22, no. 148, 1979, pp. 48-57, gives a detailed analysis of Ukrinmakrinkrin, Op. 17,
which was composed in 1964 for soprano, piano, piccolo, oboe, and French horn. The piece was
composed during Nobre' s studies at the Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires and it has three
movements based on indigenous Brazilian texts using the Xucuru dialect. The work presents
logical and strict writing in the first movement, while the second movement is free and
indeterminate. The third movement displays a combination of the two ideas and finds a balance
between the strict and aleatoric, in favor of elements of pure expression. The harmonic structure
of the piece is based on the interaction of these three instrumental groups: voice, piano and the
three wind instruments. Each has their own musical lines, which follow a horizontal structure
while simultaneously interacting vertically. Grebe describes Nobre' s expression of musical ideas
within a Baroque context in this piece, exploring his use of organic development from
ornamentations, the effects and glissandi through the exploration of colors and the power of the
evocation of the human voice. Grebe compares Nobre with Machaut' sa f~in est nzon
conanencentent et nzon conanencentent ma fin, a rondeau that utilizes a complex technique with
binary structure and retrogration process. It is important to remember that Nobre had a strong
training in vocal polyphonic masses, and that the medieval modes through northeast Brazilian
folklore remain a big influence in his works. This piece is one of the most important works
composed by Nobre, and it affords insights into his development.
Gerard Behague's review, entitled "Marlos Nobre: Orchestral Vocal and Chamber Music,"
published in Latin American M~usic Review vol. 17, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 1996), pp. 85-89,
makes the following statement:
No other Brazilian composer of his generation has been able to garner such an
extraordinary recognition. Indeed, this is due to the sheer creative power and imagination
that Nobre' s compositions reveal.
The review describes Nobre's orchestral, vocal, and chamber works, along with an
informative summary of his biography and compositional style. Behague describes the pieces
from the Leman Classics Recording, which make up some of Nobre's most characteristic and
representative compositions during his second and third periods, from 1963 until 1980. The
writer describes Nobre' s exuberance through an enormous range of instrumental colors and
rhythmic construction. In the musical descriptions, Behague is more informative when
describing M~osaico, one of Nobre' s first displays of exceptional command over sophisticated
techniques and a deep sense of engineering. He also supplies good information on Sonautill ial\ lll.
In that piece, using powerful, individual, and highly expressive style, Nobre combines several of
his previous compositional techniques with rhythm, harmonic and formal aspects revealing the
beginning of a subsequent more mature stage.
Paul Earls' "Marlos Nobre: Gkrinmakinkrin, Op. 17 and M~osaico para Orquestra, Op.
36," published in Anuario de Investigacion M~usical, vol. 8, 1972, pp. 178-180, is a description of
two of Nobre's most accomplished works. Earls gives a brief biographical description and
explains how the two works belong to two different stages of Nobre's output. Ukrinmakrinkrin's
evident success was fundamental to launching the composer' s career internationally. Even
though the piece is written in the Brazilian indigenous Xucuru dialect, the vocal idiom of the
piece is closer to that of Luciano Berio (Circles) and Pierre Boulez (pli selon pli), not necessarily
more primitive. Nevertheless, the piece successfully occupies a middle position between regional
and international traditions. The piece is accessible and communicative and constructed for
successful presentation. Earls presents Mosaico as a piece of three movements, each derived
from a single gestural concept. The piece is much more sophisticated than the previous one, and
includes use of temporal blocks measured in terms of 'short' and 'normal' breaths. Earls also
comments on how quickly Nobre's music became known internationally, and how that could
impact his search for a more personal compositional voice.
"An Interview with Marlos Nobre," by Royal S. Brown, published in Fanfare, vol. 18, no.
1, 1994, pp. 60-66, is one of the very few English-language resources regarding this composer.
Brown begins with a short introduction, giving a little biographical information and citing a few
important works. The interview is very useful because it gives Nobre the chance to explain in his
own words how the compositional process happens in his mind, as well as how certain influences
play a role in his musical development. Brown asks Nobre to describe Recife, the place where he
was born and grew up, as well as the musical environment of his early years. Nobre says he
needed to study sociology and anthropology to please his father. The interview concludes with
Nobre's comments on his contracts with Leman Classics, EMI, and Deutsche Grammophon.
Another useful interview is "Musicos de Hoy: Marlos Nobre 'El advenimiento de la
electr8nica fue un factor decisivo...,'" by Jacobo Romano, published in Buenos Aires M~usical,
May 1971. The article develops through questions posed to Marlos Nobre about the result of the
union of art and technology. Nobre gives insights and describes the importance to the sound
when art and science work together. The questions aim to better understand the intercorrelation
among art, science, and the desire of mankind to comprehend its own existence. Moreover,
Nobre describes his musical ideologies and his aesthetic thought. The second half of the
interview exposes ideas about Nobre' s musical language and compositional techniques.
"Nueve Preguntas a Marlos Nobre," published by Revista Musical Chilena, vol. 33 no.
148, 1979, is one of the most complete interviews done with the composer. Nobre explains the
things that influenced him and details developments within his works. He also classifies the
periods of his compositional output, which helps scholars understand and analyze his works.
Nobre explains the strong influence that northeastern Brazilian folklore represents to his
compositional style. He concentrates on the influence of the Maracatu, a carnival procession
accompanied by percussive music that is constructed of polyrhythm, large, dynamic crescendos
and irregular accents. Nobre also describes typical Brazilian percussion instruments and how that
type of folkloric music became a living memory in his blood and heart.
"De Ouvidos Bem Abertos" by Eduardo Fradkin, published by O Globo Review in
December 2005, is one of the few interviews published in Brazil that affords Internet access. The
article is written in Portuguese, but it gives a great deal of biographical information along with a
series of questions, which Nobre answers, referring to his works and influences. Moreover,
Nobre comments on the difficulty of making contemporary composers' recordings available in
Brazilian stores. He says he sometimes needs to encourage people to acquire them. Nobre also
comments on his then-recent winning of the 6th Edition of the Tomas Luis de Victoria in Spain,
and how much more his music is appreciated in Europe than in Brazil. Nobre explains that he
embraces all of the available techniques, and remarks that he believes in plurality, which is
clearly translated through his works.
Another interview, published in O Globo Review in August, 2006, is "A Musica Forte de
Marlos Nobre," by Cl6vis Marques. Marques describes Nobre' s success and traj ectory as well as
his earning of the most recent Tomas Luis de Vict6ria Prize in Madrid. Nobre was the first
Brazilian composer to receive the prize, placing him alongside composers from other countries,
such as Harold Gramatges, from Cuba; Celso Garrido-Lecca, from Peru; Alfredo del M6naco,
from Venezuela; and Xavier Montsalvatge and Juan Guinj oan, from the Catalan region in Spain.
Marques asks Nobre to describe his Piano Sonata on a Theme by Bela Bartok, which was
premiered at the prize ceremony in Spain in the summer of 2006. Nobre comments on his maj or
influences such as Debussy, Bart6k, and Lutoslawski. He describes a number of contemporary
composers he admires, such as Sofia Gubaidulina, Henryk G6recki, Krzysztof Penderecki, Kaij a
Saariaho among others. Nobre also emphasizes the lack of support and opportunities for young
composers in Brazil, and talks about how this situation could be remedied through governmental
"Nobre: 3 Cangd~es Negras, Desafio XYXXII, Canto a Garcia Lorca, 3 Cangdes de
Beiramar," by Marc Mandel, published in FanfarFFFFFFFF~~~~~~~~e vol. 24, no. 1 (September/October 2000), pp.
303-304, is a review on Nobre' s works that involve soprano and cello octet ensembles. Although
the review is related to the recording by CHANNEL CCS 15598, Mandel writes a great deal
about Nobre' s origins and major influences. He also describes the pieces and the musical
techniques used by Nobre. He compares Nobre to Villa-Lobos, whose Bachiana~s Bra~sileira~s No.
1 and No. 5 are also composed for cello octet, the latter with added soprano recorded on the same
CD. Mandel acknowledges the competence of both composers.
"Latin-American Masterworks for the Cello," by Michael Jameson, published in Fanfare,
vol. 23, no. 3 (November/December 1999), pp. 421-422, contains another review on Nobre's
Desajio. This time, Nobre is recorded along with several other Latin-American composers such
as Chavez, Piazzola, Mignone, Diazmunoz, and Gaito. The version ofDesaffo discussed here is
the series for cello and piano from 1976. Jameson comments on the presence and impact of the
piece, and how much the work has absorbed the techniques of Messiaen and Penderecki.
A review of one of Nobre' s most important recordings was published by Diederick De
Jong in American Record Guide, vol. 57, no. 5 (September/October 1994), pp. 168-169. The
review, "Nobre:1In 2emoriamn, Mosaico, Converg~ncia~s, Biofera, O Canto 2ultiplicado,
Gkrinmakinkrin, Rhythmetron, Divertimento, Concerto Breve, Rhythmic Variations, and
SadCl~li itl\ l and III," reveals aspects about Nobre as a composer, conductor, and pianist. De Jong
describes peculiar characteristics of Nobre's music such as rhythmic vitality, striking sound
combinations, spontaneity and roots in Brazilian folklore and nature. De Jong emphasizes
Nobre's position as an heir to Villa-Lobos' mantle.
Robert Carl's "Nobre: Orchestral, Vocal and Chamber Works," published in Fanfare, vol.
18, no. 1, 1994, pp. 278-280, is based on the same recording. Carl describes Nobre's influences
and how they are reflected in his pieces, especially those recorded in this two-CD set. The set
represents the bulk of Nobre's best works. Carl comments on the energetic drive present in
Nobre's music, noting that it results from the use of motoric rhythms along with bright colors in
the percussion, which translate into a successful blend of modernistic techniques with folkloristic
materials. Carl explains the importance of Nobre' s utilization of Brazilian musical influences as
opposed to the faceless internationalism that dominated the European avant-garde of the 1960s.
Biographical Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
In addition to being discussed in articles, Marlos Nobre and his works are also discussed in
some biographical dictionaries and encyclopedias.
In the Concise Edition ofBaker 's Biographical Dictionaly of2~usicians, 8th Ed. (1994),
Nicholas Slonimsky finds that Nobre succeeded in forming a strong individual manner of
musical self-expression despite all the efflux of styles he was exposed to as a student. He
believes Nobre is one of the few contemporary Latin-American composers who does not disdain
utilizing folkloristic inflections in his music. Slonimsky gives a list of works composed by Nobre
and some biographical information.
In Music Since 1900 (1971), Nicholas Slonimsky lists maj or events that happened from
1900 until 1985.10 It is surprising that Nobre is only mentioned once, in a concert at the Fourth
Inter-American Music Festival in Washington, D.C. on a program of avant-garde music of Latin
America in 1967. Nothing about Nobre is mentioned after that.
In The New Grove Dictionazy of2~usic and Mtsicians (2001), Gerard Behague provides a
great deal of biographical information on Nobre followed by a selective list of works, writings
and bibliography. Behague finds that Nobre holds an important position in the contemporary
Brazilian music scene. He says that Nobre' s rich, eclectic academic background, mixed with
'o The book was first published in 1971 containing material up to 1969. Afterwards, Slonimsky wrote a supplement
in another smaller volume that covers up to July 13, 1985.
influences from different periods and styles of music, gives special characteristics to his musical
language that go from tonal to modal, polytonal, and atonal.
The Camnbridge History of TE l enil'th-Century M~usic, edited by Nicholas Cook and
Anthony Pople, makes no mention at all of music in Latin America. However, Villa-Lobos and
his Bachianas Brasileiras are cited in the chapter titled "Reclaiming national traditions and the
idea of '-ana' works," by Herman Danuser. At the end, there is a small description of each
person listed in the book. Some biographical information on Villa-Lobos is provided. Chavez'
"Reinventing Traditions," by Michaels Walter, also receives a lot of attention, but Ginastera, for
instance, is not even listed.
The Thzames and Hudson Encyclopedia of20th-Century M~usic (1986), by Paul Griffths,
mentions Latin American composers. But in Brazil, only Villa-Lobos gets an entry, offering a
biographical description and list of his most significant works.
A TP l enil'th-Century M~usical Chronicle-Events from 1900-1988 (1989), compiled by
Charles J. Hall, lists maj or events around the musical world in the twentieth century. Latin
American figures such as Ginastera and Villa-Lobos are included but there is no mention of
Among contemporary composers in Brazil, Marlos Nobre has come to occupy a prominent
position within the Brazilian avant-garde. He is widely considered by Brazilian musical
establishments and the world community to be the successor of Villa-Lobos. Nobre' s enormous
output and strong, individual style are substantial enough to distinguish him as one of today's
The following chapter contains two sections: the first provides detailed biographical
information, and the second describes important influences and specific characteristics of
Nobre' s compositional style. Most of the biographical information presented in this study is
related to the composer's career, with very few details regarding his personal life.
Marlos Nobre: The Man
Marlos Nobre was born in Recife, Pernambuco, on February 18, 1939. His parents were
music lovers and amateur musicians; his father played the guitar and his mother played the
piano. Two ofNobre's cousins were professional musicians and piano teachers. At age five,
Nobre began his musical studies at the Music Conservatory of Pernambuco in Recife, first under
his cousin Nysia Nobre and then under his other cousin, Hilda Nobre, the latter being a respected
pianist in Brazil. Both cousins gave Nobre his first insights into piano technique, which he later
developed on his own by studying the method of Leimer-Gieseking.l He graduated from the
Conservatory in Piano Performance and Theory in 1955. In 1956, he entered Instituto Ernani
Braga in Recife, graduating with distinction in Harmony, Counterpoint, and Composition three
years later. He studied there under Padre Jaime Diniz and, one year before his graduation,
received a scholarship from the Department of Research and Culture of Recife to participate at
SMarco, Tomis. Marlos Nobre El sonido del realismo mcigico. Madrid: Fundaci6n Autor, 2006.
the National Course of Sacred Music, where he studied under Padre Rene Brighenti. In the same
year, Nobre won the first prize in the Concerto Competition organized by the Symphonic
Orchestra of Recife.2
Nobre composed his Concertino for Piano and String Orchestra, which he considers his
Opus 1, in 1959 and received an honorable mention in the First National Competition of Music
and Musicians of Brazil, organized by the Radio of the Ministry of Culture and Education of
Brazil. Nobre' s first composition for piano, Nazarethiana, Op. 2, composed in 1960, received
first prize at the German-Brazilian Society Competition of Recife. Consequently, Nobre received
a scholarship to study at the X Intemnational Summer Course in Teres6polis (Curso Intemacional
de Ferias in Teres6polis), Brazil, where he took composition lessons under H. J. Koellreuter. In
the late 1950s Koellreuter first introduced Nobre to the dodecaphonic technique, which became
the focus of Nobre' s Variations for Oboe Solo, Op. 3. After the advanced variations, Nobre went
back to Recife and composed his Trio, Op. 4, which received first prize in the second annual
National Competition of Musicians and Musical Composition of Brazil. A review published in
the Diario de Noticias reads: ...Marlos Nobre e como uma estrela de intense luminosidade a
quem Villa-Lobos parece haver entregue o cetro da criaCgo musical brasileira."3 With his First
Ciclo Nordestino for Pianzo, Op. 5, Nobre won second prize at the National Composition
Competition of the State Commission of Sho Paulo in the same year.
In 1961, as a soloist in his own Concertino for Piano and String Orchestra, Nobre received
another scholarship to study under Camargo Guarnieri in Sho Paulo. Among the works
composed under Guamieri's guidance are Nobre's Theme and Variations for Pianzo, Op. 7,
2 Ibid., p. 28
3 "(...Marlos Nobre is like a star of intense luminosity to whom Villa-Lobos seems to have passed the power of
Brazilian musical creation."
which received First Prize at the Young Composer' s Award of BMI in New York; 16 Variations
on a theme by Fructuoso Vianna, also for Piano, Op. 8, No. 1, which received First prize at the
International Competition of New Music of Brazil; and Trds Cangaes for Voice and'Piano, Op.
9, which obtained First Prize at the Second Brazilian Song Competition. Along with Guarnieri's
other students, Nobre founded the Brazilian Society Pro-Music (Sociedade pro Musica
Brasileira) with the obj ective of promoting the New Music of Brazil. Nobre became the group's
first secretary. He also obtained an administrative position at the Radio of the Ministry of Culture
and Education (Radio do Ministerio de EducaCgo e Cultura Radio MEC), a position through
which he continues to administer and present programs, although there have been some
interruptions in this job throughout the years. Nobre also founded and led the Music Renovation
Movement in Brazil (Movimento Musical Renovador), which promoted contemporary Brazilian
With a scholarship from the Rockefeller Foundation, Nobre began his studies as a graduate
student at the Latin American Center of the Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires in 1963. While at
the Institute, he studied advanced compositional techniques with Alberto Ginastera, the director
of the center, Olivier Messiaen, Riccardo Malipiero, Aaron Copland, Luigi Dallapiccola and
Bruno Maderna. Nobre also received electronic music lessons from Bozarello and Jose Vincente
This period became very important to Nobre as he defined a more personal style. This style
is demonstrated in works he composed in 1963 and 1964, such as Divertimento for Piano and'
Orchestra, Op. 14, and Ukrinmakrinkrin, Op. 17, for soprano, piano, piccolo, oboe and French
horn. Divertimento received First Prize at the Ernesto Nazareth Competition organized by
Brazilian Academy of Music. Gkrinmakrinkin became one of the most important works in
Nobre's catalogue. He dedicated it to Ginastera.
Returning to Brazil in 1965, Nobre was invited to participate at the First Latin American
Composition Seminar at Indiana University. With financial support from the Brazilian
government, Nobre traveled to the United States and presented an essay on avant-garde musical
notation: "A Problematica da Notagio na Musica Contemporinea."4 In the same year, his
Variagaes Ritmicas, Op. 15, and Ukrinmakrinkrin, were chosen to represent Brazilian avant-
garde music at the Fourth Biennale in Paris.
In 1966, Nobre went to Europe on a cultural mission, representing Brazilian music for the
government (Itamarati Department of State/Foreign Affairs). He audited the Spring Festival in
Prague and, with Gkrinmakrinkrin, he officially represented Brazil at UNESCO's International
Composition Tribune in Paris. In the same year, Nobre received First Prize in the National
Composition Competition of the City of Santos with his piece Dengues d'a Mulata
Desinteressad'a, Op. 20, for voice and piano. He was also declared Best Composer of the Year by
the Radio Jornal do Brasil.s
The young composer participated at the First Inter-American Festival in Rio de Janeiro in
1967. He performed as the soloist of his Divertimento for Piano and' Orchestra under the
direction of Eleazar de Carvalho and the Brazilian Symphonic Orchestra. In the same year, he
wrote his String Quartet No. 1, Op. 26, as a commission from Radio MEC. The piece premiered
at the Second Festival of America and Spain in Madrid. He founded the New Music Society of
Brazil and formed the New Music Ensemble of Rio de Janeiro, which he conducted.
4"Problems in the Notation of Contemporary Music."
5 His first recording appeared in 1966.
Two commissions by the Brazilian Ballet Company came in 1968. Nobre wrote two
ballets: Rhythmetron, Op. 27, for 38 percussion instruments, and Converg~ncia~s, Op. 28, for
wind orchestra, piano, and percussion. Both ballets premiered in June of that year at the New
Theater of Rio de Janeiro under the choreography of Arthur Mitchell from the New York City
Ballet. Later that year, Nobre participated at the Fourth Inter-American Music Festival in
Washington, D.C. with his Can2ticum Instrumentale, Op. 25, written in 1967. Nobre also made
his debut in film music writing for Glauber Rocha' s O Dragdo da 2aldade contra o Santo
Guerreiro (The Evil Dragon and the Warrior-.a im)r. He became a member of the Music Council
of the Museum of Image and Sound of Rio de Janeiro (Conselho da Musica do Museu da
Imagem e Som do Rio de Janeiro), directed the First Brazilian Congress of Young Performers in
Rio de Janeiro, and organized Alban Berg' s Lulu premiere in Brazil.6
In 1969, Nobre was invited to participate at the Music Festival in Tanglewood, where his
Ludus Instrumentalis, Op. 34, for chamber orchestra, was premiered on August 18. While at the
Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood, Nobre met Leonard Bernstein and worked with
Alexander Goehr and Gunther Schtiller. Shortly after the festival, Nobre received an invitation to
study electronic music for a month with Vladimir Ussachevsky at the Columbia-Princeton
Electronic Music Center in New York. His Variagaes Ritmica~s, Op. 15, for piano and typical
Brazilian percussion, was premiered by the Paul Price Manhattan Percussion Ensemble at the
Pan American Week. He also participated at the Avant-garde of Americas in Rio de Janeiro with
his piece Tropicale, Op. 30. Tropicale was also performed at the Shakespeare Festival in New
York. Nobre composed Concerto Breve, Op. 33, for piano and orchestra, which was first played
6 Marco, p. 30.
by the great Brazilian pianist Arnaldo Estrela. The piece received Second Prize at the Guanabara
Festival and was performed later in the same year in Paris at the Sixth Biennale.
By the end of the 1960s, the young Brazilian composer had already proved his
competence. Support from the Brazilian government enabled Nobre to participate in various
important festivals of avant-garde music in the United States and Europe during the 1970s,
which exposed him to different compositional techniques.
His orchestral piece M~osaico, Op. 36, received Second Prize at the Guanabara Festival in
1970. In Europe, Nobre participated in a debate called "Composer, Performer, Public," organized
by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation of Lisbon and Madrid. He performed as a soloist in his
own Concerto Breve in the opening of the Second Festival of America and Spain. Later in 1970,
Nobre attended the International Seminar of Music and Theater in Berlin. At the end of the year,
he went to Buenos Aires to participate at the First Festival of Contemporary Music with
M~osaico. He also received the Prize Goltinho de Ouro (Little Golden Dolphin Prize), given to
the best composer of the year in Rio de Janeiro.
In 1971, Nobre went back to the United States and participated with his Concerto Breve at
the Fifth Inter-American Festival in Washington, D.C. He went to Europe for the annual meeting
of the Brazilian Section of the International Society of Contemporary Music (ISCM) in London.
In Paris, he presented his Concerto Breve, conducting the ORTF Philharmonic Orchestra with
pianist Susana Frugone. That performance afforded him an official position as the director of the
National Symphonic Orchestra in Brazil, a job he held until 1976.
In 1972, Nobre received a series of commissions. Among them were O Canto
M~ultiplicado, Op. 38, commissioned by the Goethe Institute in Munich, and Sou~ltinc itl\ I, for the
Artistic Committee of the Olympic Games in Munich. Some of his pieces were performed at the
Casals Festival in Puerto Rico, and M~osaico was chosen for the International Rostrum of
Composers of UNESCO in Paris. He participated at a symposium about Problematica Atual da
Grafia Musical (Current problems in musical notation) and at the Seminar on Musica e Meios
Tecnicos do Seculo XX (Music and technical means of the 20th century) at the Calouste
Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon. He directed the International Villa-Lobos Competition in Rio
de Janeiro and received a prestigious prize: the Order of Rio Branco.
In 1973, Nobre participated of the Tenth Diorama of Contemporary Music in Geneva,
Switzerland, with his orchestral work Biosfera, Op. 35, and was nominated to become a member
of the International Committee of the Arthur Rubinstein Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv.
His O Canzto M~ultiplicado, Op. 38, was performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.,
for the 25th anniversary of the Organization of the Americas. He was awarded the title of Global
Personality of Music by the Brazilian newspaper O Globo, and Citizen of the State by the Estado
da Guanabara newspaper.
In 1974, Biosfera, for string orchestra, was selected by the International Rostrum of
Composers of UNESCO and M~osaico was presented at the Sixth Inter-American Festival of
Washington, D.C. Nobre organized a meeting with the Executive Committee of the International
Music Council of UNESCO in Rio de Janeiro while the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra went on
a brilliant tour around Europe, performing M~osaico. At the same time, some of Nobre's works
were presented in important festivals. For example, Ludus Instrumentalis was performed at
Musik Protokoll in Graz, and Biosfera was performed at the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico.
In 1975, O Canzto M~ultiplicado was presented at the Campos do Jordio International
Festival in Sho Paulo, Sou~ltinc itl\ I, Op. 37, and Biosfera was performed at the Festival Tibor
Varga in Switzerland. Gkrinmakrinkrin was performed at the Cervantino Festival in Mexico, and
the String Quartet I was performed at both the Nineteenth Festival Autumn in Warsaw and the
Biennal of Brazilian Contemporary Music. Nominated by Yehudi Menuhin, UNESCO chose
Nobre as an individual member of the International Music Council during its assembly held in
Toronto. Film director Carlos Frederico made the movie Ukrinmakinkrin, the M~usic of2arlos
Nobre, which was awarded best short movie at the Cine Festival of Brasilia. In the same year,
Nobre established an editorial contract with Max Eschig of Paris and arranged a new contract
with the publisher Tonos Verlag of Darmstadt.7
In 1976, Nobre' s In M~emoriamn, Op 39, was premiered by the Brazilian Symphony
Orchestra. From then until 1980, Nobre was a member of the State Council of Culture in Rio de
Janeiro. Until 1979, he served as the director of FUNARTE (National Foundation of Art).
Through the latter position, Nobre was able to promote several events and concerts in order to
generally develop music in Brazil. Through several proj ects, he aimed to improve performances
and bands, cultivate the making of instruments, augment courses in general, and improve choirs.
The foundation also supported symphonic orchestras and popular-music groups, and promoted
incentives for composition and musical research. Moreover, Nobre participated as a member of
the jury at the 50th ISCM Festival in New York and organized the Committee for Latin American
Cultural Politics for UNESCO in Panama. One of his recordings under Philips, containing pieces
for piano and orchestra, received the award of Best Disc of the Year. Alongside concerts all over
the world, Nobre also participated at the New Music Festival in Santos with Gkrinmkrinkrin, the
Festival in Brasilia with his String Quartet I, and the Kultur Forum in Bonn with his Trio.
Nobre continued a very active agenda in 1977, participating in several music festivals. He
presented his orchestral work, Converg~ncia~s, Op. 28a, at the First Latin American Festival of
SIbid., p. 35.
Contemporary Music of Maracaibo, Venezuela, and M~omentos I, Op. 41, No. 1, at World Music
Week in Bratislava. He also participated in a tour of the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra around
the United States with his In M~emoriamn. While in Bratislava, Nobre was elected member of the
Executive Committee of the International Music Council of UNESCO. In Brazil, Converg~ncia~s
was performed at the Second Biennial of Brazilian Contemporary Music in Rio de Janeiro. The
Quinteto de sopros, Op. 29, was performed at the National Conference of Composers in Brasilia,
and Desafio V, Op. 31, No. 5, for six cellos, was performed at the First Intemnational Violoncellos
Festival at Paraiba. Nobre also prepared a lecture-recital on his own piano pieces in Porto Alegre
and repeated the program in several other places such as Rio Grande, Pelotas, Bage, Recife, Joho
Pessoa, Natal, and Florian6polis.
In M~emoriamn was chosen to be performed at the 52nd ISCM (Intemational Society of
Contemporary Music) Festival in Helsinki in 1978. Nobre presented his lecture-recital on his
piano pieces in Milan at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory and in other places in Brazil such as
Petr6polis, Rio de Janeiro, Fortaleza, Natal, and Joho Pessoa. The Juan March Foundation in
Madrid organized a full concert dedicated to Marlos Nobre in which O Canto M~ultiplicado,
Gkrinmakrinkrin, Trds Cangi~es, Quatro M~omentos, Op. 44, and Sonata sobre um Tema de Bdla
Bartok were performed. Nobre was also awarded the Cultural Merit Gold Medal of Pemnambuco.
In 1979, Nobre participated in the International Congress of the Musicological Society in
Adelaide, Australia. He also took part in the Assembly of the Intemnational Council of Music in
Melboume, and the Congress of Music of the 1980s, The New Horizons, in Sydney. In the same
year, he became member of the International Jury of Guitar at the France Radio in Paris. Nobre' s
Homenagem a Villa-Lobos, Op. 46, was mandatory piece in the final round of the competition.
The Musiculture Festival of Holland in Amsterdam, sponsored by the Beinum Foundation,
performed Nobre' s Rhythnzetron and invited him to lecture on Afro-Brazilian music. Several
pieces were recorded there under EMI and OEA. Dr M~enoria~n was selected by the National
Public Radio System Proj ect in the United States to be broadcast over 230 channels. That piece
also received several prizes, which will be discussed in the following chapter.
Several events occurred in 1980. Nominated by the Intemnational Music Center of
Stidwestfunk of Baden-Baden and the Heinrich Strobel Foundation, Nobre was elected Member
of the Selection Committee of the Cine Intemnational Tribune. He participated in a Symposium
on Latin American Baroque in Rome, where he lectured on the Sacred Music of Minas Gerais.
Several programs were exclusively dedicated to his works in 1980. Among them were the
International Festival of Contemporary Music in Turin, where they performed Can2ticunt
hIstruntentale, Gkrinnzakrinkrin, Quatro M~onentos, and O Canzto M~ultiplicado, and the Suisse
Romande, a program of three hours dedicated entirely to Nobre. During the Suisse Romande,
Nobre premiered Sou~ltinc itl\ III, Op. 49. He gave a series of masterclasses at the Real
Conservatory in Brussels. Dr M~enoria~n was performed at the Piestansky Festival in the former
Czechoslovakia, and Trds Cangi~es was performed at the Nordic Music Festival in Stockholm.
Nobre was Member of the Jury of the Intemnational Competition of Ancona and of the
International Guitar Competition at Radio Francia in Paris. He also organized the Second Latin
American and the Caribbean Tribune (Trimalca) and the Symposium on Musical Traditions of
Latin America in Sho Paulo. Nobre' s Desatio y7I, Op. 31, No. 7, premiered in Switzerland under
his direction with the Young Orchestra of Friburg and pianist Maria Luiza Corker. Alberto and
Aurora Ginastera were among the spectators during this occasion. Nobre participated in the
SMaria Luiza has been considered one of the greatest pianists in Brazil. She has premiered several of Nobre's works
for piano solo, with orchestra, and chamber works.
Atelier of Latin American Composers in Buenos Aires and was invited by the Brahms
Gesellschaft in Baden-Baden to be a Composer in Residence.
While in Baden-Baden in 1981, Nobre finished his Concerto for String Orchestra II, Op.
53, as a commission from the University of Indiana. The piece premiered at the University of
Indiana as the opening for the Music of Our Time Festival. At the event, Nobre participated in
the Composers' Forum along with Lukas Foss and Milton Babbit. He also took part in other
activities in Europe, such as the premiere of his YanomaniY~~YYY~~~YY~~~YY Op. 47, in Friburg, and a full concert
of the Suisse Romande Orchestra in which he conducted his own works. This concert featured
Converg~ncia~s, Musicamnera, Op. 8, Desafio VII, and Concertino, featuring Maria Luiza Corker
as a soloist. Nobre also participated at the celebrated congress in Budapest on "The Composer of
the 20th Century," and was elected as Vice-president by the Executive Committee of the
International Music Council of UNESCO for the years 1981-1982. His In M~emoriamn was
performed in France by the Pasdeloup Orchestra under Dimitri Chorafas at the Champs-Elysees
In the following year, Nobre married pianist Maria Luiza Corker.9 Several of his pieces
were performed in Europe and he participated at the Workshop of the Gaudeamus Foundation,
teaching a masterclass. His Ciclos Nordestinos I, II, andlll were selected for the gala concert of
the United Nations Day in Paris. Nobre also participated at the Inter-American Music Festival in
Washington D.C., with Sou~ltinc itl\ L He was member of the International Jury of the Simon
Bolivar Composition Competition in Caracas, along with Ginastera and Penderecki. Nobre also
participated of the Contemporary Art Festival in Buenos Aires with Desafio VIl and received a
9 The couple lives currently in Rio de Janeiro with their daughter Karina, born in 1992.
commission by Embratel (Brazilian Company of Comunications) to write Abertura Festiva, Op.
56bis, for the opening of the Fifteenth National Congress of Technological Communications in
Rio de Janeiro. He was later chosen by DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austausschdienst) to
be a composer in residence in Berlin.
In 1983, Nobre wrote Cantat de Chimborazo, Op. 56, with texts by Simon Bolivar, as a
commission. The piece was premiered in October in Caracas. Nobre participated in some
activities in Europe, such as the Assembly of the International Music Council of UNESCO in
Stockholm, where he became, once again, an elected member of the institution. He held a
position as a member of the International Jury of the Ancona Prize in Italy and wrote two essays:
"Problematica da Musica Latino Americana" (The problem of Latin American music), and
"Technology and the Composer in Today's World." The first was presented in Caracas at a
Symposium of Latin American Composers. The second was presented at a congress in Rome,
sponsored by UNESCO, with the theme "Technology and Culture."
In 1984, Nobre received a commission from FUNARTE to write a flute piece for the
National Competition of Interpretation. He also went to Spain and Luxemburg for the
International General Assembly of Young Musicians. There, he founded the Young Musicians of
Brazil Institute, becoming its director. Nobre participated in the Latin Intercultural Festival at the
University of Califomnia in San Diego with Sou~ltinc itl\ III and at the International Forum of New
Music in Mexico City with M~omentos I, Op. 41, No. 1. He also participated in the First
International Festival of Contemporary Music in Havana, Cuba with In M~emoriamn and Desa/Fo
III, Op. 31, No. 3, and at the International Festival of ISCM in Toronto with Taxngo, Op. 61. A
concert dedicated to music from Brazil presented Converg~ncia~s and Concerto for Piano and
String Orchestra, Op. 64, in Niza. Also, the Association of Critics of Sho Paulo selected Cantat
do Chimborazo as Best Chorale-Symphonic Piece, and Nobre participated at the Forum on
Brazilian Music at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth with .Clutlinc itl\ I.
From 1985 until 1989, Nobre held several administrative positions and traveled many
places performing his works. He was so busy that he was unable to compose new works.
Nevertheless, those years were equally active and successful for him.
In 1985, Nobre received a Guggenheim Fellowship to be Composer in Residence in New
York. He was also elected president of the International Music Council Assembly of UNESCO
in Dresden for the years 1986-1987. He participated in the Intemnational Festival of the ISCM in
Amsterdam with .Cloutinc itl\ I, and at the Inter-American Festival in Washington, D.C., with
.Cloutinc itl\ III. He organized the Trimalca in Rio de Janeiro, participated in the Intemnational
Guitar Encounter in Sevilla with Prologo e Toccata, Op. 65, and participated in the International
Music and Dance Festival in Granada with Desa/Fo III. He was also elected president of the
Brazilian Academy of Music, taking the first chair, which used to belong to Heitor Villa-Lobos.
In 1986, Nobre was elected to become a member of the Brazilian Academy of Art, taking
the place of Francisco Mignone (1897-1986). The Brazilian president chose Nobre to be
President of the Villa-Lobos Centennary. A variety of Nobre's pieces were performed at several
events, such as Variagdes Ritmica~s, at the Contemporary Music Festival of McGill University in
Montreal; Prologo e Toccata, at the Intemnational Guitar Festival in Havana; Desatio II, Op. 31,
No. 2, and Quinteto de Sopro, at the Inter-American Music Festival in Washington, D.C.;
.Cloutinc itl\ I, at the Intemnational Forum of New Music in Mexico City, and Concerto Breve, Op.
33, at the New Music Festival in Santos. Nobre also moderated the Symposium on New
International Means for the Presentation of Contemporary Music at the MIDEM in Cannes. He
presented his article, "The Role and Situation of the Composer Today," at the Intemnational
Society of Music Education in Innsbruck, and put on a masterclass for the Gaudeamus
Foundation of Holland at the General Intemnational Assembly of Young Musicians in Krakow.
In 1987, Nobre was named member of the Intemnational Honor Committee by the MIDEM
of Cannes. He presided there over a symposium on musical commission, the Tribune on Dance
Video, and a symposium on "Traditional Music-Professional Music." Along with Graham Green,
Luciano Berio, Mauricio Pollini, Michel Legrand, and Yoko Ono, Nobre was selected by
Gorbachev to be a member of the Cultural Commission of the Nuclear Disarmament
International Forum through the Union of Soviet Composers. He was Member of the Jury and
Vice-President for the International Piano Competition in Santander, Spain, and presented an
essay entitled, "The Music in Brazil after Villa-Lobos," at Menendez Pelayo University and at
the Superior Conservatoy in Madrid. In Brazil, he organized the International Assembly of the
International Music Council of UNESCO and the International Conference for the Celebration of
the Centenary of Villa-Lobos. Afterward, he was elected Executive Director of the Cultural
Foundation in Brazil.
In 1988, Nobre was awarded the Great Official of the Order of Merit of Brasilia. Festival
Marlos Nobre was held in London. For that occasion, the following pieces were performed:
String Quartet I, Quinteto de sopros, 4 M~omentos, Desafio VII, O Canzto M~ultiplicado, and
Ukrinmakinkrin. The M~usical Opinion, a magazine, published Marlos Nobre's picture on the
cover as Brazil's leading composer. Nobre participated in several Festivals, such as The Festival
of the Americas in Buenos Aires, with In M~emoriamn; the Intemnational Festival of Campos do
Jordio, with Converg~ncia~s, and the Festival of Bahia, with Variagaes Ritmica~s. He was also
Jury Member of the Paraiba Competition.
To celebrate Nobre's fiftieth birthday, several events took place in Brazil and the United
States. He was also awarded the Official Order of Rio Branco of Itamaraty in Brazil and received
a hommage by Senator Marco Maciel at the National Congress of Brazil. The Porto Alegre
Orchestra organized a concert dedicated to Nobre with his own pieces. Sala Cecilia Meireles
commissioned him to write Concertante do Imagindrio, Op. 74, which was performed on its re-
inauguration along with these other pieces: Converg~ncia~s, In M~emoriamn, and Cantata do
Chimborazo. Nobre became a member of the International Jury of the Arthur Rubinstein Master
Piano Competition in Israel. He was also a member of the Assessor Committee of the
International Competition of Santander and a member of the Jury of the Pilar Bayona de
Zaragoza International Competition. Nobre was commissioned by the Bolzano Festival in Italy
and the Neuchittel Chamber Orchestra, for whom he wrote Concerto for Trumpet and String
Orchestra, Op. 73, and Quatro Dangas Latino-America~na;s, Op. 72.
In 1990, the Autonomous University Radio in Mexico dedicated two hours each day for a
month to play Nobre's music. He and his wife were invited to perform Desafio VIl in honor of
Mexican composer Blas Galindo' s eightieth birthday at the Second Festival of Mexico City.
While in Mexico, Nobre also participated at the Morelia Festival, presenting Concertante do
Imagindrio. He presented his essay, "The Situation of the Latin American Composer Today," at
the Latin American Music Encounter. Nobre became then the first Brazilian conductor of the
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London. The concert he conducted was held at the Purcell
Room and was dedicated exclusively to his works: Biosfera, Concerto for String Orchestra II,
Desaffo VII and Concertante do Imagindrio, featuring Maria Luiza as pianist.
In 1991, the University of Akron organized the Brazilian Fest 91 and performed
Rhythmetron. Nobre's work, Solo l, Op. 60, for solo flute, was included in the program New
Musicians at the New York New School. Can2ticum Instrumentale was performed at the Inter-
American Conference of Music Education in Washington, D.C. Nobre's Tango was performed at
the International Forum of New Music in Mexico. Concerto for String Orchestra II was
performed at the Inter-American Festival of New Music in Caracas, and Ciclo Nordestino I was
performed at the Butte Montmartre Festival in Paris. Beiramar, Op. 21, was performed at the
Unerhoirte Musik Festival in Berlin. Several other performances took place in Rio de Janeiro and
Sho Paulo that year. Desatio III was presented in Rio de Janeiro at the Biennial of Brazilian
Contemporary Music, while Ukrinmakrinkrin, Rhythmetron, Desatio III, and.,I .uincLias I were
performed in Sho Paulo during a concert dedicated to Nobre.
Nobre went to Yale in 1992, invited as a visiting Professor of Composition. There, he
taught a composition seminar at the New Haven Festival, where his works .Cloutinc itl\ land
Concerto for String Orchestra II were performed. Nobre was also part of the jury of the
Composition Competition of Yale. His Tango was performed at the Piano Marathon of McGill
University at Montreal and Solo I was included at both the New Music Festival for the New
World at the Illinois Wesleyan University and at the Brazilian Serenade at Camegie Hall in New
York. Nobre participated at the Intemnational Encounter of Contemporary Music in Montevideo
with Ukimakrinkrin, and at the Intemnational Guitar Seminar with M~omentos I. He also
participated in several festivals in Europe, including Junifestwochen Zurich 92 and Aspekte
Festival in Salzburg, both with Desa/Fo III. He participated in the Intemnational Festival of
Contemporary Music in Alicante, Spain, with Concerto for String Orchestra II. He was
recognized as Man of the Year in the music field by the Biographical Centre in London. In
Spain, he presented his oratorio, Columbus, Op. 77. The work, consisting of Nobre's translations
ofnineteenth-century Mexican poetry, was a commission by the Ministry of Culture in Spain for
the 500th Anniversary of the Discovery of America, He presented Columbus with the Royal
Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Symphony Chorus.
In 1993, Nobre composed Amazdnia, Op. 85a, as a commission from the Paula Duo. The
piece was premiered at the Camegie Hall in New York. He participated as member of the jury of
the first edition of the Alberto Ginastera International Composition Competition. He also
participated at the Intemnational Forum of New Music in Mexico with Ciclo Nordestino III, and
at the Summer Garden Festival of the Juilliard School held at the MoMA (Museum of Modem
Art) with .Cloutinc itl\ IHI. The magazine, Classical Guitar, dedicated its November issue to Nobre.
In 1994, Nobre became an official of the Order of Arts and Letters of France. He
participated at the Iberian American Music Congress and at the Society of the 1990s, where he
presented the essay, "Tendencies of the Creation of Contemporary Music." He also participated
in the International Festival in Espinhos, Portugal, with .Cloutinc itl\ III and Rhythmetron, and
presented Desa/fo II in Berlin. A series of recordings appeared around that time, followed by
reviews in specialized magazines all over the world.
In 1995, Nobre composed Concerto Duplo, Op. 82, and participated in another series of
recordings. He participated in the Mayo Musical of Murcia in Spain with his Solo II, premiered
by Dutch clarinetist Henri Bok. The same piece was performed in Alexandria, Italy, along with
Desatio XXIII, Op. 31, No. 23. Nobre participated in the Intemnational Guitar Festival in Erding
and in Weikersheim, Germany, both with Reminisc~ncia~s, Op. 78. That piece was chosen as
mandatory for the Intemnational Competition of Musical Interpretation in Geneva. He also
presented Concerto for String Orchestra II at the Lincoln Center in New York. Nobre became
president of the International Guitar Seminar in Porto Alegre. He also became president of the
Brazilian Olympic Arts Committee at the General Olympic Arts Assembly, which was held in
Paris in 1996.
In 1996, Nobre decided to cancel his contract with his publisher, the German company
Tons Verlag. According to Nobre, the company was going through a difficult period of time
because of the death of its founder. Therefore, Nobre decided to pass everything edited by that
publisher to the Marlos Nobre Edition in Brazil, which functioned primarily online. Nobre
returned to New York to participate in the Sounds of Americas Festival, which was dedicated to
Brazil. At Carnegie Hall, Dennis Russel Davies conducted the American Composers Orchestra in
the performance of In M~emoriamn. A New York Times review called the piece, "the most
powerful work of the program."lo The same concert presented pieces by Brazilian composers
Camargo Guarnieri (1907-1993) and Villa-Lobos. Nobre became engaged in a series of master
classes at the Juilliard School and Yale, where he also participated at the Brazilian Music Today
Symposium. He became a member of the jury of the Colcultura Composition Competition in
Bogota, a place where later he presented In M~emoriamn. Nobre participated in the Music Festival
of Vila Seca in Portugal with Desafio XXXI, Op. 3 1, No. 32, and in London at the Eclectic
Fusion Festival at the Guildhall School with Desafio XXXI, Op. 31, No. 31. At the Queen
Elizabeth Hall in London, Nobre conducted his Concertante Imaginario for piano and orchestra
with the London Royal Philharmonic orchestra and his wife, pianist Maria Luiza. Great critical
and public acceptance confirmed Nobre' s high position in the musical world. Music and
Musician and The M~usic Opinion, two English magazines, published Nobre' s picture on their
'o Program Notes for In Memoriam, Op. 39, by Marlos Nobre.
covers with the title: "The Brazilian leading composer: Marlos Nobre."ll Invited by the Iberian
American Music Council, Nobre also participated in the Iberian American Encounter of
In 1997, Nobre was chosen to become a member of honor of the Werther Benzi
Counterbass Competition in Alexandria, where his Desatio IV Op. 31, No. 4, was a mandatory
piece. He also became a member of the jury of the Intemnational Guitar Competition in the same
city. Nobre was a visiting professor at the University of Arizona and the University of
Oklahoma. Throughout the year, several theses and dissertations were written about Marlos
Nobre in Brazil and abroad. These works are listed in the bibliography section of this study.
In 1998, Rhythmetron was performed in Paris and Montreal for the first time. Nobre
presented a lecture "Artistic Teaching" at the Latin America and Caribbean Encounter in
Havana. His ballet, Saga Marista, which was composed the year before, was performed in
Recife. Its orchestral version was presented in Oklahoma under Jorge Richter. Nobre participated
at the Intemnational Guitar Festival in Zarauz, Spain, with Reminiscancia~s, and at the Twenty-
second Intemnational Gulbenkian Festival of Contemporary Music in Lisbon, with .Clutlinc itl\ III.
His Concerto Duplo, for two guitars, was premiered in Sho Paulo. Amazdnia II, Op. 85, for big
jazz orchestra, was commissioned by the Carlos Gomes Foundation. The piece premiered at the
Festival of Para in Belem. Nobre appeared as a soloist in his Concerto Breve in El Salvador.
.GuIinl c ias III was performed at the Antidogma Festival of Turin in Italy.
In 1999, the composer turned sixty, celebrating forty years of artistic dedication. Several
events across the globe memorialized his birthday. Among them were the performance of
Desatio XXXII, with Teresa Berganza and the Iberian Cello Ensemble in Amsterdam, and the
11 Program Notes for Concertante do Imagincirio, Op. 74, by Marlos Nobre.
performance of Divertimento for piano and orchestra, with the Philharmonic of Berlin in Paris.
The latter was performed at the Development and Culture Forum, sponsored by the Inter-
American Bank of Development. Nobre participated in the Close Encounters series in New
York, with String Quartet I. He was also awarded the Gold Medal of Merit of the Joaquim
Nabuco Foundation of Pernambuco, where Amazdnia was performed. The Conservatory of
Pernambuco promoted the Marlos Nobre Festival with his expositions, conferences,
competitions, and concerts. There, Rhythmetron, .CloutincLitl I, Variag~es Ritmica~s, Desa/fo III,
Concertino for piano and strings, and Concertante do Imagindrio were performed. The
University of Sho Paulo celebrated Nobre' s sixtieth birthday at the University Encounter of
Contemporary Music, where Rhythmetron was performed. Nobre's complete works for piano
were performed in Macei6, Alagoas. The Latin American and Iberian Music Society offered a
concert consisting exclusively of Nobre's works in London, where Concertante do Imagindrio
and Concerto for String Orchestra II were performed. .GucincL ias I was performed at both the
Ninth International Festival of Contemporary Music in Bucharest, Romania, and the Musique du
XX' eme Si'ecle in Paris.
In 2000, Nobre' s 2usicamnera was performed by the National Orchestra of Porto at the
500th Anniversary of the Discovery of Brazil, in Portugal. In Geneva, the 500 years were
celebrated with Variag~es Ritmica~s, and in Rome with the premiere of Concerto for percussion
and orchestra, Op. 89. Nobre was awarded the Thomas Hart Benton Medallion from Indiana
University. He was a guest composer at Texas Christian University, where he was awarded the
Cecil and Ida Green Honors Professor. He participated in the Second Latin American Music
Festival held at TCU in Fort Worth, where his Trio, Converg~ncia~s, and Divertimento for piano
and orchestra were performed. A guest composer at the University of Georgia in Athens, Nobre
participated in the International Conference on Latin American Musical Globalization and
Preservation. For the occasion, he presented an essay, "Tradition and Innovation of Latin
American Music: the Point of View of a Composer." The University of Georgia also held a
Symposium on Brazil's 500th anniversary.
In 2001, Desajio III was performed in Warsaw at the Chopin Academy with Nada
Myesscouhg at the violin and Larisa Giro at the piano. Saduc( i i I III was performed at the
Odessa Festival in Ukraine and Clelia Iruzun performed Sonata Breve in London. He composed
Amazdnia III, Op. 91, as a commission for the Apollon Foundation in Bremen. The piece was
premiered at the Bayreuth Festival of New Music at the Markgraffiches Operhaus, featuring
baritone Renato Mismeti and pianist Maximiliano Brito. The piece toured Europe, appearing in
places like Lucerne, Salzburg, Munich, and Leipzig, among others. The Iberian Cello Ensemble,
along with soprano Pilar Jurado, toured Holland, Belgium, Germany, and Poland, performing
several ofNobre's compositions. In the United States, pianist Michele Adler performed Ciclo
Nordestino I, Ciclo Nordestino III, and Homage to Arthur Rubinstein, Op. 40, at Carnegie Hall.
Several other pieces were performed in Brazil and Latin America. Among them was
Converg~ncia~s, performed at the opening of the Contemporary Music Festival in Havana by the
Cuban National Symphonic Orchestra under the direction of Jorge de Elias.
In 2002, the Apollon Foundation in Bremen celebrated the centennial of Brazilian poet
Carlos Drummond de Andrade with the performance of O Canzto M~ultiplicado in Bayreuth,
Vienna, Berlin, and London. The piece contains texts written by the poet. Concerto Duplo was
performed in a tour of the United States by the Assad Brothers and the Symphonic Orchestra of
the State of Sho Paulo, under the direction of John Neschlin. Nobre participated at the Oulo
Music Festival in Finland with Taxngo, and at the Sclhleswig-Holstein Festival in Germany with
Sundneill itl\ I. He also performed as a soloist in his Divertimento with the El Salvador Symphony
Orchestra in El Salvador under the direction of German Caceres. He premiered Desafio VI, Op.
31, No. 6, for string orchestra, with the Stadtische Musikschtile Erlenbach Orchestra in
In 2003, the Bremen Foundation in Germany commissioned Nobre to write Amazdnia
1gnota, Op. 95, for 4 flutes, piano, percussion, and baritone. The piece premiered at the Margrave
of Bayreuth Opera Theater and toured several cities in Germany, Austria, England and France.
Nobre participated at the Guanajuato Festival with O Canto M~ultiplicado, and at the
Contemporary Music Festival in Buenos Aires with Rhythmetron. He was the principal composer
of the 2003 Percussion Day in Sho Paulo with Concerto for percussion and orchestra and
Rhythmetron. A prestigious concert was held in Nobre' s honor at the International Festival of
Chamber Music in Recife with Partita Latina, Op. 92, Desafio I, Concerto for String Orchestra
II, and Concertante do Imaginario.
In 2004, the Guggenheim Museum in New York organized a series of events in February,
during which Canto a Garcia Lorca, Op. 87, was performed by soprano Serena Benedetti and
the New York Philharmonic orchestra under the direction of Roberto Minczuk. Nobre was
composer in residence the first in the history of the festival at the Campos do Jordio
International Winter Festival. He had been invited by the director of the festival, Roberto
Minczuk, for whom Nobre wrote his orchestral work Kabbalah, Op. 96. That piece was
premiered and recorded at the festival in July of that year along with his FanfaFFFFFFFFF~~~~~~~rra Campos do
Jorddo, Op. 97. Several of Nobre's works were performed in Goiinia, including Concertino for
piano and orchestra, Nazarethiana, 16 Variagaes sobre um Tema de Fructuoso Vianna,
Toccatina, Ponteio e Final, Op. 12, and Tema e Variagaes, Op. 7. He participated at the Havana
Festival with In M~emoriamn and Passacaglia, conducting the Cuba National Symphony
Orchestra. For that occasion, he also gave a series of masterclasses and was awarded the Honor
Diploma of the Art Institute of the University of Havana. Nobre participated in the Guanajuato
Festival, presenting Partita~PPP~~~~PPP~~~PPP Latina with cellist Carlos Pietro and pianist Edison Quintana. He
conducted masterclasses at the Sim6n Bolivar University in Caracas. Also that year, Nobre wrote
Concerto Armorial II, Op. 98, for flute and orchestra, commissioned by the Brazilian Bach
Association. Lamnento e Toccata, Op. 99, was also composed that year as a commission from the
guitar duo Joaquim Freire and Susana Mebes.
In 2005, Nobre participated in the Festival de l'ile de France in Paris, presenting Trds
Canga~es de Beiramar, Op. 21a, Trds Cangd~es Negras, Op. 88, Canto a Garcia Lorca, and
Desajio XYXXH with the Iberian Cello Octet. Nobre was elected to become a member of the
Honors Committee of the World Philharmonic Orchestra along with personalities such as
Maurice Bejart, Henri Dutilleux, Barbara Hendricks, Seiji Osawa, Lorin Maazel, and Ravi
Shankar. He dedicated most of his time to working on Cantorias I, Op. 100, and Cantorias II,
Op. 101, for solo cello. The first piece was commissioned by the Brazilian Ant8nio Menezes and
the second by the Mexican Carlos Prieto. Can2torialIreferences Bach's Suite in D minor for solo
cello. Can2toriallIis based on Bach' s Cello Suite in C Maj or. Nobre plans to write a series of Six
Cantorias based on Bach' s Six Cello Suites. Seven CD's were recorded featuring Nobre' s works.
On November 29, Nobre was declared the winner of the sixth edition of the Tomas Luis de
Victoria Prize, in Spain. The decision was achieved unanimously for the first time in the prize's
history. Nobre was selected among 57 composers from 17 countries to win the prize. The
international jury wrote that its members were impressed by "the excellent traj ectory of Nobre,
the proj section and importance of his works and the originality of his aesthetic thinking".12
In 2006, Nobre participated in the School of Art-Music Composers Festival, where his
Sonata Breve was performed by pianist Edison Quintana, and his M~omentos l and H were
performed by guitarist Juan Carlos Laguna both at Manuel Ponce Hall in Mexico. In the United
States he participated in the East Carolina University New Music Festival where his piece
Passacaglia for orchestra was performed by the University Symphony Orchestra under Jorge
Richter. Antonio Meneses performed Nobre' s Can2toria I for solo cello at the Society of
Americas Auditorium in New York. Nobre was awarded the prize "Cultural Roots" by the
Cultural State Council of Pernambuco. The Music Festival of Caracas was dedicated to Nobre,
with the Sim6n Bolivar Symphony Orchestra performing Kabbalah at the opening concert under
the direction of Alfredo Rugeles. Later in the Festival his Sonante I for solo marimba was
performed by Gustavo Olivar. The composer participated in the 2006 Ginastera Festival with his
Desajio VII for piano and string orchestra performed by pianist Alberto Portugheis and the
Southbank Symphony under Matilda Hofman. Also at the occasion, his Concertante do
Imaginario was performed by the same pianist with the London Schubert Players under Daniel
Mazza. Fabio Zanon performed M~omentos I and Rememoria~s for solo guitar. The performances
took place at the St. John' s Smith Square in London. The Hollands Vocal Ensemble conducted
by Fokko Oldnhuis performed Nobre' s Agd-Lond for mixed choir in Ultrecht and Amsterdam.
In the same year, Nobre received the VI Edition of theThomas Luis de Victoria prize in Madrid
and a concert of his pieces presented Trds CangC~es Negras, Canto a Garcia Lorca both by
12NObre, Personal Website. Accessed on November 2006.
soprano Pilar Jurado and pianist Horacio Lavandera along with the world premiere of Nobre' s
Sonata for Piano on a Theme by Bartok.
Nobre currently holds many important titles, such as president of the National Music
Committee of IMC/UNESCO, director of Contemporary Music Programs at Radio MEC-FM of
Brazil, president of Jeunesses Musicales of Brazil, and president of the Marlos Nobre Editions of
Brazil. Since 1986, he has directed two radio programs entitled "Contemporary Music,"
dedicated to contemporary music with commentary, and "Musical Language," where he presents
music from the Baroque period to the present, exhibiting their important composers and
compositions. Both programs are broadcast once a week at Radio MEC FM 98.9 MHz. The
former plays on Saturdays at 10 p.m., and the latter on Fridays at 10 p.m. He is constantly
composing and receiving commissions from all over the world. As a composition professor,
Nobre receives about fifteen students in his home to discuss their composition works on the last
Saturday of each month.
Marlos Nobre: The Composer
Marlos Nobre has earned enormous respect over the years among the public and musicians
all over Brazil and abroad. In the late 1960s, he already occupied a prominent position among
Brazil's most promising composers. In order to understand Marlos Nobre's position in the
Brazilian musical scene, it is important to note some of the aspects of the musical division in
Brazil and in Latin America during the twentieth century. 13
It was not until 1922, with the advent of the Semana de Arte Moderna (Week of Modern
Art), that the artistic scene in Brazil began criticizing the prevailing academicism and rej ecting
13 Even though Brazil developed similar trends as most of the other important musical centers in Latin America, a
generalization of all these countries has always been a mistake from a scholastic point of view. Each country or at
least area should be treated separately allowing scholars to be able to study each case in a deeper perspective.
Therefore the author of the present document will only briefly mention the most important facts that occurred in
other Latin American countries in order to illustrate their relation to Brazil.
strict obedience to traditional aesthetic schools. Several factors led to the modemist movement in
Brazil. The most direct and influential aspects were put forth in poet Oswald de Andrade'S14
(1890-1954) futuristic ideas, the premieres of painter Anita Malfatti 1 (1889-1964) and sculptor
Victor Brecheret (1894-1955), and especially through the poetry of Mario de Andradel6
(1893-1945). Mario de Andrade became the most influential figure of the modemist movement
in the musical life of the country. The practical results of the modernist movement in Brazil put
more emphasis on arts and literature. The most important composer of the movement was Villa-
Lobos,l7 who had already established a great deal of his compositional vocabulary by 1922 after
composing works such as A Prole do Bebb, vols. 1 and 2, some of the Charos, and the ballets
Amazona~s and Uiurapuru. Thus, the movement had a minimal influence on music and affected
only generations of musicians who came after Villa-Lobos.
In his, Muzsica Contemporcinea Bra~sileira, musicologist Jose Maria Neves exposes the
goals of the modemist movement and its leader, Mario de Andrade, in reassuring and promoting
the work of young Brazilian artists connected to the movement. The movement declared "direito
permanent 'a pesquisa estetica, atualizaCgo da intelig~ncia brasileira, estabelecimento de uma
consci~ncia criadora national, pela uninime vontade de cantar a natureza, a alma e as tradiCaes
'4 Oswald de Andrade was one of the founders of Brazilian modernism along with Mgrio de Andrade, Anita
Malfatti, Tarsila do Amaral and Menotti del Picchia. They formed the so -called Group of Five. Oswald de
Andrade's famous "Manifesto Antrop6fago" (Cannibalist Manifesto) was published in 1928. Its iconic line is "Tupi
or not Tupi: that is the question." It describes the cultural strength of Brazil by "cannibalizing" other cultures.
Cannibalism became a way for Brazil to assert itself against the cultural domination of Europe in a post-colonial
15 The first exhibition of Malfatti was on December 12 of 1917. The artist with her ideas close to cubism shocked
the public and received several years of rage and criticism from the most conservative specialists.
16 From the twenty volumes that comprise the complete writings of M~rio de Andrade, eight substantial volumes are
related to music. The other volumes are dedicated to essays on arts and literature as well as original poems, novels,
short stories, and literary criticism.
'7 Even though Villa-Lobos only presented his quasi-post romantic works at the first concert of the Semana de Arte
Moderna, he suffered the same negative reaction from the traditional public, who was neither prepared nor open to
brasileiras, e dai, banir para sempre os postichess" da ideia europeia." (. .. establishment of a
permanent rights to aesthetic research, updating of the Brazilian intelligentsia, establishment of a
creative national conscience based on the unanimous desire to sing nature, the soul, and
Brazilian traditions, and from there, abolish the "cliches" of European art definitively).
It is important to note that Mario de Andrade's main point was to awaken national
consciousness. Because of this idea, the Brazilian musical scene benefited and suffered dramatic
consequences. Unlike other nationalistic Eigures in Latin America, Mario de Andrade did not
completely rej ect European techniques. He believed that the use of European techniques would
be the only way to integrate Brazil's own race and culture. He believed that it was important to
use sophisticated European techniques to deal with what he called "barbarian mentality." In a
verse of his Pauliceia Desvairada, he defines himself: Sou um tupi tangendo um alautde." "I
am an Amerindian, who herds a lute." Andrade affirmed
Brasil sem Europa nio e Brasil nio, e uma vaga assombraCio amerindia, sem entidade
national, sem psicologia tecnica, sem razio de ser.19
(Brazil without Europe is not Brazil, it is only a vague Amerindian ghost, without national
entity, without technical psychology, without a reason to be.)
At the same time, Andrade did not believe in international music and believed less in
universal music. He says
N~o ha musica international muito menos musica universal; o que existe sho g~nios que se
universalizam por demasiado fundamentals, Palestrina, Bach, Beethoven, ou mulheres que
se internacionalizam por demasiado faceis, a "Traviata", a "Carmem", "Butterfly". Porem,
mesmo dentro desta internacionalidade e daquela universalidade, tais musicos e tais
mulheres nio deixam nunca de ser funcionalmente nacionais.20
's Neves, Jos6 Maria. Ahisica Contemporcinea Brasileira. Sio Paulo: Ricordi, 1981.
19 Azevedo, Luiz Heitor Corr~a de. Ahisicos do Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Casa do Estudante do Brasil, 1950, p. 312.
20 Andrade, M~rio de. 4spectos da Ahisica Brasileira. S~io Paulo: Livraria Martins Editora, 1965, pp. 28-29.
(There is no international music or even universal music; what exists is a small group of
geniuses who become universal for being overly fundamental, as Palestrina, Bach,
Beethoven, or women who become international for being overly easy, "Traviata,"
"Carmen," "Butterfly." Nevertheless, even within the internationalization of the latter and
the universalism of the former, such musicians and such female figures never stop being
Andrade believed in using European compositional techniques in a reformed way. That
could lead to the birth of a real Brazilian style of music, which could become universal at some
point. He explains
...partindo do particular para o geral, da raga para a humanidade, conservando aquelas
caracteristicas, que sho o contingent com que enriquece a consci~ncia humana.21
...([one goes] from the particular to the general, from race to humanity, preserving all the
characteristics that enrich the human conscience.)
The music composed in Brazil during the first two decades of the twentieth century was
dominated by European influences. Although pre-nationalist Brazilian composers searched for a
national identity, their styles represented a result from traditional dominating forces from Italy,
France, and Germany, with their Romantic and somewhat Impressionistic influences. In the eyes
of Andrade, the only true Brazilian composer was Villa-Lobos, whom Andrade defended from
the attacks of conservatives and traditionalists. Although aware of Villa-Lobos' positive and
negative qualities, Andrade believed in and advertised the brilliant future career of the young
As observed by Jose Maria Neves, Andrade's musical nationalism movement contained
similar reforming characteristics to those of modernism in general, with the same principle of
reaffirming Brazilian nationality and carrying the same anti-elitist ideology. These ideas, along
with the urge to disassociate Brazilian art from post-romantic techniques and adopt
contemporary techniques, placed Brazil's ideas among the trends of other reformation groups in
21 Andrade, M~rio de. Ahisica, doce Ahisica. S~io Paulo: Livraria Martins Ed., 1963, p. 115.
Latin America, especially the so-called Renovacion M~usical (Musical renovation) groups in
Argentina (1930s) and in Cuba (1940s). These movements' supporters were believed to be
influenced by the Brazilian movement of the 1920s. Nevertheless, the other Latin American
movements differed from Brazil's because they remained extremely connected with the Neo-
movements in Europe, with particular influence from neoclassicism.22
In his, Historia da Muzsica no Bra~sil, Vasco Mariz provides a long list that separates
composers and classifies them according to their compositional tendencies. This classification,
however, presents composers in a chronological order, rather than properly by the compositional
aesthetics they followed and their accomplishments. This study's author does not intend to list
and classify those composers. However, some composers who directly or indirectly influence
Nobre's music need to be addressed.
From the first generation of nationalist composers who studied under Mario de Andrade,
Mozart Camargo Guarnieri (1907-1993) remains one of the most important Eigures in the
twentieth-century Brazilian musical scene. Guarnieri became the most conscious composer in the
nationalism movement. His nationalist ideas, although anacronically focused on modalism and
polyphony, influenced many other composers. These composers studied under Guarnieri and
followed the ideas of the so-called Guarnieri school, one of the most important in the country.
Influenced by Mario de Andrade, many composers tried to follow their own ways in order to
remain connected to the aesthetics related to the search for national identity. After the 1940s,
nationalism began to diminish slightly in Brazil, and some composers became more influenced
22Neoclassicism became a strong compositional tool used by several Brazilian Nationalistic composers after the
1930s. Several examples are found in Villa-Lobos's output from the 1930s as well as a new trend followed by
several of M~rio de Andrade's students.
by European dodecaphonic techniques, which were brought to Brazil by Hans-Joachim
Koellreuter23 (1915-2005). Nobre studied with Koellreuter in 1959.
The nationalist school and Koellreuter each played important roles in dividing
compositional tendencies in Brazil. Two currents emerged from the 1930s and 1940s. Some
composers adhered to the importance of tonality and nationalist features, and others broke from
traditional rules and opened doors for the future.
Some nationalist composers in Brazil adopted the techniques of certain twentieth-century
European composers such as Debussy, Bart6k, and Stravinsky. But more avant-garde
compositional techniques, such as those found in the music of Schoenberg, would be less
compatible with the Brazilian nationalist aesthetic of adopting its folk music, which is rich in
modalism and complex, intricate rhythms.24
The Second International Congress of Composers and Music Critics, held in Prague in
1948, was an important influence on Brazilian composers, who found themselves between the
nationalist school of Guarnieri and the most advanced ideas spread by Koellreuter and the group
The final document published after the Prague Congress urged composers to adhere to
their national musical cultures and avoid the failing trends of internationalism. This document
was widely debated in Brazil by both nationalists and the Musica Viva group. It is important to
remember that, although the latter group was the only alternative to late nationalism in Brazil, its
members never intended to criticize or threaten the aesthetic of nationalism. Koellreutter and his
23 The arrival of Koellreuter in Brazil caused a great impact in the musical scene. He became the leader of the group
Muisica Viva, which first appeared in 1931. In 1946, the group issued a manifesto against folkloristic nationalism,
which led many composers to see it as a strong disruption of national values and a foreign intrusion in the country's
24 Bezerra, M~rcio. A Unique Brazilian Composer -A Study of the Music of Gilberto Mendes ;i,,. ..,li, Selected
Piano Pieces. Brussels: Alain van Kerckhoven Editeur, 2000, p. 15.
group wanted composers to understand that folkloric material held great value, and that its
elements should be used only when assimilated into each composer's personal musical
The resolutions of the Prague Congress resulted in several composers of the Musica Viva
group deciding to review their aesthetic positions. Important names such as Claudio Santoro
(1919-1989) and Cesar Guerra-Peixe (1914-1993) abandoned the twelve-tone technique in favor
of Guarnieri's style.26
On November 7, 1950, Guarnieri published a direct attack on Koellreutter and the twelve-
tone system in Brazil's maj or newspapers. His "Carta Aberta aos Musicos e Criticos do Brasil,"
(Open letter to the musicians and music critics of Brazil) combines earlier writings of Mario de
Andrade with ideas from the Prague Congress. Guarnieri also sent the letter to many composers,
performers, music critics, conservatories and schools of music in many parts of the country.
Koellreutter replied to Guarnieri's letter with another open letter under the same title on
December 28, 1950. Several prominent Brazilian intellectuals, such as Mennoti del Picchia
(1892-1988), Eurico Nogueira Franga (b. 1913), Edino Krieger (b. 1928), and Patricia Galvio
(1910-1962) defended Koellreutter in public. However, the rift was formed and a strong polarity
emerged between the two schools as Brazilian composers were forced to choose between
nationalism and internationahism."
25Neves, p. 19.
26 Cl~udio Santoro confessed to have abandoned Koellreutter due to his political convictions. Santoro believed he
had to follow the decisions of the Prague Congress due to his link with the Communist Party. Guerra-Peixe, on the
other hand, had personal convictions to adhere to nationalism once he discovered the folklore of Northeast Brazil
and published his book Maracatus do Recife in 1955.
27 The duality remained active for many decades even in popular music, where Bossa Nova, and, later on, the
movement known as Tropicilia were dismissed by many as bourgeois and antinational popular styles.
(Bezerra, p. 19)
Nevertheless, some of the most prolific composers fell within both traditions, having some
inclination to one or another compositional aesthetic. According to Vasco Mariz's classification
in his Historia da Mazisica no Bra~sil, these composers belonged to a post-nationalist or
independent generation. Marlos Nobre fits into the latter classification.
In the early 1960s, the situation changed. With the death of Villa-Lobos in 1959, the
aesthetic of nationalism seemed to have reached an end. Other important nationalist composers
such as Camargo Guarnieri, Francisco Mignone (1897-1986), and Radames Gnattali (1906-1988)
had already composed the best of their nationalistic works, and there was no further reason to
insist on such an aesthetic once its best leaders had exhausted the style.
It became vital to discover alternative compositional techniques. It was no longer possible
to exclude Brazilian composers and their music from international innovations and advances.
The generation of the 1960s was free to produce a creative symbiosis between serialism and
national tradition. The results can be seen in the works of the group of composers from Rio de
Janeiro, Sho Paulo, and Bahia.28 It is important to note that the result was so necessary that it
happened naturally, without the need of any manifesto or imposition.29
The development of Nobre' s musical language combines a series of influences from
different periods and styles of music. In his concept, the greatest formal structures are those of
the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century classical works, which he combines with modern
techniques. Nobre' s multifaceted music represents the influence of Debussy, Bart6k, Stravinsky,
and Lutoslawski and displays a vigorous, distinguished rhythmic vitality, colored by elements
28 All these distinct groups of composers were formed through Koellreutter. He is responsible and takes the credit
for the dissemination and formation of these schools in Brazil.
29Corker-Nobre, Maria Luiza. Aspectos Ticnicos e Estiticos de Sondncias III de M~arlos Nobre: uma
Introdupdo 'a Problemaitica dalIntuigdo versus Cerebralismo. Dissertag~io de Mestrado. Rio de Janeiro:
Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, 1995.
from Brazilian folklore and nature, striking sound combinations, and spontaneity. Nobre's music
ranges from tonal to freely-atonal, and is chromatic and dissonant at times. It makes use of serial
and sonoristic techniques, yet has references to tonal centers.30
According to Nobre, the composers he counts as influences were capable of innovation in
music without necessarily breaking with tradition. The influence of Bart6k and Lutoslawski can
be seen in Nobre' s juxtaposition of diatonic folk material with dissonant harmonies,
polyrhythmic structures, rhythmic drive, textual effects and the use of non-traditional scales. A
national identity is evident in all of Nobre's works, but because he does not rely on patterns from
folk and popular idioms, his music cannot be seen as nationalistic.31 Afro-Brazilian rhythms
from Nobre's home town, Recife, highly influenced the regular pulse and metrical points of
reference in his works and can be associated with their strong rhythmic freedom. His home town
exposed him to all sorts of rhythms derived from traditions, such as those of2\a~racatu,32
Frevo," ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ .3 Caolno,4ub-e-o, adomble,36 and Ciranda~s.3 The composer
30 De Jong, "Nobre," in 4merican Record Guide, vol. 57, no. 5 (Sept/Oct. 1994), p. 168-169.
31 B~hague, Gerard, "Nobre, Marlos," in the New Grove Dictionary ofihtsic and~htsicians, 2"d ed. (2001), vol. 18,
32Maracatu popular music inspired by a dance characteristic of a popular carnival parade. The parade follows a
woman carrying in her hand a richly adorned doll. The members of the group dance to the rlwthm played by
33Frevo a carnival dance highly rhythmic and performed by brass, wind, and percussion instruments. It is popular
on the streets and in salons.
34Caboclinhos also known as cabocolinhos is a carnival procession. Most of their parades are represented by
dancers who dress like popular native indigenous figures taken from literature.
35Bumba-meu-boi comic-dramatic dance in which people along with fantastic animals participate. The whole plot
is developed around the death and resurrection of the ox (boi).
36 Candombl6 Afro-Brazilian religion.
37Cirandas Circle dance songs based on simple tunes which are traditional and passed down orally from
generation to generation.
En mi infancia escuche, dance y vibre con los Maracatus, los Frevos, los Caboclinhos, los
Bumba-meu-boi, la Nau Catarineta. Pero, sobre todo, eran los Maracatus y su percusi6n
alucinante y mistica los que desarrollaron en mi un sentido ritmico profundo e inconsciente
que luego alimentaron, hoy y siempre, mi creaci6n musical. La polirritmia, los grandes
crescendi sonoros, los contrastes dinamicos, los acentos irregulares, sometidos siempre a
una poderosa pulsaci6n metrica constant, los profundos toques graves de enormes ganzas,
agogis, bombs, atabaques, son impresiones sobresalientes de mi infancia que estan vivas
en mi sangre y en mi coraz6n, mas que en mi cabeza.38
(Throughout my childhood, I listened to, danced to, and cheered with Maracatus, Frevos,
Caboclinhos, Bumba-meu-boi, and the Nau Catarineta.39But it was the Maracatu and its
incredible and mystic percussion that developed in me this profound and unconscious
rhythmic sense that has always been fundamental in my musical creation. The polyrhythm,
the big crescendos, the dynamic contrasts, the irregular accents within a powerful constant
pulse, the deep low sounds generated from ganzas [maracas], agogis [African iron bells],
bombs [low drums], atabaques [afro-Brazilian conical-shaped, single-headed hand drmm
similar to a conga drum], are the strongest impressions I have from my childhood. They
are very much alive in my blood and my heart, much more than in my head.
The development of Nobre' s musical language went through several phases, from tonal to
modal, polytonal, atonal, serial, and aleatoric until he defined his own musical language and
style, which became a combination of everything he had learned and filtered. Nobre's output can
be divided into five periods:
First Period (1959-1963) Heavy influenced by Villa-Lobos and Ernesto Nazareth.
Second Period (1963-1968) Combination of serial and aleatoric features with
Brazilian traditional rhythms.
Third Period (1969-1977) Search for an identity
Fourth Period (1980-1985)40 Early Mature Style
38Marlos Nobre in an interview. "Nueve Preguntas a Marlos Nobre" in Revista Ahtsical Chilena, vol. 33, no. 148,
1979, pp. 37-47.
39 Nau Catarineta epic episodes like the odyssey of a romantic story of a ship that leaves Recife to go to Lisbon.
The story is performed through balls of intricate choreography and dramatic effects.
40This author believes that Nobre's fourth and fifth periods share similar characteristics. Therefore, they are both
called Mature Style. However, because of slight differences later mentioned in this study, the Mature Style can be
divided into two parts: the first years and the later years.
*Fifth Period (1990-present)41 Later Mature Style
The first period clearly spans from his Concertino for piano and' orchestra, Op. 142 until
Divertimento for piano and' orchestra, Op. 14, during the years 1959 through 1963. All of the
pieces from this period display the direct influence of Villa-Lobos and Ernesto Nazareth (1863-
1934).43 Nobre explains his respect for Nazareth:
Ernesto Nazareth es el compositor popular brasilefio mas importante, el que cristaliz6 y
dej 6 en el papel nuestras mej ores caracteristicas populares.4
(Ernesto Nazareth is the most important popular Brazilian composer. He materialized and
registered on paper our best popular characteristics.)
From Concertino until Divertimento, one can see the evolutionary line that Nobre
followed. While the Concertino is tonal, with some amplification on its harmonic field through a
progressive tonal expansion, the Divertimento is clearly polytonal with some dodecaphonic
treatment.45 This evolution follows a clear line according to the composer: tonal-modal-
polytonal-atonal. This progressive line is continuous; however, the composer does not disregard
his previous experiences. According to Nobre, his compositional taste and style is a clear mix
that results from an evolutionary process. He explains
...no siento la musica dentro de un sistema predeterminado, dentro de un esquema te6rico
fijo, intelectualmente estudiado. A media que mi campo de informaci6n musical-estetica
y tecnicamente- se fue ampliando, mediante la incorporaci6n de nuevos elements, estos
fueron sumergiendose en mi subconsciente, y alli permanecieron expandiendose,
41 Even though the characteristics from the later part of the fourth period remain the same up to the present, tlus
dissertation will just focus on characteristics up to 2004, the date of the latest orchestral work included in this study.
42Marlos Nobre composed many pieces before his formal opus 1. He destroyed all those pieces, however, believing
they were immature. Even though he believes his opus 1 represents a work of a young, immature composer, he kept
it in his catalogue because he likes the piece.
43Nazareth was a Brazilian pianist and composer who, according to Villa-Lobos, represented the true incarnation of
the Brazilian musical soul.
44Marlos Nobre in an interview. "Nueve Preguntas a Marlos Nobre," pp. 37-47.
45Even though the Divertimento falls in a more atonal language, the dodecaphonic section is built on six notes taken
from the Tenebroso tango by Nazareth.
moviendose hasta tomar cuerpo en nuevas ideas, una confusion geral, estallando aqui y
allia en obras, segitn las circunstancias.46
(...I don't feel the music into a pre-determined system within an intellectually studied
Eixed theoretical system. As my musical field of information-technically and aesthetically-
got amplified, through the incorporation of new elements, they got immersed in my
subconscious expanding and moving until they got transformed into new ideas, a general
confusion, exploding in works here and there, according to the circumstances.)
This continuous line evolves from the Concertino and is followed by Trio, Op. 4,
composed a year later with the presence of dodecaphonic ideas within an atonal center.
Afterwards, there are works such as Trds Cangd~es, Op. 9, where the melody of the third song is
completely atonal. The line Einally culminates in Divertimento, which is polytonal and atonal,
with some serial moments.
The second phase goes from Variag~es Ritmica~s, Op. 15, until Dia da Graga, Op. 32bis. It
starts in 1963, when Nobre is in Buenos Aires studying at the Torcuato di Tella Institute, and
lasts until 1968. Although Nobre learned a great deal of dodecaphonic technique under
Koellreutter, it was at the Torcuato Di Tella that he got more involved with the technique. The
seeds had been planted earlier, but Nobre needed some time to mature the idea. At the same time,
his compositional process had bent more in the direction of polytonality rather than tonality from
the beginning. Nobre explains that it is important to know that there are two time lines in
composition: a historical time line and the composer's own time line. The composer needs to go
through some experiences until he Einds his own voice or ponders some ideas to maturity.
According to Nobre, if a composer pushes certain things too early in the process, he will not be a
good composer and his pieces will sound forced, somehow. He said a composer must be patient
46 Marlos Nobre in an interview. "Nueve Preguntas a Marlos Nobre," pp. 37-47.
and wait for the right time to incorporate certain techniques, otherwise the compositional process
cannot be natural.47
This explains why Nobre did not follow directly to dodecaphony or serial techniques after
his lessons with Koellreutter. The techniques only matured when he was at the Torcuato Di
Tella. According to Nobre, his natural direction after the evolution he achieved in his first phase
was toward dodecaphony- and serialism. Nevertheless, he followed a slightly different path. His
evolutionary line did culminate in dodecaphony, but not the German type of dodecaphony-
exhausted by Schoenberg, Berg and Webern. Nobre was never convinced that the only way out
for a contemporary composer of that time was multi-serialism or total serialism.48 Nobre
followed the so-called Latin dodecaphony, such as the one seen in Italy, Argentina, and Brazil,
which was represented by composers such as Luigi Dallapiccola and Alberto Ginastera. This
type of dodecaphony- differs from the German version in that it is freer and without extremes,
wherein musical expression becomes more important than theory.
Variag~es Ritmica~s is the first work in which Nobre combines dodecaphonic or serial
techniques along with the use of typical Brazilian rhythms. His next works also follow that
evolutionary line: dodecaphony, serialism, multi-serialism, then indeterminacy. Nevertheless,
none of these techniques are followed strictly, but simply used as a means for possibilities. In
Ukrinmakinkrin, Op. 17 (1964), Nobre uses serial techniques with even more freedom than in
Variag~es Ritmica~s. He also uses aleatoric procedures in Ukrinmakinkrin for the first time.
47Conversations with Marlos Nobre Interview by the author. Rio de Janeiro, December 12, 2006.
48In fact, Polvphonie Xby Pierre Boulez has been the maximum stage of this type of evolution. The piece has just
been performed twice. After the performance of the work in Baden-Baden in 1951, Boulez declared his
disappointment with the piece and explained that although exclusively governed by theoretical rules and those being
efficiently explored, the result was not effective and too much artificial. The piece remains unpublished, however
there are two recordings of Polyphonie: one of the premiere by the Sinfonieorchester in Baden-Baden conducted by
Hans Hosbaud, another one of the first movement only by the symphony orchestra of the RAI conducted by Bruno
Maderna. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PolyphonieX accessed on January 31, 2007).
Subsequently, he makes extensive use of serialism in works such as Can2ticum hIstrumentale, Op.
25 (1967), and String QuartetlI, Op. 26 (1967). String Quartet Ilater serves as the basis for his
orchestral work, Biosfera, Op. 35. Although Nobre never planned to strictly follow any aesthetic
school, it is interesting to note that his 1968 piece, Tropical, Op. 30, for piccolo, clarinet, piano,
and percussion is completely aleatoric.
Nobre's third phase is the synthesis and integration of all processes assimilated by the
composer. The result of a combination of serialism, indeterminacy, and eventual polytonal
techniques culminates in a creative process that allows the composer to use all means available
without distinction or discrimination in order to fulfill his musical expression. While several
other composers were fighting to discover something new different theories or new ideas -
without necessarily paying attention to the musical result, Nobre understood the real need for a
composer to find the appropriate means to express his own musical ideas. He then realized that
the means were all there ready to be used. He explains
Mi ideologia musical es no tener ninguna ideologia o estetica preestablecida. Sin procurar
definir muy claramente mi posici6n, lo que pienso es muy dificil o impossible. Me siento
como una antena estimulada continuamente por las solicitaciones del mundo exterior, ese
mundo ambiente cada vez mas complejo, mas amplio, mas sorprendente. Me siento
tironeado por multiples excitaciones sensoriales tal cual una esponj a, yo absorbo y abarco
campos sensoriales cada vez mas vastos. El Arte es permanentemente mutable. Cada epoca
tiene sus limits propios hasta que Ilegue un artist que descubre el manto y encuentra
nuevos caminos. Yo ej ercito mi actividad como si estuviera siempre a punto de levantar el
manto que cubre nuestra epoca. No me preocupo en ser "innovador", 10 que seria ridicule
como actitud previa.4
My musical ideology is to not have any pre-established ideology or aesthetic. I try to
define my position very clearly but I believe it to be very difficult and perhaps impossible.
I feel like an antenna, continuously stimulated by the solicitations of the exterior world,
this world each day more complex, wider, and overwhelming. I feel surrounded by
multiple sensorial excitements and, just like a sponge, I absorb and embrace these growing
sensorial stimulations. Art is constantly changing. It faces its own limitations every time
49 Romano, Jacobo. "Marlos Nobre: El advenimiento de la electrC~nica fue un factor decisivo... Musicos de Hov" in
Buenos 4ires Musical, May, 1979.
until the next artist lifts the blanket and finds new ways. I exercise my activity as if I were
always on the verge of lifting that blanket. However, it is not my goal to be an "innovator,"
which would be a ridiculous attitude.
Nobre's third period contains pieces that range from his Concerto Breve, Op. 33, up to
Homenagem a Villa-Lobos, Op. 46, respectively from 1969 until 1977. It is during this phase that
Nobre develops his interest in simultaneously using a fixed notation along with a more flexible
notation. His process of using a more flexible notation is found through the use of proportional
notation and aleatoric notation. It is important to note that even when he uses aleatoric notation,
Nobre writes down every single note, and determines the duration of the sequence. This
characteristic becomes an important tool for the composer, who is able to combine his musical
thought with basic rhythmic memories of his childhood, extracted from the Maracatus of Recife:
rhythmic liberty and polyrhythmic structure within a fixed, rigorous pulse. This trend is notable
in every piece written during the third phase until his latest works.
On the other hand, works such as Concerto Breve, Ludus Instrumentalis, Op. 34, then
M~osaico, Op. 36, Sonoridadddddesdd~~~~dddd Op. 37, O Canto 2ultiplicado, Op. 38, and In 2emoriam, Op.
39, all present a mixture of combinations extracted from the Nobre's special use of serial and
aleatoric techniques alongside static blocks of sound. Still, each work is individually developed
and, at the same time, connected through Nobre's particular rhythmic impulse. The above
mentioned works are those that follow the composer's evolutionary line most specifically.
Consequently, they become the most significant translation of Nobre' s personal style of the
It was not until the 1980s, though, that Nobre assured himself of a more determined
posture related to what the real outcome of his personal and individual musical language and
style would be. He began his fourth period having matured after a two-year period of silence.
Even though he previously explored all of the characteristics of his more mature period, Nobre
was able to develop and extend his musical language and compositional process.
From YanomaniY~~YYY~~~YY~~~YY Op. 47 (1980) forward, Nobre emerged with a more defined aesthetic
thought. In her 1994 article, "SoutllincL ial\ III, Op. 49 de Marlos Nobre," Brazilian pianist and
scholar Maria Luiza Corker-Nobre, the composer's wife, emphasizes how three aspects of
Nobre' s music rhythm, harmony, and form evident in his music as early as the 1970s, gain
stronger character in the works that date after 1980. By the 1990s, Nobre began to rely more
frequently on tonal formal structures and a combination of traditional and contemporary
elements, as one can see in later works such as Passacaglia for Orchestra, Op. 84, and
Kabbalah, Op. 96. The direct use of Nobre' s serialism and the presence of the twelve tones are
almost inexistent in his fifth period.
Nobre extended his previous compositional ideas and entered his fourth and fifth periods
as a continuation of his earlier development. However, he did so with more focus on important
traditional features such as melody, form, and tonality, which were completely abolished by the
most experimental aesthetic. From the beginning of the 1980s on, rhythm becomes a stronger
characteristic in his works through Brazilian rhythmic manifestations, especially those connected
with Northeast Brazil. His harmony becomes more dense and compact, with a complex texture
where tonal elements are not completely excluded. The composer shows preference for polytonal
clusters that cannot be defined by traditional harmonic analysis. His polyphonic writing has also
grown stronger. Free harmonies resulting from the independent lines create a certain conflict that
makes perfect sense in the compositional context. Beyond any use of traditional forms, the
composer emphasizes the importance of formal structure, making it a strong characteristic of his
works. Each piece has its own formal structure, which represents the search for a new structural
conception as a means of realizing new ideas. The principle of development and organic
variation of the motives and initial ideas has become the strongest obsession of the composer.
It is important to note that, although Nobre makes use of certain traditional compositional
tools, his music should not be seen as neoclassical because he does not follow the same tradition
as Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Hindemith, and other neoclassical composers who followed the
classical model more closely. According to Nobre, he studies the great classical composers, "and
through deep attention to their works he extracts the formal, structural, and creative impulses that
lie underneath the great masterpieces of the past."'
Nobre' s compositional traj ectory has followed a continuous evolutionary line. However, it
is necessary to point out that while the composer developed works to follow a logical and
progressive evolution, he also composed works that were completely outside his main stylistic
focus. Some of these works, composed in different time periods, can fit within the aesthetic
perspective and compositional style of his first period. When asked about this, the composer
The stylistic exceptions of my progressive, creative process are many, and they belong
mostly to ideas that were born earlier but that had no time to grow and mature because I
was being exposed to new ideas all the time, which moved me to write something else.
However, those early ideas that were left on the side still in their embryonic stage never
died, and they reappeared in those works. 5
Some of the works that can be classified as stylistic exceptions are: Agd-Lonci, Op. 16,
Praiana~s, Op. 18, Trds Coros de Natal, Op. 19, Dengues da2~ulata Desinteressada, Op. 20,
Beirama~r, Op. 21, M~odinha, Op. 23, Sonata Breve, Op. 24, Rhythmetron, Op. 27,
Convergdncia~s, Op. 28, Quinteto de Sopros, Op. 29, the whole series of Desatios, Op. 31, and
50 Corker-Nobre, Maria Luiza. "Soncincias III, Op. 49 de Marlos Nobre" in Latin 4merican M~usic Review, 1994.
51 Conversations with Marlos Nobre.
Dia da Graga, Op. 32. Most of these compositions were based on folkloric motives from
northeastern Brazil and harmonically belong to Nobre's first stylistic period. Nevertheless, the
composer affirms that he never worried about being faithful to any stylistic aesthetic. His main
obj ective as a composer is to express his musical ideas. Writing those pieces allowed his mind to
rest. Otherwise, he would have been mentally tortured.52
Other pieces ended up being written anacronistically, and this has become another feature
of the composer: writing pieces based on past ideas or rewriting them in a different context. The
composer brings ideas from the past and makes them part of the present as if there were no time
separations, thereby making the past a feature of the present. Examples of this include: H~omage
to Rubinstein, Op.40, the basic idea of which is based on the Presto variation of Concerto Breve
for piano and orchestra; M~omentos I, II, and III, Op. 41, Nos. 1, 2, and 3, for guitar; Quarto Ciclo
Nordestino, Op. 43, which follows the same idea as the previous three, written eleven years
earlier and based on the folklore of northeast Brazil; Quatro M~omentos, Op. 44; Variagaes sobre
um tema de Bdla Bartok, Op. 45, and H~omenagem a Villa-Lobos, Op. 46, which takes the initial
idea of the series of Desafios but develops it differently. Two pieces analyzed later in this study,
Biosfera, Op.35, and Concerto II for String Orchestra, Op. 53, also deserve mention in this
section. Biosfera is an extension of Nobre' s String Quartet I, and Concerto II for String
Orchestra contains material from the String Quartet l in its third movement. The String Quartet
belongs to the second period, while the other two pieces belong to Nobre's third and fourth
Nobre's orchestral works belong to his third, fourth, and fifth phases. They display a
mature approach and represent Nobre' s strongest characteristics. Unfortunately, these works had
not been studied and analyzed until now. The orchestral works have been the medium through
which Nobre has had the widest possibilities to express his musical ideas and thoughts. The
works discussed in this study summarize all of his compositional development, ranging from
1968 to 2004.
SEARCH FOR AN IDENTITY
This chapter discusses Marlos Nobre's orchestral pieces that were composed in the late
1960s and the 1970s. They demonstrate how Nobre developed his compositional techniques.
These pieces represent the composer's increasing involvement with advanced techniques. The
pieces discussed below belong to the third period and were composed after the composer had
developed a more personal and definite musical language. All of the characteristics present in
these works remain part of his writing style even when he reaches a more mature age in his
Unlike the original catalogue, this author decided to put Converg~ncia~s, Op. 28, after In
M~emoriamn, Op. 39. Although Converg~ncia~s was written based on a ballet of 1968, the ideas
explored by the composer represent developments used more often in the late 1970s, rather than
the late 1960s. Thus, there is a discrepancy in the opus number sequence.
Biosfera, Op. 35 (1970)
In 1967, Nobre wrote his String Quartet No. 1, Op. 26, named Biosfera. The work has
three movements: I Variantes, II -1nterluidio, III -Postluidio. It was commissioned by the
Broadcasting Music Service of Brazil and premiered on October 23, 1967 by the Federal
University of Rio de Janeiro String Quartet. The performance took place at Sala del Instituto de
Cultura Hispinica (Hispanic Cultural Institute Hall) in Madrid at the II Festival de Musica de
America y Espafia (Second Festival of Music from America and Spain).
In 1968, Nobre was commissioned by Teatro Novo to compose a ballet, and he decided to
explore ideas from the first and second movements of his String Quartet no. 1. The result was
the ballet Biosfera (Pas-de-deux), Op. 26a, in one act and two scenes: I Variantes, II -
Nocturnal. It was premiered on October 16, 1968 at Teatro Novo in Rio de Janeiro by the
Brazilian Ballet Company, with choreography by Arthur Michell and Nobre conducting the
Musica Nova String Orchestra.
Biosfera, Op. 35, for String Orchestra was written in 1970. Nobre used the score from the
first and second movements of his String Quartet No. 1 and added a double bass line. It was
premiered on January 27, 1971, at the Auditorium of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in
Lisbon, performed by the Gulbenkian Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Carlos Eduardo
Prates. In 1974, the piece received the International Rostrum of Composers Prize/IMC/UNESCO
Although it used the same music as the String Quartet I, the orchestral version of the piece
presents some differences. For instance, the tempo markings for the first two movements in the
string quartet are quarter note equals 80 and quarter note equals 50, respectively, while in the
orchestral version the first movement is played slower with quarter note equals 72, and the
second movement is slightly faster with quarter note equals 52. Other changes are found when
comparing both scores; there are slight modifications in the measure numbers with some addition
and subtraction of notes and rhythmic figures. This gives the orchestral version of Biosfera a
completely new feeling.
Unlike the String Quartet I, Biosfera for String Orchestra has two movements: I -
Variantes, II Pos\lthlil.l The composer decided to end the piece on the second movement of
the original string quartet, which makes it a completely different piece. According to the
composer, the title comes from the Greek bios (life) and sphaira (sphere), which means life on
earth. The main idea in the piece is to represent the birth, development and death of life on earth.
This process generates a cyclical idea, where death completes a circle of reintegration into
SAlthough the second movement of the string quartet is named "Interluidio," the second movement of Biosfera for
String Orchestra is named "Postluilio."
nature. It is not a surprise that the composer writes a piece thinking of more abstract
philosophical allusion even though the piece is far from descriptive. Nobre has always been a
devoted student who is proud of his humanistic formation. He explains
...fui sempre um leitor compulsive, lendo na biblioteca do meu pai, em Recife, todo
Dostoeivsky nos meus 14 anos, e Roger Martin du Gard "Os Thibaud", em francis, ou
"Narciso e Goldmundo", de Herman Hesse, que eram meus livros de cabeceira no period
de formaCgo, ao lado de Mario de Andrade, muito Mario de Andrade, cuj as cartas a
Manuel Bandeira eram minha fascinaCio. Estudei e me formei em Sociologia e Economia
Political com professors como Gilberto Freyre e Pinto Ferreira na Universidade de Recife,
e convivi em minha juventude com Ascengo Ferreira e Ariano Suassuna,
permanentemente. Como v6, sou essencialmente musico e compositor, mas nio somente
isto. Orgulho-me de minha ampla formaCgo humanistica2 .
...I have always been a compulsive reader. When I was 14 I read everything by
Dostoievsky from my father' s study in Recife. Les Thibardt by Roger Martin du Gard in
French and Narcissus and Goldmund by Herman Hesse used to be my night stand books
along with Mario de Andrade during my growing days. I read much of Mario de Andrade
and I was fascinated by his letters to Manuel Bandeira. I studied and got a degree in
Sociology and Political Economy under professors such as Gilberto Freyre and Pinto
Ferreira at the University of Recife and spent a great deal of my youth together with
Ascengo Ferreira and Ariano Suassuna. As you see, I am essentially a musician and a
composer, but that is not it all. I am very proud of my wide humanistic education. ..
The piece was composed from four notes that come from the name BACH, in German (Bb,
A, C, B natural). (Figure 3-1) In a dramatic way, the first movement depicts mankind's spiritual
vocation in confrontation with the harsh realities of life, such as oppression, suffering, and death.
It presents transformations on the series derived from the BACH theme and has a strong
character in its harmony and rhythm.3
The second movement presents a more positive attitude of hope through a more melodious,
polyphonic context, where the dramatic climax explores the theme in a polyphonic complexity.
This represents the hope carried by mankind that love will prevail over brutality.4
SMarques, Cl6vis. 4 Muisica Forte de Marlos Nobre, Rio de Janeiro: O Globo, August 21, 2006.
SProgram Notes for Biosfera, Op. 35, by Marlos Nobre.
SProgram Notes for Biosfera, Op. 35, by Romain Goldron, L~man Classics.
B A C H
Figure 3-1 BACH motive used by Marlos Nobre in several of his pieces
Although the composer gives two subtitles for the continuous movements in the piece, the
work is actually one big movement. 5 (Table 3-1)
Table 3-1 Biosfera, Op. 35: formal struture
1. Variantes 2. Postluidio
m.25 m.61 m. 106 m. 161 m. 189 m. 222
Intro. Var. I Var.II Var. III Var. IV Var. V
The first movement is written in variation form. It begins with 24 measures of vertical
accented chords that first spell Bb, C, A, B natural, Bb from low to high. This BACH motive is
addressed by the composer in several different pieces, as one can see in some of the following
works presented in this study. It becomes a personal signature. When asked about this, the
...N~o sei exatamente quando e por qud surgiu o meu interesse pelo tema BACH e sua
utilizaCio em minhas obras. Tenho lembrangas claras de, por volta de meus 16 anos, ter
caido em minhas m~os uma publicaCgo da Revue M~usicale de Paris,~~~~PPPPP~~~~PPPP que publicava um
anexo de partituras de compositores vivos. E o que li, especifieamente, era uma Hommage
a Bach, tendo varios compositores escrito peas para diversos instrumentos sobre o nome
BACH. Lembro-me especifieamente de uma pega de Francis Poulenc, para piano, e outra
de Alfredo Casella tambem para piano, que na epoca me interessaram muito. Depois
estudando a Arte da Fuga de Bach, impressiounou-me quando na ultima e inacabaca Fuga,
o pr6prio Bach cita o tema do seu nome.
Bem, a partir dai, a semente estava plantada e comegou a germinar em meu subconsciente.
A primeira obra em que utilize o tema BACH foi no Divertimento para piano e orquestra
de 1963,escrito em Buenos Aires, sobretudo no 20 movimento. Posteriormente foram
seguindo outras obras, onde o tema era utilizado ocasionalmente no meio da composiCio,
as vezes como ligagio tematica de seCies distintas.
5 The same division cannot be used for the String QuartetlI. There, the first movement is really separated from the
second one. The orchestral version contains a held note in the double bass provides continuity.
No Quartet de Cordas nolI de 1967 entretanto e a primeira vez em que o tema e utilizado
como germe, como fonte fundamental, como ideia germinal de toda a obra. O lo
movimento e portanto uma serie de variantes sobre o tema BACH e o 3o movimento e
inteiramente baseado nele.
Depois veio Biosfera, que como voc6 sabe, e uma extensio do Quarteto de Cordas (10
20movimentos) escrita em 1970.
Depois em 1981, escrevi o Concerto para Cordas II cuj o lo movimento e inteiramente
baseado no tema BACH. O motive BACH entretanto seria usado esporadicamente em
outras obras, como citaCio de uma fonte, para mim, important de constant inspiraCgo.6
...I don't know exactly when and why I developed the interest in the BACH motive and
the use of it in my works. I remember well that when I was around 16 years old, I got
acquainted with a publication from Revue M~usicale ofParis which published an appendix
of scores of living composers. I remember reading specifically some type of Homage to
Bach, where several composers wrote pieces for many different media using the BACH
motive. I remember specifically two pieces that caught my attention at the time: a piano
piece by Francis Poulenc and another one, also for piano, by Alfredo Casella. Moreover,
studying the Art ofFugue I became really impressed when Bach used his own name's
theme on the unfinished last Fugue.
From that point on, the seed was planted and started germinating in my subconscious. I
first used the BACH theme in my Divertimento for Piano and Orchestra, especially in the
second movement, written in Buenos Aires in 1963. Later, I used it in some other pieces
too, but just occasionally in the middle of the composition or sometimes as a thematic
connection between two different sections.
The String Quartet of 1967, however, is the first piece in which I use the theme as the
basic foundation source for the whole composition; the first movement is, therefore, a
series of variations on the name BACH and the third movement is entirely based on it.
Then, in 1970, came Biosfera, which is an extension of the String Quartet No.1I. In 1981, I
wrote the Concerto for String Orchestra II, in which the first movement is entirely based
on the BACH theme. The motive appears in some other works as a source of constant
Although the str-ucture on the first page is mainly vertical, each instrument plays the twelve
tones of the chromatic scale without repetition. The double bass line always doubles another
instrumental line and the tone cluster formed by the down bow is always a four-note chromatic
pitch set. (Figure 3-2)
6 COnversations with Marlos Nobre.
ViolmtJ = ~t
Figure 3-2 Opening page for Biosfera, Op. 35, measures 1 through 24
This introduction part is followed by five variations. Although the first 24 measures state
the motive and material to be explored in the variations, it is difficult to call it a theme because
the variations do not follow a similar melodic or harmonic structure. They make use ofNobre's
own serialism, which in this case explores the use of all twelve tones in a chromatic result from
the intervals present in the BACH motive.
Variation I (mm. 25-60) develops the twelve-note line in a clearly horizontal way,
independently creating a counterpoint. Nobre proves he has mastered polyphonic writing by
paying attention to important contrapuntal rules. For instance, while one voice skips in a certain
direction, the others either remain on the same notes or move a step in an opposite direction. The
composer explores all possibilities of motion: parallel, similar, contrary and oblique. At the end
of this section there is rhythmic diminution. This also accelerates the presentation of the twelve
pitches in all voices. While it takes about fourteen measures to introduce all pitches in the
beginning of the variation, it takes only two bars toward the end of it. This section demonstrates
the use of pitch prolongation, a strong characteristic in Nobre's writing. Nobre uses this
technique to create tension in the score, emphasizing the dissonant, uneasy harmonies. The
composer continues to use the twelve-note motive, each time with more freedom. (Figure 3-3)
Variation II (mm. 60-105) continues the polyphonic idea with the inclusion of canonic
gestures. The lines develop different rhythmic figures and play nearly independently. The
instruments now play a five-note chromatic pitch set, which connects it to the first page. The
canonic gestures are intercepted by tremolos and glissandi that explore the BACH motive
transposed to different pitches. (Figure 3-4)
Inv. I I I
nar. I I I Z
Figure 3-3 Horizontal twelve-tone development of Variation I mm. 25-41 (left). Rhythmic
diminution at the end of Variation I and beginning of Variation II mm. 53-64 (right)
Figure 3-4 Tremolos and Glissandi around BACH motive of Variation II, mm. 80-91
Variation III7 (mm. 106-160) displays the composer' s knowledge of advanced instrumental
techniques. Strings play pizzicato glissandi, as indicated in the score. (Figure 3-5) Measures 117
through 120 present the five-note chromatic pitch set in the eighth notes played pizzicato, which
anticipates the idea to be developed. The score indicates that the strings should play in pizzicato
as mandolins. This creates some special effects that add to the idea of advanced instrumental
technique explored earlier in the variation. Then the instruments play chord tremolos. Each
instrument, except double bass, gets three notes to play in a chord, forming all together twelve
pitches. The section ends with instruments playing "col legno." This effect, produced by
performers striking the strings with the wooden part of the bow, contains a dry, muffled type of
sound that prevents one from hearing any definite pitches. (Figure 3-6)
Variation IV (mm. 161-188) presents twelve tones played in blocks by the instruments,
completing all the pitches either vertically or horizontally. Then they play a five-note chromatic
pitch set again with tremolo, sul ponticello in measures 167 and 168. This technique of playing at
the bridge of the instrument produces a type of eerie sound. When one adds tremolo to it, one
gets the most effective sound result. The tremolos use the notes E (Vc), Eb (Vla), D (Vn2), F
(Vn1), and F# (Cb), starting in this order, this time moving the five-note chromatic pitch set in a
parallel direction. In measure 172, there is a change of pitch set to C-C#-F-F#G , going
back to  in Eb-E-F-F#-G in m.182.
Variation V (m. 189-221) begins with the climax of the movement. The twelve notes are
played within one measure (m. 189). After the climatic moment, the piece follows a continuous
diminuendo. The chords change, but preserve the twelve-note idea until measure 217, when a set
of repeating chords displays the twelve notes again, finalizing the movement. (Figure 3-7)
SVariation III begins one measure earlier in the String QuartetlI, Op. 26 (1967).
r~L I I I *L I~I -ITacP~\
i'" I I I-~c~a
Figure 3-5 Pizzicato Glissandi from Variation III mm. 106-114
The first movement merges into the second movement, Posthzidio, which comes in one
section. The strings play in harmonics and set the atmosphere for the movement, which, as
described earlier, represents a more positive attitude of the hope carried by mankind that good
will prevail over evil. The atmosphere is slow and peaceful, and it gives birth to a melodic line
first played by the viola and then imitated by the cello. This melody is built using the twelve
tones through four-note chromatic sets derived from the BACH motive. (Figure 3-8)
;B "~' "- I "~ I I "
L r L
Figure 3-6 Variation III mm. 115 through 131 with  motive from measures 117-120
followed by mandolin-like section mm. 121-124, followed by string chordal tremolos
PCS.Mig agno eng$5
Figure 3-7 End of first movement and beginning of second movement, mm. 217-227
Figure 3-8 Viola solo line of the second movement, mm. 228-239
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POClr ~IC~0(~.50) ~"lk~9~'~1SS-
After the melody is transposed and played by the cello, the movement enters in a passage
of effects where the instruments play an extension of the harmonics displayed in the beginning of
the movement. The composer uses both "natural harmonics" and artificiall harmonics." The so-
called artificial harmonics are produced two octaves higher than the actual note. This effect is
noted with a small diamond shape note on the perfect fourth above the real note. Performers then
lightly touch these higher perfect fourth notes in order to produce the harmonics. (Figure 3-9)
Figure 3-9 Artifieial harmonics passage mm. 245-256
The melody comes back again. This time it is more developed and in a contrapuntal
format, having all instruments play the melody in a canonic imitation. The counterpoint gets
more intense each time until it reaches the climax of the movement in measure 274, when
instruments play the BACH motive again in a frenetic, intensive way using tremolos. (Figure 3-
The piece decreases gradually and the melody comes one more time in the end, played by
the viola, the cello, and again by the viola. The piece ends in a slow, static way.
'i ;-~t~-~-~_l I-~-~.-~_:-~-~-~-~-~;~'
X -- -. ---- ~--~P-- --
Figure 3-10 Climax section of the second movement, mm. 269-283
Mosaico, Op. 36 (1970)
Composed in February of 1970, M~osaico, Op. 36, won second prize at the Second
Guanabara Music Festival in Rio de Janeiro in May of that year. The work was first played
during the festival by the Brazilian Symphonic Orchestra under the direction of Armando
A year later, on October 22, 1971, a ballet in one act and three scenes based on the music
of the three movements of Mosaico was premiered at the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro by
the Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Henrique Morelenbaum with choreography by
Hector Zaraspe. Although it used M~osaico' s music, the ballet is named Autopsia para minha
sombre (Autopsy for my shadow), Op. 36a, and it was also written in 1970. The ballet is about
ten minutes longer than the orchestral piece.
M~osaico for orchestra has been under the attention of music critics and musicologists as an
early display of Nobre' s command of sophisticated techniques in the beginning of the 1970s. In
this work, Nobre proves his admiration for the new techniques explored by twentieth-century
Polish composers. Nevertheless, Nobre' s use of textural music and sound mass involves such a
sense of engineering that its sophistication takes more from the composer than from the
This work is perhaps one of the most avant-garde that he composed. However, Nobre' s
attachment to tradition and Brazilian roots are still present. He uses a traditional staged format
and includes typical Brazilian instruments, such as chocalhos (maracas), bongos, congas, and
agogas (cow-bells) in the percussion section.
SThe composer writes one page with instructions for the appropriate interpretation of symbols.
9Earls, Paul. "Marlos Nobre: Ukrimakrinkrin and Mosaico." Yearbook for International Ahtsical Research, vol. 8,
Austin: University of Texas at Austin, Institute of Latin American Studies, pp. 178-180. (4nuario Interamericano de
Nobre's complex and brilliant orchestration puts him in a special position. His way of
conveying musical ideas may not be completely new, but it is certainly worthy of observation.
As in most of his works, Nobre concentrates on bigger gestures, as opposed to small intellectual
problems and difficulties.'o
The work is written for full orchestra, including three percussionists plus timpani. It
contains three highly contrasting movements played without breaks. (Table 3-2)
Table 3-2 M~osaico, Op. 36: formal structure
1-Densidades 2-Ciclos 3-Jogos
m. 46 m.76 m. 102 m. 118 m. 133 m. 173
1-A ............1-B. ................... .....2-A ........... .2-B............. .2-A '....... ..3 A ......3- .
The first movement, Densidaddddd esddddd~~~~~~ (Densities), explores texture and sound mass from the
various instrumental sections in the orchestra. The use of a large number of instruments
contributes to a heavy texture, while the absence of certain instruments generates a thinner layer.
Sometimes the composer uses the contrast between different weight instruments, such as
woodwinds and brass, making them attack successively in sonorous blocks"l
The movement has two sections, and is built over the twelve notes of the chromatic scale.
The initial chord and gesture display all twelve pitches that will later be developed. It is
important to note that, while playing all twelve tones spread through the orchestra, the
vibraphone plays a three-note chromatic motive in the first measure, which is important material
for the unification of the whole piece. In the third bar, the composer divides the twelve-note
str-ucture into three groups of four notes each. The instruments determined for each group play a
certain rhythmic str-ucture in a free way for a certain amount of time. The composer selects the
pitches to be used by each instrumental group, and they play the rhythmic figures almost in an
'' Program Notes for Mosaico, Op. 36, by Marlos Nobre.
improvisational way. Nobre creates three such groups. The first is played by the oboes and the
English horn; the second by the clarinets and bass clarinet. The initial group then moves to the
piccolo and flutes and the second group moves to the bassoons and counter bassoon. Later, a
third group appears in the trumpets. Afterward, some pitches are played individually by certain
instruments. It sounds aleatoric, as if it were played randomly. However, every note is written
and controlled by the composer, except for some of the rhythms. (Figures 3-11 and 3-12)
Figure 3.11. Three-note initial motive in M~osaico, Op. 36
rS5 ---- -6" ---~---I)
Fiue31 ul cr m (et.Aetricbo m (rih to) laoi o m -
(right middle) n laoicbx3m 415(ih otm
r ~--*t~-~~~ ~L~L~L~L~L~L~L~L~LF~ii~-=;-~-~~'-t-:---
~- --~~ ~- --~;-
--- --- --- ----
---~ ~--~ ~---
:I ~--- ~~----~--- ;=E-_---- ; -- ~--
-- ---- ~--------~ -
------ ---- -- 3i~
~ ___ ~ --
----- ----~-~~- ----
-------, ----- -
s :ai~--- --~--~w:,_ .j
Figure 3-13 Second section of2~osaico, mm. 46-47 with beginning of chromatic motive in the
strings (A). Extension of chromatic motives through descending chromatic lines on
the strings (B)
The second section of this movement begins at the climatic point and presents the strings
playing a controlled improvisatory part over the twelve notes. The composer divides the strings
into groups, and each has a group of notes to play in a certain order. Afterward, Nobre gives a
chromatic descending line to each group of instruments and they play continuously. While the
first part (section A) focuses more on a horizontal sonority through sustained chords, this part
(section B) adds some vertical effects. Above the strings, the other instruments are organized into
groups of woodwinds, brass, piano, harp, and percussion. They alternate clusters and rhythmic
sections until the end of the movement, which connects to the second one through a held note on
the first flute. (Figure 3-13)
The second movement, Ciclos (Cycles), is based on an initial sound and rhythmic
structures, which repeats with slight modifications after a certain number of events in the music.
This movement presents a more lyrical section. The cyclical idea also applies to the way the solo
instruments expose their particular melodies, where Nobre uses a certain number of sounds that
surround each other continuously. 12
The movement has three sections: A, B (starting on measure 102) and A' (starting on
measure 118). It presents the same initial three-note chromatic motive  in the harp. In fact,
this movement explores this short motive instead of dividing the twelve notes of the chromatic
scale into fragments as the first movement does. It is interesting to note that although the first
movement has only two sections (A and B), the contrasting ideas developed there are carried
through the second movement. In other words, while the A section in the first movement carries
a more horizontal development through a mass of sustained chords, the A section in the second
movement keeps this linear idea through melodic motives that pass from one instrument to
another. The melodic motives are constructed from the initial pitch material . (Figure 3-14)
Similar to the B section of the first movement, the middle section of the second movement
presents a more vertical development through accents in the xylophone, piano, piccolo, flute, and
percussion. The twelve tones are slowly introduced in this middle section and Nobre increases
the tension in the movement when he presents them subtly in measures 107 through 109 until all
twelve tones finally meet in the same measure (m. 119), where the third section begins. (Figure
Figure 3-1 Meoi lie:O o m .8-1(tptu pe m 395(otm
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