Program 90
"Thomas of Nazareth"

MUSIC: clip from Ernesto Nazareth’s Sarabeque performed by Thomas Tirino, piano [Koch International Classics KIC-CD-7547, track 7] [under the following]

Welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman, and for the next hour we’re going to explore the music of “Thomas of Nazareth.” No, I haven’t gotten religious on you all of a sudden. I’m talking about the wonderful piano music of the Brazilian composer Ernesto Nazareth as performed in a fantastic recording by the American pianist Thomas Tirino.

I’m talking about a compact disc that literally has my name on it. And I’ll tell you the very interesting story of how that came about a little later in this program. But first a few words about Ernesto Nazareth.

MUSIC: fades out

Ernesto Júlio de Nazareth was born on March 20, 1863 in Rio de Janeiro. He lived and worked there his entire life, and died in that city on February 4, 1934. In between he wrote more than 400 piano pieces, many of which sound to me like a cross between Chopin and Scott Joplin with a Brazilian beat added.

He was raised in a family with modest means and began his piano studies with his mother, who died when he was only 10. But he continued studying music with family friends until he was good enough to teach himself. In 1877, when Nazareth was only 14, he wrote and published a polka called Você Bem Sabe in Portuguese, You Know It Well in English. Let’s listen to this early work first, performed by someone who knows it well, Thomas Tirino.

MUSIC: Nazareth: Você Bem Sabe / You Know It Well, performed by Thomas Tirino, pianist [Koch International Classics KIC-CD-7547, track 15]] [1:53]

Thomas Tirino performing Ernesto Nazareth’s early polka Você Bem Sabe / You Know It Well.

Capturing the essence of popular Brazilian dance music, Nazareth wrote mainly Brazilian tangos and waltzes as well as polkas. Let’s listen to a tango next. It is called Brejeiro. That title can have several meanings in Brazilian Portuguese. It can indicate a sly, graceful, happy-go-lucky vagrant -- which the music seems to suggest. Or it can mean an absolute scoundrel. It can also mean a brat -- a child who is always getting into trouble with mischievous pranks. The piece was published in 1893 when Nazareth was in bad financial condition. He sold all the rights to the work, which he later regretted doing. In the program notes by pianist Thomas Tirino which accompany this CD, he notes that the piece is full of “delicious rhythmic and harmonic syncopations.” Hearing is believing.

MUSIC: Nazareth: Brejeiro, performed by Thomas Tirino, pianist [Koch International Classics KIC-CD-7547, track 15]] [2:13]

Ernesto Nazareth’s Brejeiro, performed by pianist Thomas Tirino.

Before we go any further, a few words about the pianist.
Thomas Tirino, a native New Yorker, studied at the Julliard School of Music in New York City, where he received all of his degrees in music. He has appeared as a recitalist and with orchestras in standard classical and Latin American piano music in many of the major cities of the United States, Europe and Asia.

He has made many compact disc recordings. Several of them have been featured on previous Compact Discoveries programs. I devoted an hour to the music of Ernesto Lecuona, using pieces from the five CDs Thomas Tirino made of the complete works of Lecuona on the Bis label. Time magazine chose the first Tirino/Lecuona CD as one of the ten best of 1995 from all musical categories. I also devoted an hour to Tirino’s recording of the complete piano music of the Cuban composer Joaquín Nin.

But this recording of piano music by Brazilian composer Ernesto Nazareth that I am featuring right now is my favorite Tirino recording. It literally has my name written on it, and I’ll tell you why a little later. But let’s hear some more of this gorgeous music right now. It’s time for a waltz!

This is called Confidências / Confidences. Notice how much like Chopin it seems in its structure, style and feel.

MUSIC: Nazareth: Confidências, performed by Thomas Tirino, pianist [Koch International Classics KIC-CD-7547, track 23] [3:29]

Confidências / Confidences, by Ernesto Nazareth, performed by pianist Thomas Tirino. This was a piece that Nazareth himself performed often when he was working at the Odeon Theater in Rio de Janeiro. One of Nazareth’s most famous works is named after that movie palace.

MUSIC: Nazareth: Odeon, performed by Thomas Tirino, pianist [Koch International Classics KIC-CD-7547, track 2] [2:51]

Ernesto Nazareth’s Odeon, played by Thomas Tirino on the piano.

You are listening to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman, and the theme for this hour is “Thomas of Nazareth.” Thomas of Nazareth is not to be confused at all with Jesus of Nazareth, although both are Jewish and Nazareth is spelled the same way in both cases. The Thomas I’m referring to is Thomas Tirino, an incredibly gifted American pianist. The Nazareth I’m referring to is Ernesto Nazareth, an incredibly gifted Brazilian composer of piano music, who lived from 1863 until 1934.

MUSIC: clip from Lecuona’s Malagueña, performed by Thomas Tirino, piano [BIS CD-754, track 7] [up, then under the following]

In 1996, many years before there was a Compact Discoveries radio program, I wrote Compact Discoveries columns which were published in public radio magazines in Oregon and Idaho. They were also available on the Internet. When Thomas Tirino’s recordings of the music of Ernesto Lecuona came out, I wrote one of these columns about these CDs, which I praised to the hilt. I said that Tirino was single-handedly responsible for the revival of interest in Lecuona’s music, and that his interpretations were “full of energy, flawless technique, and passion.” I could use these very same words to describe Tirino’s performances of the music of Ernesto Nazareth. But you can judge that for yourself.

At the end of this article I wrote: “When Tirino ... [is] through with this six-CD series” of music by Ernesto Lecuona “I would love to see [him] tackle the complete piano music of a composer I like even better than Lecuona -- the late 19th/early 20th Century Brazilian musician, Ernesto Nazareth.”

MUSIC: fades out here

MUSIC: clip from Lecuona: Córdoba from Andalucía, Suite Española, Thomas Tirino, piano [BIS CD-754, track 2] [up, then under the following]

Now let’s skip from 1996 until October 21, 2003 -- seven years later. On that date Thomas Tirino performed the music of Ernesto Lecuona live with the Symphony of the Americas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. My wife and I were anxious to see Tirino play in person, so we went to see this concert, which turned out to be a truly great performance, fully worthy of capture by the PBS Great Performances television series.

MUSIC: fades out
SOUND: cocktail scene background noise
[under the following]

When it was over we went back stage for a champaign reception to honor the pianist. There were a hundred people or more crowded into a small reception room, and I was lucky to have a couple of seconds at most to introduce myself to Thomas Tirino and congratulate him on his performance.

No sooner did I do that than he said to me: “Fred Flaxman! I want you to know that my next CD will be the music of Ernesto Nazareth!” And he was off being congratulated by someone else.

SOUND: cocktail background noise fades out here

Well I was completely shocked. Thomas Tirino obviously knew my name, which was surprising enough. But how did he know that I was interested in Ernesto Nazareth, a composer who was about as obscure and unknown in the United States as they come?

I became very concerned about my memory. Was I coming down with Alzheimer’s? Surely I must have met Thomas Tirino before or at least had some correspondence with him for him to know my name and interest in Nazareth. But my memory on that subject was a complete blank. I just had to know how Thomas Tirino recognized my name and how he knew of my love of the music of Ernesto Nazareth.

MUSIC & SOUND: clip from Dragnet radio program opening theme with music and announcer

The next day I obtained Mr. Tirino’s e-mail address from a friend at the Symphony of the Americas and wrote him, apologizing for my poor memory and asking him how he knew my name and my interest in Ernesto Nazareth.

He wrote back right away apologizing to me for surprising me so at the reception. Turns out he had read my 1996 article on the Internet and that, at the time he had never heard of Ernesto Nazareth, or, I’m sure, of Fred Flaxman. But he was intrigued by my suggestion that he record Nazareth’s works next, and began a search for sheet music and recordings of that composer’s compositions. He loved what he found and heard, began playing Nazareth himself, and eventually recorded the Koch International Classics CD that we are auditioning during this hour.

At the very end of the program notes for this CD there is a line thanking -- and I quote -- “Mr. Fred Flaxman, who was the original inspiration to the artist for discovering the composer’s music.”

So, as it turned out, for seven years before he met me in person, Thomas Tirino not only knew who I was, he knew very well my interest in the music of Ernesto Nazareth, because my interest had become his interest. I had had an influence on Tirino’s artistic development of which I was totally unaware.

MUSIC: clip from the first movement of Leroy Anderson’s Piano Concerto, performed by Steward Goodyear, piano, with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra conducted by Erich Kunzel [Telarc CD-80112, track 1] [under the following]

Since then, Tom Tirino and I have become good friends, and I have introduced him to the beautiful piano concerto by Leroy Anderson, which I’m hoping he’ll record next -- that is after he has finished recording the 400-plus piano pieces by Ernesto Nazareth!

MUSIC: Fade out

Back to that music now and another Brazilian tango -- Vem Cá, Branquinha -- written in 1907. The title means “Come here little white woman.” Believe it or not, in Rio de Janeiro that is an expression of endearment. This piece is an excellent example of both the greatness and complexity of Nazareth’s music and the superb technique and flawless playing of my new friend, Thomas Tirino.

MUSIC: Nazareth: Vem Cá, Branquinha, performed by Thomas Tirino, pianist [Koch International Classics KIC-CD-7547, track 3] [2:29]

Vem Cá, Branquinha by Ernesto Nazareth. The pianist was Thomas Tirino. I’ll tell you more about Tom’s very interesting background a bit later, but let’s hear another of these delightful Nazareth Brazilian tangos now. This one is called Fon Fon. In this program notes, Tom Tirino says that this piece “ingeniously imitates the honking of car horns in Rio, (the squeeze horn used in early 20th century autos) with strong accents and dissonances.” Can you hear the car horns?

MUSIC: Nazareth: Fon Fon, performed by Thomas Tirino, pianist [Koch International Classics KIC-CD-7547, track 4] [2:20]

Fon Fon by Ernesto Nazareth, performed by Thomas Tirino on the piano.

I mentioned earlier that Nazareth often sounds like a Brazilian Chopin. This next piece is a good example of this claim. It is called Improviso. Tom Tirino describes it in his program notes as “a whirlwind finger buster, a technical showpiece and a true concert work.” This difficult piece was dedicated by Nazareth to his “distinguished friend” Heitor Villa-Lobos.

MUSIC: Nazareth: Improviso, performed by Thomas Tirino, pianist [Koch International Classics KIC-CD-7547, track 13] [3:07]

Improviso by Ernesto Nazareth, performed by Thomas Tirino.

You are listening to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman. The theme for this hour is “Thomas of Nazareth,” and that refers to the piano music of Ernesto Nazareth as performed by Thomas Tirino.

[one minute optional break not included in the total timing of the program]

This next piece by Ernesto Nazareth is more reminiscent of Schumann than Chopin. It is called Andante Expressivo. This is the world premiere recording of this previously completely unknown gem. Remember that you heard it first on Compact Discoveries!

MUSIC: Nazareth: Andante Expressivo, performed by Thomas Tirino, pianist [Koch International Classics KIC-CD-7547, track 14] [2:52]

Ernesto Nazareth’s Andante Expressivo. Thomas Tirino was the pianist.

While we are in a quiet, romantic mood, I want to play for you one of my all-time favorite tunes by any composer. It is Carioca by Nazareth. The title means a person from Rio de Janeiro. It was published in 1913 and I think this was the piece I had in mind when I said at the beginning of this hour that Nazareth sometimes seems like a cross between Frederic Chopin and Scott Joplin. The first part is Chopinesque; American ragtime is reflected in the middle section.

Nazareth: Carioca, performed by Thomas Tirino, pianist [Koch
International Classics KIC-CD-7547, track 39]

Carioca by Ernesto Nazareth. Once again, our pianist this hour is Thomas Tirino. One more Chopin-like Nazareth piece now, and then I’ll play for you a world premiere recording of another work by Nazareth.

This next piece is a waltz called Passaros em Festa. I guess you would translate that as Birds in a Party. It was written in 1920 and is dedicated to Ernestina de Nazareth, Ernesto Nazareth’s cousin. The introduction was explicitly inspired by Chopin, according to Tom Tirino’s program notes. The brief section that is played high in the register sounds like the chirping of birds.

MUSIC: Nazareth: Passaros em Festa, performed by Thomas Tirino, pianist [Koch International Classics KIC-CD-7547, track 20] [4:20]

Ernesto Nazareth’s Passaros em Festa / Birds in a Party. Maybe the title really means “birds of a feather flock together,” but it doesn’t say that in the program notes by the pianist, Thomas Tirino.

Tirino is not the first pianist to discover the works of Ernesto Nazareth, and I doubt that he’ll be the last. But most of the other recordings are Brazilian and are hard to find in other countries. Even if you go to all the trouble and expense of locating and importing these other CDs, there are three Nazareth pieces that you won’t find on any of them -- three world premiere recordings by Thomas Tirino found only on this CD. I played one of them earlier: the Schmann-like Andante Expressivo. Now I’ll play another: Dengozo

Dengozo is a maxixe, a particular variation of the Brazilian tango, which is not the same as an Argentine tango. Tom Tirino writes in his program notes that Nazareth captures the style and feel of this dance brilliantly. He adds that the score of this extremely rare piece was only published in a 1914 edition of Étude magazine. Tirino used this as his source material.

The music’s enormous popularity found its way into the MGM film, “The Story of Irene and Vernon Castle.” They were a famous dance team of the early 20th Century who popularized many Brazilian dance forms in the United States, including the maxixe. In the film, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers danced to this music. Thomas Tirino used the variations from the MGM film score of the piece and incorporated them into the composer’s own original version.

Here, then, is the world premiere recording of pianist Thomas Tirino’s edition of Ernesto Nazareth’s Dengozo.

MUSIC: Nazareth: Dengozo, performed by Thomas Tirino, pianist [Koch International Classics KIC-CD-7547, track 8] [2:30]

Dengozo by Ernesto Nazareth as edited by and performed by pianist Thomas Tirino.

Tirino's father was raised in Argentina, and his son's Argentine background has given him a special interest in and feeling for Latin-American music, and that comes out in the CD I am featuring in this hour of the music of Ernesto Nazareth. If I believed in reincarnation, Tom Tirino’s recording would convince me that he was Nazareth reincarnated, such is his rapport with this music.

Here’s further proof of that theory.

MUSIC: Nazareth: Gaúcho, performed by Thomas Tirino, pianist [Koch International Classics KIC-CD-7547, track 5] [2:55]

MUSIC: Nazareth: 9 de Julho, performed by Thomas Tirino, pianist [Koch International Classics KIC-CD-7547, track 6] [4:04]

Two pieces by Ernesto Nazareth performed by Thomas Tirino. First you heard a Brazilian tango called Gaúcho, then an Argentine tango called 9 de Julho. [0:10]

MUSIC: Nazareth: Adieu, performed by Thomas Tirino, pianist [Koch International Classics KIC-CD-7547, track 12] [under the following]

In the background is very appropriate music with which to conclude this hour. It is Adieu by Ernesto Nazareth. Like all the music in this hour, it is from Thomas Tirino’s recording of Music for Solo Piano by Ernesto Nazareth on the Koch International Classics label.

There are many more wonderful piano pieces by Nazareth on this album which I didn’t get a chance to play for you. But I’d be more than happy to do another hour of music by this Brazilian composer if listeners request it. Let me hear from you. You can reach me through the Compact Discoveries website at That’s Or write to me in care of the station you are listening to now.

I would like to thank Thomas Tirino for following my advice, recording some of Ernesto Nazareth’s best pieces, and providing most of the information and many of the words that I used to talk about the music. Thanks, also, to my Brazilian daughter-in-law, Tereza Flaxman, who served as my language coach.

Compact Discoveries is a registered trademark and production of Compact Discoveries, Inc. This program is made possible in part by the members of WXEL-FM, West Palm Beach, Florida.

MUSIC and PROGRAM finish at 59:00

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