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A Arte musical

(Lisbon, 1899-1915)

Prepared by Mariana Calado
Online only (2022)

A Arte musical [RIPM code AML] was a fortnightly journal directed by Michel’Angelo Lambertini, published by the Anuário commercial printing house for 17 years. It was the third journal in Portugal to receive this title; previously published were A Arte musical: jornal artístico, crítico e literário (1873-1875), and A Arte musical: revista quinzenal, música, literatura, teatro e belas artes (1890-1891), both previously treated by RIPM. The present A Arte musical appeared with the purpose to contribute to the publication of Ernesto Vieira’s Dicionário biográfico de músicos portugueses and to promote Portuguese musical culture and the education of the public. Appearing a few years after the end of the music journal Amphion, from which it received inspiration and some collaborators, A Arte musical maintained its position almost without rivals during several years. Only in 1911 did another significant journal appear in Portugal, capable of competition: the Echo musical (1911-1931). As such, A Arte musical established a bridge between the journals of the end of the nineteenth century and those that emerged from the second decade of the twentieth century.

Michel’Angelo Lambertini (1862-1920) was an editor, impresario, musicologist and pianist, as well as a director of a musical instrument and music publishing company, whose products and services were advertised in the journal. Lambertini was a distinguished figure in the 1890s to 1910s, an advocate for the renovation of Portuguese musical life, alongside other personalities, some of them also contributors to A Arte musical. Among the activities supported by Lambertini, announced and discussed in the pages of the journal, were the creation of the Sociedade de música de câmara and its associated music school; the promotion of a composition contest in 1909; the creation of the ephemerial Grande orquestra portuguesa (1906); and the first steps towards the creation of a museum for music instruments. Lambertini both directed and owned A Arte musical. Ernesto Vieira (1848-1915), a musicologist, flautist and composer, served as editor from 1899 to 1904. The editor position was then occupied by António Gil Cardoso in 1905, José Nicolau Pombo in 1906-1907, and thereafter by Lambertini himself. Pombo was also editor of other journals of that period, such as Eco fotográfico: Jornal de propaganda fotográfica (1906-1909).

Typically, issues of A Arte musical contained eight pages with four more of advertisements; a list with the names and addresses of music teachers active in Lisbon was printed on the back cover. The text was presented in two columns, sometimes accompanied by photography or illustrations of the subjects of the articles. The graphic style changed over the years, mainly in the heading and in the insertion of vignettes with music motives to mark the different sections of the journal, which began in 1908. All issues followed a similar structure: first, main articles, covering subjects as diverse as history of music, theory, acoustics, aesthetics and philosophy of music, organology, musical education and schools of music; second, concerts and opera reviews; and third, news of music activities in Portugal and abroad. With the onset of the First World War, the musical news section was strongly affected and eventually restricted to news from Portugal, likely owing to interruption or suspension of foreign publication circulation.

Major topics of articles and chronicles presented in A Arte musical included short biographies of composers and musicians. In this vein, from 1899 to 1903 the section “Galeria dos nossos” served to highlight a Portuguese artist, with articles signed under pseudonyms like Colline, Fux and Schaunard. Articles on musical instruments, their history and explanations of their mechanisms, and new technical improvements, regularly appear. Since this was a subject dear to Lambertini, several of these articles were written by him. (Concurrently, he published a series of monographs concerning history of the psaltery, lyre and cithara, harp, harpsichord and lute, from 1911 to 1913.) The situation of musical education in Portugal is essayed, including the institution of choral singing in schools and plans for a reorganization of the Conservatório nacional. Articles about interpretation, singing and the practice of bel canto appear, along with synopses of opera libretti. The condition of the Portuguese musicians, the situation of musicians in military bands, and the creation of the Associação de classe dos músicos portugueses in 1908 is discussed.

A Arte musical published a series of articles concerning Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Tristan und Isolde and Der Ring des Niebleungen, with the purpose to introduce the public to these musical dramas which premiered in Lisbon at the beginning of the twentieth century. Between 1909 and 1911, Sousa Viterbo published a series “Curiosidades musicais” based upon his archival work, with the final articles appearing after the death of Viterbo. He conducted exhaustive archival work and shared his discoveries concerning musicians from past centuries, with the purpose to serve as source for studies on music in Portugal. This section was resumed by Brito Rebelo in 1914. Finally, “Notas vagas,” by Afonso Vargas, appeared as a monthly chronicle written in the form of a letter to an imagined female correspondent living in France. Vargas wrote freely about various subjects and concerns, from the political and social situation of Portugal, to impressions about books he read, and concerts and exhibitions he attended. In many of these texts, it is possible to perceive the general ambience lived in Portugal, in the last period of the monarchic regime and the first and agitated years of the Republic, which was established in 1910.

The section of opera and concert reviews were an important aspect of the journal, and the editorial board tried to cultivate this section as distinct from music criticism practiced in newspapers of the era. Among the performances regularly discussed or mentioned were the opera seasons in Teatro de São Carlos and in Coliseu dos Recreios; concerts promoted by associations or music schools, such as the Orpheon portuense, the Conservatório nacional, Academia de amadores de música, Sociedade de música de câmara and Schola cantorum; and concerts by Portuguese musicians such as José Viana da Mota, Alexandre Rey Colaço, Luís Costa and Virgínia Suggia (pianists), Guilhermina Suggia (cellist), David de Sousa (cellist and conductor), Pedro Blanch (violinist and conductor), Bernardo Moreira de Sá and Leonilde Moreira de Sá e Costa (violinists), and several students. The information about concerts from Porto arrived to the offices of A Arte musical through remarks published in other journals, or via correspondents, such as Ernesto Maia. Other music critics which corresponded with A Arte musical were Esteves Lisboa, who wrote almost exclusively about opera performances; Luís da Cunha e Menezes; Alfredo Pinto (Sacavém); Adriano Merêa; Carlos de Melo; António Arroio; and Madalena Frondoni Lacombe, one of the very few women to contribute to the journal. Lacombe was the only woman who wrote music criticism in A Arte musical (though other women provided literary content); she usually reviewed concerts organized by the soprano and professor Eugenia Mantelli. Occasionally, the journal published impressions about concerts and music activities from other countries sent by collaborators, such as those by José Relvas (Berlin in 1900; Paris, 1903-1904), the publisher and editor Lambertini (Paris, 1900; Switzerland and Italy, 1906; United Kingdom, 1908; Morocco, 1910), Joaquim Ferreira da Silva (Leipzig, 1903-1904), Carlos de Melo (Washington, D.C., 1904-1905) and Carlos Cília de Lemos (Paris and Brussels, 1910; Buenos Aires, 1913).

Although less frequently, A Arte musical also published dramatic and literary criticism. From 1907 to 1909 the journal featured a section on visual art, in which a writer who signed simply as Guido discussed paintings with musical elements.

In the final years of A Arte musical a new generation of musicians who would mark the Portuguese music scene in the twentieth century began to appear. Among them were Luís de Freitas Branco, recipient of the first prize of the composition contest promoted by the Sociedade de música de câmara and who would be an important composer, influential professor and prolific music critic; and Rui Coelho, also an important composer and music critic.

The farewell of A Arte musical was announced in advance and the final issue, December 31, 1915 (No. 409), examined what the journal achieved and the activities it promoted. An honor board with the names of those who contributed to the journal was included, as well as a detailed explanation of the transfer of the journal’s assets to the relief fund of the Montepio filarmónico (an association for the protection of musicians). Although A Arte musical ended in 1915 the impact it created in the musical scene persisted, influencing Luís de Freitas Branco in the creation of his own journal, A Arte musical: órgão defensor dos músicos portugueses (1930-2001, with some interruptions), the forth Portuguese journal to appear under that title.