When asked about the significance of the acclaimed flutist, Maestro Júlio Medaglia points out that ‘Altamiro is the greatest in the world.’ And goes on, ‘For us, performers, and for most of those who enjoy classical music, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is the supreme symbol of sonorous perfection and enchantment in the world. For many years, they had promised to come over for a visit. Finally, in 2000, an impresario brought them to Brazil. When in Berlin with those wonderful musicians, I had promised, ‘when you come to Brazil, we’ll have a caipirinha* at my place!’ Here in Brazil, when people say, ‘don’t be a stranger,’ it’s more like asking people not to come by. On the contrary, when Germans say something, they really mean it. After the first concert in São Paulo, I noticed those inquisitive looks on their faces, silently asking, ‘what about the caipirinha?’ So I arranged a gathering at home with most of them. I wondered, ‘other than the caipirinha, what else could I offer in terms of music to these best in the world?’ I called Altamiro Carrilho’s manager and checked whether he would be in São Paulo at the time. Luckily, he would. On a Saturday, at eleven o’clock sharp the group of musicians arrived at my place and slightly after them Altamiro and his guitar players. I introduced him with these words, ‘Jean-Pierre Rampal usually says, “There are flutists and there is Altamiro Carrilho.”’
The recital started. We had Choro and caipirinha the whole day, without a break. Around eight p.m., I told the musicians, ‘Gentlemen, your maestro (Claudio Abbado) has invited me out to dinner.’ Coolly unconcerned, the musicians answered, ‘don’t worry, maestro. You may have your dinner with him...’ I left and let them at home enjoying the best company they could have.
When I came back, my car radio was on Radio Cultura station. After a while, the speaker said, ‘In Paris, Jean-Pierre Rampal, currently regarded as the greatest flutist in the world, has just passed away’. When I got home, around midnight, I met the musicians enraptured by our music and not even considering going back to the hotel. Then I said, ‘Fellows, a while ago we mentioned the name of Jean-Pierre Rampal. I’m afraid I have some bad news for you, I just heard on the radio that he just passed away, in Paris’. One of the musicians of the orchestra stood up and said, ‘now Altamiro may shine alone...’”
Still according to Maestro Júlio Medaglia, ‘Brazil has already had many top quality musicians of international standing. It is possible to say, for instance, that Nelson Freire is a pianist as exceptional as Martha Argerich is. In the case of Altamiro, however, he is not just as good as any other. Much more than international recognition for his technique, virtuosity, flute language, repertoire, compositions or interpretations and his entirely original brilliance, we have to say, after all, Altamiro is unique.’
The researcher Sérgio Cabral endorses, ‘What delights us in Altamiro Carrilho is that, in addition to being an extraordinary flutist, he is an audience-friendly musician. I’ve never seen a show in which he wouldn’t establish, since the very beginning and with a good sense of humor, a kind of complicity between musician and audience. The result is that everybody is happy: we, poor mortals, and he, an instrumentalist of genius. I’m absolutely positive this is one of the most pleasant paths to happiness.’
And finally, musician Izaías do Bandolim declares, ‘I have been following Altamiro Carrilho career practically since its beginning, when he was a member of the legendary Regional do Canhoto (Canhoto’s Ensemble). His unmistakable style accounts for an enormous line of younger flutists, and he is by far the initial mark of a Brazilian flute school – his creativity is unique both in solos and counterpoints, and he is also one of the most important Brazilian composers. Carrilho created new and definitive versions for the repertoire of Choro players, providing for a remarkable development of this genre so peculiar to Brazil. Altamiro Carrilho will shine forever among the leading stars of that constellation.’
*A drink made of sliced lemon, sugar, and ice cubes mixed with cachaça (sugar cane brandy).