About her importance

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By Edinha Diniz

Mário de Andrade had already remarked: “Because she lived during the Second Reign and the first decades of the Republic, Francisca Gonzaga had to cope with the extremely ungrateful musical phase in which she composed; a transitional phase, with its habaneras, polkas, quadrilhas (sort of quadrille), tangos and maxixes, in which the racial characteristics still struggled hard with the elements that were then imported. And even more than Ernesto Nazareth, she does represent this phase. It is amazing to see how the elements of that struggle may be found in her work, more than in that of any other Brazilian composer. It seems that her feminine fragility enabled her to capture more willingly and accurately the meaning of the many paths into which our music of the time was wandering.”

Edinha Diniz, her biographer, says: “Considering that no Brazilian composer has worked more intensely on the transition between the European and the Brazilian music per se, we may claim that Chiquinha Gonzaga’s musical production is the missing link that allows us to understand how the music produced in Brazil turned out to be Brazilian.”

And goes on: “Chiquinha Gonzaga is a composer and conductor from Rio de Janeiro who made an outstanding contribution to the Brazilian culture: in her piano European polkas, waltzes and tangos joined lundus, cateretês and maxixes, thus helping to steer the course of the music produced in Brazil and establish the Brazilian rhythmics.”

The concerto performer Clara Sverner confirms: “From the ballroom polkas to the Brazilian tango, with her incomparable lyricism and her nimble and precise rhythm, Chiquinha Gonzaga produces the perfect musical melting pot that gives rise to the so called Brazilian rhythm.”

The researcher Sérgio Cabral also agrees: “If our music has many fathers, the mother should undisputedly be Chiquinha Gonzaga, who indeed created an accent that helps to determine the DNA of the Brazilian music.”

The pianist and musicologist Marcelo Verzoni attests: “Francisca Gonzaga’s work, far more than that of Ernesto Nazareth, -- a composer extremely refined and, therefore, much more attentive to an artistic final touch -- allows us to distinctively revive the transformations that foreign genres experienced in Brazil.”

Verzoni was able to pinpoint the transition years and identify when works that formerly bore other designations started to be called Choros. With respect to the relation between Chiquinha Gonzaga and Choro, he says: “The term “Choro” was not used until much later, after the pianist had already written the entirety of her works. In the editions issued in the 19th century, pieces that later on started to be called “Choros” were then called polkas, tangos or habaneras."

What is her importance?

By Edinha Diniz

The musicologist Marcelo Verzoni also ascertained that as of the 1920’s, the music industry began to adopt the word “Choro” for the stocks left from the previous century.

As a matter of fact, only in 1932 Chiquinha Gonzaga’s compositions were published with the designation “Choro,” in a three-volume series called Alma Brasileira (Brazilian Soul), each including ten Choros for saxophone and flute. There, for the first time, she published a collection of works representing multiple musical genres under the generic name “Choros.” They were, in short, recycled past compositions.

As a pianist of the Callado Ensemble called Choro Carioca (The Rio de Janeiro Choro) during the 1870’s, Chiquinha Gonzaga was able to follow the entire historical development of what we call “Choro” today. First born as an instrumental ensemble responsible for developing a Brazilian playing technique applied to European instruments, over the century Choro gradually turned  out to  be an original  interpretive style of imported musical forms, and finally, after decades, became a genre in and of itself, after having also designated the dances where this typical musical ensemble used to play. Throughout this period, however, Choro has always meant originality and energy, attracting new generations of instrumentalists each and every day.

In addition to her musical contribution, it is essential to emphasize that the name Chiquinha Gonzaga is also written among those who strived for freedom within the country. Her role in the campaign for the abolishment of slavery was noteworthy, as for that matter were all the great political causes she engaged in to condemn procrastination. Also a leader in her profession, she defended musicians’ copyrights and organized the Brazilian Society of Theater Authors - SBAT. And, last but not least, Gonzaga was also one of the early pioneers in advocating for women’s emancipation in Brazil.