I´ll try to summarize the whole story around “Methodo para Contrabaxo”, an 1838 manuscript by Lino Joze Nunes recently discovered in Rio.
Napoleon invades Portugal in 1808, King John VI flees with some 4.000 courtisans to Brazil, a colony at that time; here, he begins a new kingdom with all the European confort, which includes theaters, a Royal Symphony and a Royal Choir comprised mainly by mulatos (Afro-Brazilians).
Father Garcia, a mulato, emerges as the great chappelmaster in Brazil. Lino, one his best students sings in the choir and plays…the bass! Garcia’s first son (yes, priests had children at that time) studies bass with Lino and medicine at the same time. Lino started writing the “Methodo para Contrabaxo” for him but leaves it incomplete, apparently because Garcia’s son dedicated his life to medicine.
But the 15-page manuscript (in three parts) was complete enough to include materials that may turn it into a new jewel of the bass literature:
- It is the second method by a bassist in history, second only to the first volume by Hause (volumes 2 and 3 came after Lino’s).
- It shows in detail double bass performance practices of that time, today unknown to most bassists, such as the need for real time transposition to all keys and in all clefs (an opera demand). Also, the use of only fingers 1 and 4 (!!! yes, there was some precedents in Europe, called fistcuffs, apparently related to the difficulties to press down the thick gut strings of that time).
- Lessons, the most musical part of the method (the performance editions of which I am proposing the ISB to publish) follows a harmonic scheme that reminds Bach’s Well Tempered Klavier, that is around the circle of 5ths. Also Lino uses cyclic motives, which reflects a musical plan and coherence not to be seen in other bass methods of the 19th century.
- Lino had clear pedagogical intentions on every lesson as he focused on elements such as opera fermatas, recitative, caballeta, the Brazilian “modinha” and even a germ of the continuous syncopation that would evolve into the early 20th century Brazilian rhythms of samba and choro.
- Being also a professional singer, Lino’s operatic style is apparent in his method, what makes it special if compared to the great majority of dull bass methods that populate our literature.
I have studied the double bass history in Brazil in a later period (second half of the 19th century), which research contains information such as the stay of Bottesini in Rio for a week playing two recitals. It also resulted in the restoration of a 1898 original, which score and story I had published in the Brit magazine Doube Bassist. At that time, I organized a international composition contest to the creation of a piano (the original was lost)… we had Frank Proto, Paul Ramsier,Gary Karr and some composers and pianists no the jury.