Pixinguinha and the choro

Alfredo da Rocha Vianna, better known as Pixinguinha was a composer, arranger, conductor, flutist and saxophonist born in Rio de Janeiro.

Born in 1897 into a family of musicians, Pixinguinha began his career at fifteen years old as a flutist in the cinema Rio Branco – in the days of silent movies, the big cinemas from the brasilian capital did not hire just a pianist to accompany the films, but a small orchestra, which also gave balls in the morning.

Pixinguinha is considered as one of the most important composers of popular Brazilian music, as well as Heitor Villa Lobos, for example, best known by classical musicians.

His history is intertwined with that of the choro, a musical genre that he contributed a lot to popularize and which is very characteristic of the Brazilian musical identity. The celebration of Choro’s National Day in Brazil corresponds to the anniversary of his birth, April 23. The choro is an instrumental music born in the late nineteenth century, prior to the samba, which developed in the middle class and mixed-raced Rio de Janeiro.

Born from the synthesis of European, African and Amerindian traditions, the choro is at the crossroads of different sound worlds. It was originally a new way to interpret the latest dances from Europe, and especially the polka, by introducing the rhythmic vitality and the instruments of Afro-Brazilian percussion, mixed with harmonies inspired by contemporary jazz.

Very popular, the choro became a genre of its own in the early years of the twentieth century, very emblematic of this cultural mix typical of Brazilian popular music. It is characterized by a rhythmic pattern close to the Cuban tresillo and an essential part given to improvisation, hence the frequent parallel drawn with the history of jazz.

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For some choro comes from the word  xolo which designated balls organized by black slaves on farms. Others think that the melancholy conveyed by the musicians could refer to the Portuguese word choro which means crying. The choro now refers to a specifically Brazilian way to phrase, highlight and articulate music.

The meetings of musicians are called rodas de choro, whose translation would be choro round.

Among the pieces that continue to be played in the rodas forty years after the death of Pixinguinha (d. 1973), are hits like Carinhoso, Um a Zero, Rosa, Vou Vivendo, Lamentos, Naquele tempo, Ingenuo, etc …

Pixinguinha left a legacy of many discs, taking full advantage of the constant evolution of recording technology during the first half of the 20th century.

Ensemble Quarte Augmentée: Cyrille Mercadier (Ocarina), Julien Hervé, Rhéa Vallois, Alexis Baldos, Lester Chio Alonso, Luz Salgado (Clarinets), Vitier Vivas (Percussions)
Arrangements: Julien Hervé
Photos: Flavia Abreu and O ceu sobre Lisboa