José Maurício Nunes Garcia was born in 1767 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to a Brazilian father and an African mother. At an early age, after the death of his father, he helped to support his family by performing popular songs, singing and playing the violin and piano. The income from this enabled him to further his education, and he quickly showed great promise in music as well as in languages, philosophy, and geography.
Garcia was deeply religious and composed largely liturgical works. In 1808, the Portuguese royal court fled to Rio de Janeiro to escape the imminent invasion by Napoleon's forces. Garcia, whose reputation as a composer had already been well established, was named kapellmeister to the court in exile. He had a keen interest in the evolution of music in Europe, and was responsible for the introduction to Brazil of several famous European works, notably Mozart's Requiem and Haydn's Creation. In addition to his work as a composer and kapellmeister, Garcia also taught music to a number of men who would become some of Brazil's most prominent composers.
The Tota Pulchra Es Maria was composed when Garcia was only sixteen years old, and is an ode to the beauty and virtue of the Virgin Mary. The Requiem, composed in 1816 at the request of King João IV, was intended as a memorial for João's recently deceased mother, but Garcia probably also considered it a requiem for his own mother, who had also died that year. The Requiem is in d minor, the same key as Mozart's Requiem, and is reminiscent of that work in several passages. As a whole, however, Garcia's Requiem is a unique masterpiece.
Garcia died in relative poverty in 1830. After his death his music fell
somewhat into obscurity outside of his native Brazil, but in recent years
he has enjoyed a resurgence as scholars rediscover his work.
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