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Napoleão dos Santos, Alfredo (1852-1917)

Alfredo Napoleão dos Santos

born: 31 January 1852
died: 23 November 1917
country: Portugal

Alfredo Napoleão grew up in a musical family. His father, Alexandre Napoleão, was a musician, and his brothers Artur (1843–1925) and Annibal (1845–1880) also became pianist–composers. Artur went on to become one of the most successful music publishers in Brazil. Their mother, Joaquina Maria dos Santos, died when Alfredo was only a year old. He then was cared for by his maternal grandmother in a city near his birthplace of Porto while his father worked in London. In 1858 his father brought him to live in London, where he studied with a certain Professor Wood (not to be confused with Sir Henry Wood of Proms fame), who was also married to a Portuguese woman and who eventually established a school in Lisbon. Alfredo continued his studies with him until 1868, when he joined his brothers in Brazil in order to pursue his career.

In Brazil Napoleão first worked in a piano store in Rio de Janeiro. In 1869 he gave his debut recital at the Teatro Lírico, attended by Dom Pedro II, with great success. After touring Rio Grande do Sul and Rio da Prata, Alfredo took up residence in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Montevideo, Uruguay, where he taught the piano. In 1879 he returned to Rio and toured the northern Brazilian provinces, staying for two years in Pernambuco where he also taught the piano. During these years in South America Alfredo was at the height of his fame. In 1882 he returned to Portugal, giving concerts in Lisbon and Porto, where he received glowing critical acclaim; he was equally appreciated in London and Paris. In 1889 he returned to Brazil and gave many concerts throughout the entire South American continent. He finally returned to Porto, the city of his birth, in 1891, where he taught the piano and performed both there and in Lisbon.

As a pianist, Alfredo Napoleão was a great interpreter of Bach, Beethoven and Schumann, and he and his brother Artur did much to promote Luso-Brazilian music, including their own. As a composer, Alfredo wrote four piano concertos and a Polonaise for piano and orchestra, an Ouverture symphonique for large orchestra, chamber music, and sonatas and shorter works for solo piano.

from notes by Nancy Lee Harper © 2014


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