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Sickness caused by love and longing

A pioneering L.P. of colonial and imperial modinhas to be relaunched after 40 years

Eduardo cesar Cover of the original record…Eduardo cesar

A happy partnership between music and history will become available to those who are interested in the two centuries since the Portuguese Court arrived in Brazil. The record Modinhas coloniais e imperiais [Colonial and imperial modinhas, a traditional type of sentimental Brazilian song], which has been out of stock since 1967, will be relaunched in São Paulo in CD format. The work was the first long playing (LP) recording totally dedicated to modinhas, a song type that spanned colonial times and lasted into Brazil’s imperial period and that was always enjoyed in the country’s ballrooms.

The long play recording in the old vinyl disk format began to take shape when a young social sciences researcher and operatic singer who lived in the city of São Paulo, Léa Vinocur Freitag, was invited to sing colonial modinhas accompanied by the pianist Osvaldo Lacerda on Silveira Sampaio’s TV program in 1964. The invitation came from the researcher Mozart de Araújo, who was launching the book Modinhas e lundus do século XVIII [Modinhas and lundus in the eighteenth century, the Lundu being a type of dance originally bought to Brazil by black slaves]. He had researched Portuguese and Brazilian archives and included in his book verses from the poem Marília de Dirceu, by the judge and Arcadian poet Tomás Antônio Gonzaga. These verses were set to music by Marcos Portugal, a Portuguese musician who came to Brazil in 1811, when he was appointed Master of the Royal Chapel by King Dom João VI.

Eduardo cesar …and Mário de Andrade’s albumEduardo cesar

The soprano liked the experience and decided to study this musical genre of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. “The modinhas were heavily influenced by opera,” she explains. “At that time, the center of social and musical life, both in Portugal and Brazil centered on the church, the opera and the ball-rooms.” The muses of the Arcadian literary movement were always Marílias, Tirces, Márcias, who appear in almost all the anonymous poems as muses of unrequited love. However, the writer Mário de Andrade recommended that the modinhas be sung – “these texts of illness due to love and longing” – with a ‘smiling countenance.’ In the preface to his book Modinhas imperiais (Imperial Modinhas), he commented: “One cannot take all this systematized wailing seriously, and these modinhas sound much better when they are performed with a smile that the ‘songmasters’ of old recommended to harpsichordists in their day.”

Up until 1966 neither Mozart de Araújo’s discoveries nor Mário de Andrade’s compilation had been recorded. At that time Léa was doing post-graduate work, studying the sociology of literature, under the guidance of Ruy Coelho, doing research into the modinhas. “It was then that I had the idea to record part of this material,” she explains. She requested and obtained financing from FAPESP to do an entire LP about her research subject. She invited the pianist Maria do Carmo de Arruda Botelho, who already had an international career, to accompany her. On side A, Léa recorded a few segments from Marília de Dirceu, the setting of the lyrics to music having been done by Osvaldo Lacerda, to music by Marcos Portugal. On side B, she sang the imperial modinhas included in Mário de Andrade’s album. In 1967, a total of 600 copies of the record were produced and distributed to researchers, journalists and broadcasters. The work was hailed for its pioneering nature and artistic quality.

Eduardo cesar Musical score from Marília de DirceuEduardo cesar

Léa Freitag continued pursuing her musical, journalistic and academic careers. She sang at recitals in Brazil and abroad, worked as a critic for newspapers and magazines, published the book Momentos de música brasileira – [Moments of Brazilian Music] (Nobel, 1985), recorded the CD Sarau das musas [Muses’ Soiree] and rose to the position of senior professor at the University of São Paulo’s School of Communications and Arts. Now retired, she felt it was the right time to organize and recover important works from the past. When she recorded the modinhas record, she merely wanted to leave a record of something that had never previously been recorded.