Radamés | Speak out, Maestro!

In 1910 I I was 4 years old and saw Halley's Comet. I was just starting out on the piano".

The following texts are a summary of interviews and testimonials Radamés gave between 1976 and 1985.

– Testimony recorded at the Museu da Imagem e do Som (Image and Sound Museum), in Rio de Janeiro, for the Personalities Cycle, on August 28, 1985.
– Interview granted to journalist Luiz Carlos Saroldi for the JB Special program, October 11, 1977, on Radio Jornal do Brasil FM.
– Interview granted to journalist Mara Caballero for the Jornal do Brasil in december, 1, 1976. [Radamés completara 70 anos em 27 de janeiro].
• Entrevista concedida ao jornal semanal O Pasquim para a edição de 6 a 12 de maio de 1977.
– Interview granted to Hermínio Bello de Carvalho, for the CONTRA/LUUZ program of TVE of Rio de Janeiro, recorded in 1985.

– Excerpts from an interview with Aída Gnattali, pianist and teacher, Radamés’ sister, given to Maria Clara Wasserman, in 2004.


“I was born on January 27, 1906, at Rua Fernandes Vieira, in Porto Alegre [RS]. He was the oldest of the brothers. My name was not supposed to be Radamés, but Ernani. But the son of a relative was born, and she named him Ernani. So when I was born, my mother named me Radamés. When my brother was born, my mother then named him Ernani. Then came Aída, Alexandre and Maria Terezinha.”

ALESSANDRO GNATTALI [Alexandre, in Brazil].
“My father was a laborer; when he came from Italy in 1896, he was a cabinetmaker. Because he loved music [tocava um pouco de bandolim], he studied piano, double bass, was an orchestra bassoonist, wrote music, then ended up as a conductor, conducting orchestras.”

“My mother was a housewife, did all the housework (all of it, really!) and still had time to teach her children music. She was an extraordinary woman. My sister Aída always says that she had a fabulous musical intuition. She read a lot. When I was 15 I was already reading Crime and Punishment, that sort of thing”.

“When I started studying it was in Italian. First, I went to a school on the same street where we lived. Every neighborhood had a kind of Italian club, of Italian workers. The one there was called ‘Helena of Montenegro’, who was the daughter of the king of Italy [Nicolau I de Montenegro]. In this club they had bocce games, they had dances, they gave lessons, there was an Italian teacher who gave lessons to the children.”

[When Radamés was nine years old, he was decorated with a medal by the Italian consul for having conducted a small children’s orchestra in the Italian Society, executing arrangements of his own (…). Aída: “my mother told that the children stopped playing, one by one, because the arrangements were not very easy. Radamés got nervous, he got impatient, but he kept playing until the end, he was the only one who didn’t stop”].

“Ah, that was a joke, a clowning around!”

“My father put me in the Anchieta Gymnasium. I studied there until I was 14. But I didn’t like it, because I was a stutterer and only got zero in the oral tests. I didn’t want to study, I was a bum, my father thought it was bad, it was that ‘thing’. Until he came and said: But what do you want to do anyway? I answered: I want to study music! Then he took me out of school, out of gym, and I went to private school (…)”.

Radamés at the age of nine decorated by the consul of Italy.

Music training

“I started with my mother, when I was three, four years old, studying piano. At the age of 14, I took an entrance exam [para o Conservatório Musical de Porto Alegre] and they put me in the 5th year of piano, in the class of prof. Guilherme Fontainha
. It was nine years old at that time. Now it has changed, I don’t know what the system is like anymore. I did a nine-year study playing Bach, Chopin, Beethoven.”

“I studied a little bit of flute, clarinet, I studied violin eight years, along with piano, that’s very good to know strings. I studied with a cousin, a great violinist
. Later they made a quartet in Porto Alegre and I went on to play viola in the quartet
for two years, with a great repertoire. I learned a lot. Then I stopped, because of the piano. I know strings well. I know piston well; saxophone, more or less.”

“I studied harmony with some people, with Agnelo França
here in Rio [for about a year], but I didn’t like it. I studied with Paulo Silva
and one day I asked him if studying counterpoint would help me to get out of that situation… [Radamés was insecure about the formal study of composition]. He told me to continue what I was doing because [estudar contraponto] wouldn’t do any good.”


[1] Guilherme Fontainha (1887-1070). Pianist trained in Europe, musicologist and piano teacher, he was director of the Fine Arts Institute of Rio Grande do Sul from 1916. In Rio de Janeiro, in 1931, he became director of the National Institute of Music of the now extinct University of the UFRJ School of Music.

[2] Olga Fossati, a 14-year-old violinist who won a prize at a competition in Belgium. Olga recorded at Casa Edison in Rio de Janeiro, around the 1930s.

[3] Henrique Oswald Quartet, formed by brothers Luís and Sotero Cosme (violins), Radamés Gnattali (viola) and Arduino Rogliano or Carlos Kromer (cello).

[4] Agnelo França (1875-1964). Composer, pianist, conductor, professor of harmony at the UFRJ School of Music. He taught harmony to Radamés, H. Villa-Lobos, Luciano Gallet.

[5] José Paulo Silva, (1892-1967). Instrumentalist, composer, conductor, professor of harmony, counterpoint, and fugue at the UFRJ School of Music. He has published several music textbooks, including Manual de Harmonia, Curso de contraponto, Maual de Fuga, Linguagem da Música, among others.

First concert

“The first concert I gave was at the age of 18, in 1924, in Rio de Janeiro, when I was in my last year of piano studies. Fontainha [seu professor de piano e diretor do conservatório] brought me to Rio, to introduce a student of his (…) I think he wanted to get a job at the Music School (…) later he was even hired [em 1925]. I played Liszt and an organ concerto by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, transcribed for piano. It was at the National School of Music and Fontainha invited all the critics, even Guiomar Novaes was there.”

“After the concert in Rio de Janeiro, I went back to Porto Alegre to take the final exams. I had missed a lot, I had been away for more than three months, and the others thought I couldn’t take the exams. I had missed a lot, I had been away for more than three months, and the others thought I couldn’t take the exams. But I was in Rio de Janeiro with the professor, who was the director of the Conservatory, and nobody could say anything. I took the competition that was held at the conservatory and won the Araújo Vianna Award, with a gold medal.”

First review


First concert

“At the age of 18, while I was studying theory, solfeggio, piano and violin at the Institute, I played at the same time in a movie theater to earn a few bucks. In 1924 I joined a small orchestra [a Ideal Jazz Band]. We played at the Colombo Cinema, in Floresta, and earned ten thousand réis per day. The scores were pot pourri of French and Italian songs, operettas, waltzes, and polkas. We read everything on the bookshelf while silent movies played on the screen. At that time I was also playing Villa-Lobos, Nazareth.”

The exaggerated
(the violinist is Pascoal Fossati, Radamés’ cousin)

Malandro (c. 1924/26) – one of Radamés’ oldest compositions

Note: Malandro was Radamés’ nickname as a boy, according to his sister Aída.

The Concertmaster

Playing is very difficult.
Writing is easy."

“At that time I didn’t listen to music, I just played. I played Villa-Lobos, Nazareth, my father bought everything. I only really listened to it much later, when I was 24, 25, when I already had a record player. I started as a concert player. I finished my course in Porto Alegre and came to Rio to be a concert musician. I had the qualities for it. But there was no possibility of living only from concerts. Today there are a lot of societies that give scholarships, but at that time there were none. So I had to go into popular music to survive.”

“I am very envious of all these pianists, like Estrela [Arnaldo Estrela]Moreira Lima [Arthur Moreira Lima], all these pianists that make a living out of it, because what I really like is to play the piano. But for that you have to study at least eight hours a day, not worry about having to work to earn money. I would like to be a great pianist.”

“I don’t play the piano anymore, but I would like to. For more than six months I have been studying to see if I can play like I did when I was 20 [told the press in 1984, at 78]. It is difficult, but I will get there.
I’m going to record Nazareth, with two pianos.” [Radamés não concretizou este projeto]

The teacher

“I already knew that this was a shambles here [Rio de Janeiro, the country’s capital], the pistolão business was already working. I definitely came to Rio in 1931. The Fountain [seu professor de piano em Porto Alegre] practically never helped me at all, but this time he wrote me that he had an opening at the Music School [UFRJ] for the chair of full professor and asked if I didn’t want to apply. I dropped everything in Porto Alegre and came here. I stayed here studying for four or five months waiting for the contest. But I went to talk to Getúlio [presidente Getúlio Vargas]. I brought a letter from Raul Pilla, who was a very good politician. Getúlio’s enemy, but whom Getúlio respected. I delivered the letter to the front desk. A few days later a telegram arrived for me to go there that he was going to receive me. And he said:

– What do you want?
– I just want to know if the contest will be held at the end of the year, that’s all.
– You have my word!

But there was no contest.”
[According to Radamés, Getúlio appointed someone to the position].

The disappointment was so strong that Radamés became refractory to the idea of teaching in music schools.

“I don’t think anyone can teach anyone music. I don’t know how to teach, I have no patience. I only had one student, a four-year-old, who had talent, in Porto Alegre. I had the will to teach, with my experience, but to teach what I don’t know, I don’t know how.”

Working Life


“That was the time of misery, of hunger. Everyone, me, the musicians, Murilo Mendes [escritor e poeta] (…) we used to meet at Portinari’s house in Laranjeiras. We were going there. Portinari was painting all the time… we were chatting.

[Radamés is referring to the early years of the 1930s when, already married, living in Rio de Janeiro, he couldn’t survive as a concert pianist, had no steady job and earned poorly as a popular music pianist].


“I came to Rio de Janeiro, the first time, in 1924 [com 18 anos]
. It was the first time I played on radio. Rádio Clube do Brasil had a studio in Largo do Machado. It only had a piano, no orchestra, nothing. That’s where I played for the first time. Then, later, in 1930 or so, I don’t remember the date, I started playing at the Radio Club as an orchestra musician. Then I went to Cajuti and then I went to Nacional. Earlier I also passed through Mayrink Veiga.”

“At (radio) Mayrink Veiga I played everything, popular and classical. I earned poorly. I played piano in all the radio orchestras and still accompanied the singers who went there
. The newly hired guitarist was earning more than me. Then I left. When I left, they had to hire four pianists. César Ladeira sent the whole orchestra to call me at home and ask how much I wanted to come back. I didn’t want anything, no. You keep your radio there, which I don’t want.”

The Arranger

“I recorded my first compositions on Victor (RCA Victor label). When a trio appeared – piano, clarinet and drums – it was me, Luís Americano and Luciano Perrone. Then an ensemble with baritone saxophone appeared here to do some arrangements for Orlando Silva. Those kind of crazy things. But it was great because you get to learn.

“(…) at Rádio Nacional, for example, there was a jazz orchestra, there was a tango orchestra, and I was the pianist. At that time there was no Brazilian music orchestra, there were regional and salon orchestras, with strings and flutes, to play parts of operettas, opera arias. Everything came already printed, everything from outside. (…) I started to do little arrangements for trios – me on piano, Iberê [Iberê Gomes Grosso] on the cello and Romeu Ghypsman on the violin. I started doing little pieces, like toada, choro, waltz. Because in those days I didn’t have a script: a hole in the schedule, I would play some music to plug that hole. Then I started to write. Then the singers started to like it and asked me to do the arrangements.”

“Orchestral arrangements became customary in the 1930s, ordered mainly by Mr. Evans, director of RCA Victor, for the recordings of Orlando Silva, Francisco Alves, Sílvio Caldas. This Mr. Evans entrusted me and Pixinguinha to take care of the arrangements for the medium and large orchestras of RCA. He wanted to give a more professional tone to the recordings in order to compete, with greater accuracy, with foreign records that arrived in Brazil with beautiful orchestral arrangements. There was a lot of Brazilian music being played and Mr. Evans even brought conductor Galvão from São Paulo, to whom he ordered the first arrangements. Pixinguinha worked more with carnival arrangements, which were his forte, leaving the romantic part to me and other maestros.”

“If I had wanted, I could have entered into many partnerships, since there was no lack of proposals from composers. This, however, I found abominable, staying even with the modest arranger’s fee, which was enough to buy a good pair of shoes and nothing else. The fee varied between forty and fifty thousand réis”.

“If I had earned at least a small part of everything I wrote, from 1930 to today, I would be rich. The worst thing is that the marginalization of the arranger remains the same. He earns only a meager fee. In Europe, the arranger receives part of the copyright. Here he receives nothing.”


[1] Accompanied by his professor and director of the Fine Arts Institute of Rio Grande do Sul, Radamés came to Rio de Janeiro, especially to give his first recital, at the National Music Institute, now the UFRJ School of Music.

[2] In a brief survey of Rio de Janeiro newspapers between 1924 and 1934, we found that “professor Radamés Gnattali”, in fact, mastered both the classical and popular repertoire. Radamés played everything: Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, Villa-Lobos, Ernesto Nazareth, Pixinguinha, you name it. Besides that, he accompanied lyric singers, actively participated in duos, trios, quartets, and classical and popular music orchestras together with great names of the carioca scene, such as the violinists Romeu Ghipsmann, Oscar Borgerth, the cellist Iberê Gomes Grosso, the pianist Arnaldo Estrela, and the popular musicians Pixinguinha, Luiz Americano, João da Baiana, and Marçal.

Dispelling a historical myth

That's Ary's"

Aquarela do Brasil ” was composed for the magazine Joujoux e Balangandans, in 1939. At the entrance [the famous tan, tan, tan – tan, tan, tan] Ary wanted to put on the double basses. Then I said:”

Ô Ary, make the music that I'll do the arrangement".

“Then I put that on the saxophones, which gave more impact. That’s all, that’s not mine, no.”

Radio Nacional

“I don’t even like to remember that, it was a disgraceful exploitation. They exploited all the musicians. The management was the one who made the most money there. Everybody was rich, everybody was drinking whisky.

“I worked 30 years at Radio Nacional
and I was never director of anything. One day I arrived there and saw on the board my appointment as artistic director. Then I went to Pedro Calmon [diretor geral] to ask what my function is. And he said: your function is to try to improve the level of programming. I said: okay, let’s cut this program, this one and this one, because they are complete crap. Then he said: Ah! but you can’t, because those programs have advertisers… I said: Then I am no longer a director. I have resigned”.

“Radio Nacional was a shambles. No law would come out… [que desse estabilidade aos funcionários]. When a law benefiting public employees came out, we were not public employees. Then another law would come out…and it was always the same.”

“The quality of the songs on Radio Nacional was because I did it, Leo did it [maestro Leo Peracchi], Lyrio did it [maestro Lyrio Panicali]. We were responsible for all the good things that were done there. The orchestra was good, because Radio Nacional functioned as a showcase for those people who earned little money, but went to play concerts abroad.

A million melodies

“I worked every day at Radio Nacional. I rehearsed two hours a night. There, the [inaudível] went to the radio station, talked to José Mauro and me about doing a half-hour program of popular music, with nine songs, linked together. The program was One Million Melodies. Then I said to Zé Mauro: I can do that, but I won’t come here to work as a pianist anymore. That’s the end of that business. Now I come here to do the program on Wednesdays and that’s it. I wasn’t going to earn more for it, no. The program was on Wednesday. I worked Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I would do everything and hand it over to the copyist. Monday and Tuesday were for me to do whatever I wanted. (…) The whole program was a kind of musical parade. I was doing nine arrangements a week for that program. (…) The ones who chose the songs were Paulo Tapajós and Haroldo Barbosa, who was the radio’s discotecary and was up to date with all the hit songs, from all over the world.

“I was just doing One Million Melodies. Lyrio Panicali did the dramatic orchestra and Leo Peracchi did the symphonic music. Because there was a symphony orchestra at Rádio Nacional.

I could do anything at Radio Nacional. I have a lot of symphonic music there
. It didn’t have this commercial business. Radio Nacional didn’t need money. When Gilberto de Andrade took over the station, he said: you do whatever you want, spend whatever money you have.

That was the government’s. Globo, for example, is a commercial station, it has to give the advertiser what he wants.”


[1] Radamés joined PR-8 – Sociedade Rádio Nacional do Rio de Janeiro – in 1936, the year the radio station was founded. Initially, as a pianist in the orchestra, he soon became an arranger and conductor.

[2] In 1943, Rádio Nacional premiered the program Um Milhão de Melodias sponsored by Coca-Cola. The program, created to leverage the launch of the soft drink in Brazil, has been on the air for 13 years.

[3] In fact, Radamés composed and/or premiered several symphonic and chamber works at Rádio Nacional dedicated to the musicians of the house orchestra, such as trumpet player Marino Pizziali (Fantasia Brasileira nº 2), trombonist Waldemar Moura and drummer Luciano Perrone (Fantasia Brasileira nº 4), guitarists Garoto and José Menezes (Concertinos nº 2 and 3 for guitar and orchestra, respectively), violinist Irani Pinto (Valsa, Samba-canção e Choro), saxophonist Sandoval Dias (Brasiliana nº 7), among others.

Radamés Gnattali Brazilian Orchestra

“(…) jazz, for example, is very much based on piano, drums, double bass and guitar. I then said: to make a good orchestra of Brazilian music, we need to have a good base. So I had two guitars, cavaquinho [Garoto, José Menezes and Bola Sete][1]. Sometimes three ukuleles, depending on the arrangement I wanted. There was Chiquinho do Acordeom, the acoustic bass [Pedro Vidal], had a spectacular drum set, which was Luciano [Luciano Perrone]; João da Baiana, on the pandeiro (people who play the pandeiro around need to hear João da Baiana, to see how to play the pandeiro), Heitor dos Prazeres, who played caixeta, prato and faca, and Bide, who played ganzá. It was a very good pasta.”


[1] Aníbal Augusto Sardinha (Garoto); Djalma de Andrade (Bola Sete).

The composer

“My favorite pieces are the 12 piano concertos, four violin concertos, three for cello, one for saxophone, mandolin, harp…

I have everything, even an Umbanda cantata with text by Bororó [Alberto de Castro Simões da Silva]. It is the cantata Maria Jesus dos Anjos, for chorus, narrator and orchestra (…) presented at the Theatro Municipal. Bororó wrote the whole text and composed some points. Father Jerome, from the spiritist center, was the author of the points. But I handled everything freely. I also have two points there.”


“I was very attached to Jacob [Jacob Bittencour], Heitor dos Prazeres, João da Baiana [João Machado Guedes], Bide [Alcebíades Barcelos], Marçal [Armando Marçal] and Luciano Perrone. Each one gave me one thing. When I met Pixinguinha, Brazilian popular music was hardly ever played. The business was tango, fox-trot. Jazz won the world, because an expensive orchestra was not required. Just piano, double bass, one or another wind instrument. Jazz is the most evolved popular music in the world and of course it influenced me.”

My music is all Brazilian, based on folk and urban themes from Rio de Janeiro. Now, nobody gets anything out of nothing, so there always has to be influences."



“I really like music. Wherever I go, we always learn something, always. When I listen to music, I am like a musician looking at a Portinari painting: I like or dislike the sound that is coming out, I am not concerned about the technique.


“Here in Brazil, it is not possible… I would like to live only from classical music, which is very difficult. Maybe in socialist countries it isn’t like this, but here, living off the copyright of the compositions doesn’t work (…)”.
“Who records concert music in Brazil? If I were to try to live off my compositions, I would be crazy today. I would have already committed suicide.”

“The first time I left Brazil I went to Buenos Aires, to direct the program the Brazilian Hour, back in the time of Rádio Nacional, in 1941. I was director there, I went to organize the orchestra. I then took Luciano Perrone [baterista], the pistonist Marino Pissiali, Zacarias [saxofonista Aristides Zacarias]. And then hire an orchestra from there. I stayed eight months in that city, which is fantastic. There you are respected. When I arrived, a week later, I was invited by a journalist to a luncheon [a tribute to Radamés, organized by local musicians and critics]. I said: but I haven’t done anything yet. And he said, ‘we already know what you did in Brazil. There they had a lunch, with fifty people, at the Colón theater, critics, artists, singers, writers. I went crazy, it wasn’t possible. It is not for the homage, it is for the sense that the culture is different. When I came back, when I arrived here (…), I was so disappointed, I almost swore never to leave Brazil again. Because the comeback is sad, you know?”


“I have always worked in popular music and I like it very much. In fact, I owe it to that that I do something Brazilian today. Learning from the people, because only the people teach this thing.”

“I have always been very interested in popular music, perhaps already thinking about the future. They say that’s premonition, isn’t it? In Porto Alegre, only Argentine tango was played. Samba was restricted to Rio. Even in São Paulo they didn’t play samba. By the way, until recently there was no samba playing in São Paulo [risos entre os entrevistadores].”

“I learned to play the popular piano from the piano players. I kept listening to Fontainha’s records [probably jazz records, from his piano teacher] and learning how to use the saxophones. It is a school. (…) and I was already playing in a carnival block in Porto Alegre, organized by Sotero Cosme, called Os Exagerados. We would go out dressed up as straws, I would play the ukulele.”

“I’ve never been frustrated with making popular music, I do it gladly and enjoy it very much. Just hanging out with Pixinguinha, a fabulous guy, with Garoto, Dino [Horondino José da Silva]John [João da Baiana]Jacob [Jacob do Bandolim]excellent musicians. If I had gone to Europe, I might have been a great pianist – because I had the qualities for it – but I would never be a Brazilian composer.”


“The most important movement in Brazilian music was bossa nova, but Garoto was already accompanying it with different chords. This business came from before. Bossa Nova didn’t start suddenly. João Gilberto always lived with Garoto, as did Baden. Bossa Nova changed the harmony, and the composers of that time already played the guitar much better than the others, they already had a different harmonic sense, using dissonant chords and making melodies on top of these chords, as is the case of Tom [Tom Jobim]. His harmony is all very good, as is Johnny Alf’s, terrific.”


“Bossa nova worked all over the world because no one knows how to play traditional samba. If it weren’t for the samba schools, it might be over. Because even the national anthem is played with ranch marching markings. The swing of the samba, nobody plays that in the whole world. No one touches it. Perhaps, the Jews [os músicos judeus]


no one else. The bossa nova beat took this thing away [a acentuação no segundo tempo do samba]But something else was left, and it really was and is there. No one can deny this. Instead of one samba, we now have two.”


“Bossa nova is Brazilian and made Brazilian music international. The only way Brazil became known throughout the world was with bossa nova. That beat of the surdo, in the weak time [no samba tradicional], exists nowhere in the world. Only in Brazil. The world is used to hearing the markings of the bumbo or surdo in strong time [primeiro tempo]. Bossa Nova, as it changed the rhythm, became easier to play. So much so that everyone, today, plays the bossa nova. The other day I was watching a French movie where they play Carolina, by Chico [Chico Buarque de Holanda]. They play perfectly well there.”


“I recorded a record on Continental, with orchestra, and a critic said that the record was very beautiful, but that I had taken it, a little, to the classical side. Because I hadn’t put in what everybody was used to hearing.

When I first played the Concerto Carioca No. 1 with the Municipal Theater Symphony Orchestra, and Morelembaum conducting [maestro Henrique Morelembaum]people commented: ‘Oh, they are even playing samba now at the Municipal Theatre’. Today, thank God, you don’t have that anymore.”

“When I won the Shell Prize for Classical Music, in 1983, (…) I presented Concerto N.º 3 – Seresteiro, for piano and orchestra. As the music of this concerto is very Brazilian, I thought it would be good to put a choro group together with the piano [convidou o bandolinista Joel Nascimento e a Camerata Carioca]. Purists don’t really like mixing regional with symphony orchestra, but if it’s my concert, I get to choose the repertoire I’m going to play, is it or isn’t it?”


“I had a farm, in Areal [RJ]. There was an Italian priest there and we talked a lot. One day he said: I am a little worried because you don’t pray. I said that I prayed in my own way, but that I didn’t go to church. Then I played a concert at the Municipal Theater and he heard it on the radio. Then he came to me and said: now I know how you pray.”


“I married Vera the first time [Vera Maira Bieri]a young woman, a pianist, from São Leopoldo [RS]. I was married to her for 35 years. She died. I couldn’t live with someone who wasn’t a musician, it wouldn’t work. The second [esposa]Nelly


is also a pianist, singer (…) she was also a radio broadcaster at Rádio Nacional, she did many soap operas, movies (…)”.


“I don’t know about that, no… I don’t think I have a bad mood (…) I get a little upset, sometimes, it’s with stupidity, you know? I think everything is right, everything is fine. Why the bad mood? Because it is the following: when you work, people have a hard time understanding you, and then they think you are the bad-tempered one.


[1] Radamés said that the Jews were the most musical people in the world, and he believed that outside, perhaps, only a Jewish musician could understand the accentuation of the samba in the weak tempo, i.e., the second half.

[2] Nelly Martins, artistic name of Nelly Biato Gnattali, Radamés’ second wife. Singer, she recorded several albums in the 1950/60s. As an actress, she has starred in several films and television soap operas. Born in Rio de Janeiro, in 1942, she graduated as a piano teacher at the Escola Nacional de Música. He formed a piano duo with Radamés and performed in radio and television programs, recording an album for the Codil label in 1969. Nelly abandoned her artistic career to pursue a degree in physical therapy and later a degree in medicine.

Masters and Companions

ERNESTO NAZARETH (composer, pianist)

“I met Nazareth when I was 25, 26 years old, when he played at the Cinema Odeon, on Rio Branco and Sete de Setembro [ruas do centro do Rio de Janeiro]. One day I was passing by, heard that sound and it was Nazareth himself playing. I didn’t go in because I couldn’t afford the movies, but from the outside I could hear him. I always gathered a little people to listen.”

“I think they don’t play Nazareth today as they should, because they think Nazareth was a pianist, when he was a pianist. I didn’t play staccato at all. He really played like he was playing Chopin, he used the pedal, he was a very good pianist.”

(Aníbal Augusto Sardinha, multi-instrumentalist for strings)

“I bought a flute and started studying some chorinhos. Garoto bought a farm next to mine, with the money he earned from the song São Paulo Quatrocentão, and while his house wasn’t ready, he stayed there. And at night we played, he on the guitar and I on the flute. I was the worst flutist accompanied by the best guitarist.”


“I met Pixinguinha playing at the Eldorado dancing hall in Praça Tiradentes, in the 1930s. Era uma pequena orquestra de jazz, como muitas da época. On the piano, Centipede, extraordinary. On the hook, Vidraça. They were doing a cry session, and I was there, learning.”

“We worked at RCA Victor, Pixinguinha was a flutist there, with the Diabos do Céu. He would make some arrangements and it was already samba. Pixinguinha was good, really, as a flutist and composer. I was the pianist in the orchestra. Now, when I did the arrangements of romantic music, samba-canção, waltz… Pixinguinha was the flutist and the violinist was Romeu Ghypsman.”

“Later, I made a lot of friends with him, because Pixinguinha was an exceptional guy. Only my father was as good as him. And as a composer I think he was exceptional, and he was a fabulous flutist.”

TOM JOBIM (Antonio Carlos Brasileiro de Almeida Jobim, composer, pianist, arranger)

“I used to live there in the Igrejinha building, in Posto 6 [Copacabana]and Tom would go over and chat. He was in that ‘pit’ and came to me for advice, and I said: “Tom, nobody is going to teach you anything, because that happened to me too. You just let what’s inside you come out and that’s it, that’s all. Just keep holding on, nothing happens. You don’t need to look for anybody, because nobody will teach you anything. You are going to do a great composition for piano and orchestra, you are going to conduct and I am going to play the piano. There he went.”

Tom Jobim: “(…) This was at Rádio Nacional, I was scared to death, because those musicians are a disgraceful race. Those union people who stare at the clock, complain, ‘the rehearsal is over’. So Radamés helped me to face these things in life,
those beasts.”

CHIQUINHO DO ACORDEON (Romeu Seibel, accordionist)

“Chiquinho has been with me since Rádio Nacional. Zé Mauro, who was the director of Radio Nacional, said, ‘Why don’t you put an accordion in the orchestra? I didn’t want to. Then a skinny guy arrived at the radio, from the south, and started to play. Then I said: now you can!

JOSÉ MENEZES (multi-instrumentalist for strings)

“Menezes also started with me from Radio Nacional. At that time there were three spectacular guitars: Menezes, who played the guitar, cavaquinho and caipira guitar, Garoto [Augusto Aníbal Sardinha] and the Ball Seven [Djalma de Andrade]. “

PEDRO VIDAL RAMOS (bass player)

“Vidal was the double bass player in the Rádio Nacional orchestra. He came there to play as a substitute, and I said to Zé Mauro: hire this double bass, because this is the one that will work for us, for popular music.

LUCIANO PERRONE (symphonic percussionist, drummer)

“I met Luciano in 1929 and we started working together. This business of transferring the rhythm to the brass was Luciano’s idea. He was a great drummer in the orchestra and one day he said, ‘Why don’t you put this drum rhythm on the brass? Today we don’t play anymore because it is only rock. So we get pulled over.”

Luciano Perrone: “(…) Radamés is impermeable, because when he makes popular music it is popular music; when he makes concert music it is concert music. One doesn’t get in the way of the other.”

I am not satisfied with the situation of musicians in Brazil, but I am satisfied with myself. I am happy. I got married twice, very well married. I have good friends, always have. Luciano [Luciano Perrone] invites me to lunch every month. I have my money to drink a little beer. When I don't, Tom[1] pays."


[1] Tom Jobim and Radamés were neighbors for many years in the Jardim Botânico neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro.