Volume 5, April 2015
Lino José Nunes's 1838 Methodo : Historical, Analytical and Editorial aspects of an Afro-Brazilian Double Bass Jewel

by Fausto Borém, Alfredo Ribeiro, Gustavo Neves, João Paulo Campos, and Rodrigo Olivarez


1 Orquestra Lira Sanjoanense (circa 1776) and Orquestra Ribeiro Bastos (circa 1790) in the town of São João del Rey (State of Minas Gerais, Brazil) are considered the two earliest symphonic orchestras still in activity in the Americas (Silva and Castilho, 2011, p.220; Neves, 1984, p.197-198).

2 Although Nunes's first name is written as "Lino Jozé" in the manuscript, we are using the spelling "Lino José" according to the musicological tradition in Brazil to use modern Portuguese.

3 Nunes's burial place (Santo Antônio Convent, Rio de Janeiro) and death year (1847) were given by Mattos (1997, p.220) and Andrade (1967, vol.2, p.135), respectively, based on the year the name of the musician " . . . was withdrawn from the Royal Chapel's pay roll . . . ". The latter is now confirmed with the disclosure by Frei Róger Brunorio (2014) of the burial book "Padrão das 10 Sepulturas que há no Capítulo" (page 1 and back of page 34), which brings Nunes's correct death date and place: September, 5, 1847; 6th grave of the cloister square.

4 Although Nunes's baptism certificate has not been found yet, his marriage certificate (Cabido . . . , 1818) and death certificate (Anonymous, 1822-?) bring minimum information about his parents and death date.

5 The manuscript of Nunes's"Methodo" was found at the Alberto Nepomuceno Library, located at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and considered the largest repository of music manuscripts in Brazil.

6 Another story relates medicine to the history of double bass in Brazil a couple of decades after Nunes's Methodo Pratico as João Rodrigues Cordeiro (1826-1881), a Brazilian doctor and amateur bass player wrote his Fantasia para Contrabaixo e Orquestra de Cordas (Fantasy for double Bass and String Orchestra) in 1869 (Tarlton, 1999, p.77; Cordeiro, ed. by Sérgio Dias, 2000).

7 The Austrian Sigismund Neukkomm (1778- 1858), one of the foremost pupils of Michael and Joseph Haydn, was a major musical figure in Brazil, living there for 6 years (1816 to 1821).

8 1830 and 1831 were the fateful years for the Royal Chapel Orchestra. In 1830, the chapel masters were dismissed; first Marcos Portugal on the 7th of February and, then, Padre José Maurício Nunes Garcia on the 18th of April. In June of 1831, the Orchestra was officially extinct by a Decree of the Justice Minster Manuel José de Souza França. The orchestra and full choir were reestablished only in 1843.

9 After the extinction of the Royal Chapel in 1831, only four instrumentalists were kept being paid by the service: double bassists Lino José Nunes and José Venâncio de Assunção, and bassoon players Alexandre José Baret and Francisco da Mota.

10 In 1787, British William Beckford (quoted by Doderer, Org., 1984, p.IX) mentioned the custom of "voluptuous" modinhas being sung by two men, one normally dressed as a man and the other as a woman.

11 The difficulty to press down the strings onto the double bass fingerboard lead to solutions such as M. Langlois's pinching the strings between the thumb and forefinger and Giovanni Bottesini's pulling the string aside without touching the fingerboard (Cohen, 1967, p.159).

12 The octave designation used in this paper considers the central C of the piano as C4 (Sadie, 1988, p.583). Since the double bass is a transposing instrument, the actual pitch when it plays a C4 is a C3.

13 The gaps in the double bass line when doubling the cello were common even in the late 19th century, as in Brahms's Symphony # 2 of 1877, for example (Brun, 1982, p.205).

14 Wolff (1994, pp.96-99) mentions the unparalleled harmonic density of the Requiem.

15 Taruskin (2010c, p.2 of 4) talks about the " . . . the strains of an orchestral passage making frantic modulations around the circle of fifths, but ending on a diminished-seventh chord that coincides with Don Giovanni's fatal thrust".

16 Taruskin (2010a, p.7 of 11) narrates a chromatic passage in the opera Norma: "But then the tide of dissonance suddenly surges. Every beat of the seventh bar emphasizes the dissonant seventh (or the more dissonant ninth) of the dominant harmony, and the resolution to the tonic takes place against a chromatic appoggiatura to the third of the chord that clashes against its neighbor in the accompaniment as if G minor were vying with G major."

17 Taruskin (2010d, p.4 of 9) reveals Scarlatti's a local level chromaticism in his E Major Sonata K.264, which " . . . contains chords in whose roots lie the very maximum distance – namely, a tritone – away from the tonic on a complete (rather than diatonically adjusted) circle of fifths."

18 Wolff (1994, pp.96-99) calls attention to one of the innovations Mozart introduced with Don Giovanni, i.e. modulations by thirds to the mediant and submediant.

19 According to the detailed lists of operas staged in Rio prepared by Andrade (1967, vol.1, pp.113-126; vol.2, pp.121-130), Lino José Nunes, as the foremost double bassist of his time, may have participated in the premiere of Verdi's Ernani at São Pedro de Alcântara Theater in June, 16, 1846 (Andrade , 1967, v.2, p.124).

20 Figueiredo (2004. p.39-55) sees common features among these authors that can be related to what is proposed here as a performance edition: the "corrected impression in modern notation " and "musicological and practical edition" of Georg Feder, the "interpretive edition" of James Grier, the "practical edition" of Caraci Vela, and the "open edition" of Walther Dürr.