P1337. GUIOMAR NOVAËS: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Moszkowski, MacDowell, Gluck-Saint-Saëns, Liszt & Albéniz. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-934, recorded 1920-47. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Brazilian piano artistry had in Guiomar Novaës (1895-1979) a special talent, nurtured in her native culture in the manner similar to what Monique Haas meant to French music, a rarified sensibility that held a unique, exportable flavor….mostly miniatures and character pieces that respond well to her touch, phrasing, and spontaneous gift for musical nuance.
The major commitment to aspects of Villa-Lobos’ opera, 1940 and 1946, has Novaës’ traversals of various suites that exploit folk melodies and ethnic rhythms, much in the manner of Bartók and Kodály’s supple work with Hungarian music. The melodic side of this music, however, likely makes a better analogy with Robert Schumann. Novaës then pays homage to her composer-husband, Octavio Pinto (1890-1950) with five MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD, again a Brazilian incarnation of Schumann’s childlike capacity for wonder in simplicity but colored by Debussy syntax….Novaës fulfills each of Debussy’s claims for her having ‘…the qualities of a great artist…and the power of complete inner concentration which is a characteristic so rare in artists’.”
—Gary Lemco, AUDIOPHILE AUDITION, 10 January, 2015
"I have often expressed the opinion that the two most musical nations on the American continent are Brazil and Mexico….in Brazil I met a few young promising composers and two brilliant pianists, Antonietta Rudge and Guiomar Novaës; Miss Novaës later made a name for herself in Paris and New York….Luigi Schiafarelli [Luigi Chiafarelli], a great piano teacher whose fame attracted even pupils from abroad, was considered the equal of Isidor Philipp or Busoni. Both Novaës and Rudge were his pupils….these were good days in São Paulo!”
- Arthur Rubinstein, MY MANY YEARS, p.31
“When Guiomar Novaes, the Brazilian who was known as one the foremost pianists of her time, made her American debut Nov. 11, 1915, New York music critics found it incredible that the tiny 21year old woman could produce such a big and beautiful tone from a concert grand piano that seemed to dwarf her. ‘More inspired playing has never been heard in Aeolian Hall, and Aeolian Hall audiences have heard all the foremost pianists of the time, including Paderewski’, one reviewer wrote. She continued to subdue the instrument and to keep the critics enraptured for more than half a century. Her final appearance in New York was in 1972, in a recital at Hunter College.
Miss Novaes was born in the small city of Sao Joao da Boa Vista, near Sao Paulo, the 17th of 19 children of Anna de Menezes Novaes and Manoel da Cruz Novaes. She began to play the piano at the age of 3, and at 4 was playing marches for kindergarten entertainments. The father, a local merchant, was not rich but, with the help of neighbors who recognized her talent, she began formal musical’ training at 7. When she was 11, the year her father died, she gave her first recital in Sao Paulo and thereafter appeared often in public. After a farewell concert at 14, Miss Novaes left for Paris, armed with a grant from the Brazilian Government for four years of study abroad.
In Paris, her success was immediate and remarkable. Among the jurors who admitted her to the Paris Conservatory were Fauré, Debussy and Moszkowski. Debussy later wrote of her, ‘She has all the qualities of a great artist, eyes that are transported by music, and the power of complete inner concentration, which is a characteristic so rare in artists’. Two years after her arrival in France she won the Conservatory's coveted first prize, over a field of nearly 400 other musicians. At the conservatory, she studied with Isidor Philipp, the renowned piano teacher.
Miss Novaes, throughout her long and distinguished career, was famed as a colorist and as an intuitive pianist rather than an intellectual one in the modern mode. Her approach to music was said to be invariably elegant, poetic and intensely individual in her interpretations. ‘Miss Novaes is the most personal of pianists’, one critic wrote. ‘She does things her own way; she makes her own rules….but she has the authority and the music instinct to remain utterly convincing’. Her technique was described as formidable, and enhanced by a robust, singing tone. The Romantic composers were felt to be her forte, such works as Schumann's Concerto and ‘Carnaval’ being particular favorites of her audiences. But for her awn pleasure, she said, it was Bach and Mozart. ‘Actually, I don't prefer the 19th century’, she once remarked.
Nevertheless, she was regarded as one of the supreme Chopinists of her time. ‘Somebody gave me a very early daguerrotype of Chopin as he looked just before he died’, she said. ‘There is much tragedy in the man's face, especially in his face. It haunts me every time I play his music’.
Miss Novaes was a handsome woman whose stage bearing was shy but quietly aristocratic. She was not known for agonizing over her art. Early in her career she remarked: ‘All my life everything has come to me without struggle. Art for some is drudgery. For me it is the greatest joy. Well, I shall play better next year. I wish to give back all that life gives to me’.
She was married at age 25 to Octavio Pinto, a wealthy Brazilian civil engineer who also was a composer and a pianist. Miss Novaes often performed his ‘Scenes From Childhood’ in her recitals. In the Romantic tradition, he had admired her from afar since she had been 13. Their courtship began with an exchange of unsigned post cards, on each of which was written the musical notation of one measure by a famous composer. Mr. Pinto sent the first one, a Beethoven phrase. She answered with a measure of Brahms. ‘It was a great surprise that Octavio might be more interested in me than my playing’, she recalled later. She went home to Brazil to be married, taking three pianos along with her on the ship. The couple had two Children, Luiz Octavio, who became an engineer, and Anna Maria, who became a singer. Mr. Pinto died in 1950, and Miss Novaes did not remarry.
She was made a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor, and her many Brazilian honors included the Prize of Merit, awarded by the country's president.”
- THE NEW YORK TIMES, 9 March, 1979