· By Cristian Martinez Vega

Music of Brazil: Baldini on Miguez & Vélasquez

Emmanuele Baldini has toured extensively as a soloist and recitalist, and has won several international competitions. His album of Villa-Lobos violin sonatas has just been nominated for a Latin GRAMMY® for best classical album. Baldini has also played an important role as an active and successful conductor in Brazil. He is also music director of the Tatu Conservatory Symphony Orchestra and creative director of the Vortz Orchestra of Brazil, in addition to his role as concertmaster of the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra (OSESP).

We had the pleasure of hearing more about his recent Naxos recording of violin sonatas by Miguez and Vélasquez on this special occasion. Enjoy the conversation.

ArkivMusic: We know that in recent years audiences have been more receptive to works outside the canon of Western classical music, and you have expressed surprise that these sonatas are not performed more often. For you, as an artist, can you tell us what these works offer -perhaps pedagogically or simply in concert- that is different and noteworthy as we broaden our appreciation of classical music these days?

Emmanuele Baldini: I think some artists tend to be very conservative in their choice of repertoire. Of course, we know that a big and well-known work will always cause a strong effect on the public, but I think it is becoming increasingly clear that, with a sophisticated repertoire, we can stimulate the public to discover new works, new composers, and sometimes new "adventures." That can help to create some links between musical styles and languages. Let's take the example of Velasquez! He grew up in Italy, surrounded by melodramas, and he was also very influenced by French impressionism. It’s astonishing to hear how his life and the places where he grow up influenced his music.

AM: Tell us about your collaboration with Karin Fernandes, the award-winning pianist who also appears on this album. Is this the first time you have recorded together? And what prompted you to join forces for this project?

EB: Karin is a passionate and dedicated musician, who dedicates her life to discovering new works and playing them incessantly. I thought she was the best possible partner for this project because of the nature of the repertoire. We have played together before, many times, but this is the first recording we have made.

AM: Congratulations on your recent GRAMMY® nomination for your album of the complete Villa-Lobos violin sonatas. It makes us wonder how the violin music of Leopoldo Miguez and Glauco Velasquez, who were two leading figures in Brazilian classical music, compares to that of Villa-Lobos and other Brazilian figures - the violin works of César Guerra-Peixe or Camargo Guarnieri come to mind....

EB: Brazil's musical panorama is vast and extremely rich. When I arrived in Brazil in 2005, I only knew some of the major pieces by Villa-Lobos. But living here, and playing in the OSESP, I discovered a new world, full of new great composers. Some of them were obviously influenced by European music, like Velasquez and Miguez. Others, even having studied in Europe, tried to find new ways like Villa-Lobos, Santoro, Guarnieri, Mignone, etc. It's fascinating! For this reason, I think that Naxos' Music of Brazil project is very important, because it offers people from all over the world the widest possible panorama of Brazilian music.


AM: Historically, many Brazilians are descendants of Italians who moved to Brazil and brought with them their heritage, including their music. You are originally from Italy, so we find it very interesting to know how you ended up in Brazil, could you tell us a little about your life and, in particular, what brought you to Brazil? And tell us about what attracted you to the Brazilian musical heritage that you now communicate so masterfully.

EB: In 2002 I was concertmaster of the Orchestra del Teatro “G. Verdi” di Trieste, my hometown. We received as guest conductor Maestro John Neschling, who at that time was the artistic director of the OSESP. After some rehearsals he invited me to have lunch with him, and made me the first formal invitation to travel to São Paulo and to play as concertmaster for a few weeks. After this trip, and others in 2003 and 2004, the symphony orchestra asked me if I would agree to stay in São Paulo. I accepted! And here I am, after 18 years (almost 19). I love OSESP, and I also love Brazil. Part of this love comes from Brazilian music, which I feel as much as part of my DNA.... strange to say, but it's true!

AM: This is the second release in Naxos' 'The Music of Brazil" series, co-produced with the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to promote the music of Brazilian music since the 18th century. Some of our fans have expressed concern that living composers do not appear as often in these series. Do you have any upcoming performances or recordings with works by living Brazilian composers that you can share with us?

EB: I have upcoming concerts and tours with new repertoire, yes. There are many good young composers in them, who deserve more visibility (or audibility). I am working to make that possible. But it is still difficult for the recording industry to convince people that Villa-Lobos deserves to be published as much as Andre Mehmari, for example.

AM: Thank you very much for your time in this interview. I wonder if you could finish by telling us how you see the classical music scene in Brazil and what you expect to see in the coming years. You have been concertmaster of the OSESP and founded a quartet there, do you have more projects planned for the Brazilian music scene in the near future?

Baldini Performing

EB: Oh yes! Right now I conduct, and I am the musical director of a youth orchestra here. But I am also involved in many projects and many new groups, and I hope you will soon hear about me in a new role. My mind never stops. Always thinking about the future and working to honor my heroes: the greatest composers of all time.


This tantalizing recording of the rarely-performed Sonatas by Miguez and Vélasquez is on sale as part of our Music of the Americas campaign to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.
Get it before the discount ends on October 4, 2022.