GUIOMAR NOVA ES - BY EMMETT M. FORD
Guiomar Novaes, pianist, phonograph and piano roll artist and composer was born in Sao Joao da Boa Vista, Brazil, February 28, 1895. She showed musical talent at an early age. Piano study was in Sao Paulo with Chiafarelli and in 1904 she appeared as a child prodigy in a public appearance. In 1909 the Brazilian Government sponsored her entry into the Paris International Contest where she won first prize from among about 380 contestants.
A two-year study was with the well-known French teacher and pianist, Isidor Phillip and his assistant, Helen Chaumont at the Paris Conservatory where she garduated with highest honors in 19i1, receiving the Premier Prix du Conservatoire. At the final examination of a contest dedicated to the improvement of music in France, Claude Achille Debussy was one of the judges. Debussy was exhausted from the numerous hearings during the examinations but mentioned one of the most artistic was a youthful Brazilian pianist of the age of thirteen, Guiomar Novaes. Debussy further stated, in a letter to the conductor, Andre Capler, "she had all the qualities for a great artist, eyes that are transported by the music and the power of complete inner concentration which is the characteristic so rare in artists." She received first prize by playing Chopin's "Ballade" (3d) and Schumann's "Carnaval." Her performance of the "Carnaval" resulted in the judges, Debussy, Faure, and Moszkowski asking for a repeat performance.
Isidor Phillip had told his student the piano music of Mendlessohn was unjustly neglected and the "Songs Without Words" should be on her programs. (An excellent recording of this composition on Turnabout LP TV34345 by Mme. Novaes shows she took her teacher's recommendation.)
Her Paris debut was in 1911 and tours began in England, France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. Returning to Brazil in 1911, she made tours in the principal cities.
Her New York debut in 1915 was a sensation resulting in constant acclaim for her as one of the leading female pianists of that time and in the future. She continued tours as a recitalist and soloist with orchestras allover the world.
She married the Brazilian pianist, composer and architect, Octavio Pinto, who had also studied with Isidor Phillip. There were two children of this marriage, a daughter, Ann Maria and a son, Octavio. Mr. Pinto wrote a suite "Prol e de Bebe," songs, piano pieces and a symphony which is a set in miniatures entitled "Children's Suite." Mme. Novaes plays his composition in many of her recitals.
On February of 1941, she gave a New York concert in which she featured a group of six Brazilian folk songs and the composition of her husband and her fellow countryman, Villa-Lobos. A country-wide concert tour followed this New York appearance.
In 1940 she received the decoration of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor from the French Government.
In 1941 her husband established the Gtiiomar Novaes prize which provided for an exchange scholarship and tour for winners. The pianist would be chosen at a contest to be held under the supervision of Arthur Judson, President of Columbia Concerts Corporation. The contest was open to' American 6itizens under 30 years of age. The winning pianist would be sent to Brazil for recitals at Mme. Novaes' expense and the award also included transportation to Rio de Janerio and a tour of four concerts throughout Brazil.
Mme. Novaes made many phonograph recordings, both 78 rpm and long play. In the Columbia disc 17229-0 she gives a charming 18th century recital and her playing is a model in clarity and phrasing. The recording includes "La Tendre Nanette" by Couperin, "L'Hirondelle" by Daquin and "Sonatas Longo No. 333" (mislabeled 8) by Scarlatti. A two-ten inch disc (Columbia CMX 298) was of her playing the "Fantasia and Fuguein D Major" (Peters Vol. IX, No. 31).
Recent recordings were done for Vox. Mr. George H. Mendlessohn, President of Vox Productions, Inc., regardes Mme. Novaes as one of the incomparable Chopin players of today and he deems it a privilege that Vox can perpetuate her eloquent interpretations on records. He also feels Mme. Novaes had never before been given the recording opportunities her splendid artistry deserves Mr. Mendlessohn pridefully points out that her first two LP discs, containing the Chopin 24 "Preludes" (PL 6170), and the "Sonata in B Flat Minor OP. 25," combined with "Fantasie in F Minor OP. 49" (PL 6230), have been widely praised as some of the finest Chopin performances ever recorded. Mr. Mendelssohn also refers to the locations for the two recordings. Two halls in Paris were the recording places. For piano and small ensembles, the Salle Chopin with seating of 500 people is used. The Salle Playel which is larger than Carnegie Hall is also used. In the latter, three microphones are used and in the Salle Chopin, one or two. If an additional microphone is needed it is always used.
H. C. Schonberg, a reviewer for the American Record Guide, states in a 1951 review of the two Beethoven Sonatas OP. 31 and8larecorded on Vox PL6270 "I have yet to hear a poor Novaes disc in her current series of Vox. Here she plays two of the more romantic of the Beethoven sonatas, one known as the Tempest and the other, Le Dieux. Again there is little to do but marvel at the flexibility of this great pianist's keyboard approach, her instinctive solutions of the musical problems and her marvelous sense of color. There is nothing scholarly about Novaes' Beethoven, but she comes closer to a realization of what I think Beethoven intended than almost any pianist I have heard. Part of this is due to her sense of rhythm, but most, I suspect, to her ability to keep a musical line in perpetual tension." Mme. Novaes has recorded the sonata 81a on Duo-Art.
An interesting Welte roll by Mme. Novaes is C 2881 of Rubinstein's arrangement of Beethoven's "Turkish March" from "Ruins of Athens."
In 1970 a small group of Louis Gottschalk enthusiasts, guided by Robert Pritchard's organizational genius, held the Gottschalk Centennial organized under the aegis of the Pan American Association, the North & Latin American Observance of the Gottschalk Centenary. An impressive array of major concerts and celebra~ tions were held and the important Gottschalk Competition for Pianists and Composers began and was held June, 1970 at Dillard University in New Orleans. There were contestants from twenty-six nations and Mme. Novaes presided over the Piano Jury. A memorial recording was made and the proceeds from the recording sales were contributed to the Peruvian Disaster Relief Fund. This recording included Mme. Novaes' playing Gottschalk's "Fantasy of the Brazilian National Anthem," composed in 1865 (refer to my Louis ~l. / Gottschalk article in THE AMICA News Bulletin, June and July, 1976). Mme. Novaes has recorded the Fantasy on a Duo-Art revealing her amazing technique, phrasing, and rhythm.
A Town Hall recital on November 26, 1949 was a success. Then another recital was scheduled for November 25, 1950 but was cancelled clue to the illness of her husband. His death was from a heart attack, October 31, 1950.
Though Mme. Novaes continued to give recitals into 1966, appearing in California, it seems she is now in retirement but leaves a wealth of music in recordings and piano rolls. The late James Hunecker termed her "The Paderewska of the Pampas."
The AMICA, April 1973
From THE AMICA, January 1965
From THE AMICA, April 1966
From THE AMICA, October 1969
From THE AMICA, March 1971
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