Gaúcho or Corta Jaca, written by Brazilian composer Chiquinha Gonzaga (1847-1935), is a great classic of the choro repertoire. It was one of the songs Gonzaga wrote for the operetta Zizinha Maxixe, opening in 1895. It’s a maxixe, a musical sub-genre of the choro, and also an energetic Brazilian two-step tango. Gaúcho became an instant hit in cafés, theatres and among choro groups, and was even performed on guitar in Rio’s presidential palace by the first lady, Nair de Tefé. This caused a scandal among the elite because the music and the dance were considered vulgar and lewd. We have arranged Gaúcho for saxophone quartet SATB and AATB with suggested solos.
Gonzaga: a woman of her own
Chiquinha Gonzaga was a remarkable woman with an indomitable spirit. Her background reflects Brazil’s diversity: her father came from a military family, her mother was the daughter of a slave. She was raised to be a respectful lady and learned to read, write and to play the piano. At the age of sixteen, her father decided she should marry a navy official.
But Gonzaga was too much a woman of her own. The marriage became a disaster. Her husband disliked Gonzaga’s musical interests and ambitions, so she left him. This became a scandal, ending in a divorce. She was expelled from her family who forbid her to see her children.
Gonzaga entered the music scene of Brazil. She participated in choro groups, the most famous being the group led by “The Father of the Choro”, Joaquim Antonio da Silva Calado. By the time she was thirty, Gonzaga was able to live an independent life as a composer and conductor of international fame. Besides that Gonzaga was political active and championed the abolition of slavery.
Chiquinha Gonzaga’s musical legacy comprises almost 300 songs. Not only South American maxixes, habaneros, tangos and choros, but also polkas, waltzes, quadrilles, gavottes and mazurkas, popular in the aristocratic salons of Brazil, and she wrote the first song for the Rio Carnaval, the march “Ô Abre Alas”.
The maxixe: a dance with a reputation
As said, Gaúcho was music to a maxixe. The dance originated in the 1860’s in Rio de Janeiro. It developed from the lundu, an Afro-Brazilian dance and from the polka brought to the country by European immigrants. It’s a fast paced, cheerful dance in which the dancers press their bodies together. Their legs are often intertwined and their movements are energetic and daring, full of sexual innuendo.
The maxixe evolved into a complicated dance with choreographed sequences. One of the steps was called corta jaca. The expression literally means “cut the jackfruit”. The dancer moves his foot as if he’s cutting jackfruit. Hence the subtitle of Gaúcho: “Dança do Corta-Jaca”, shortly Corta Jaca.
In 1914 Nair de Tefé von Hoonholtz, daughter of Baron Tefé, gifted cartoonist, friend of Gonzaga and married to the Brazilian president, played Gaúcho on one of her soirées. This caused a moral outrage among the elite. How could the first lady promote such lower-class, vulgar music! In the presidential palace! On a guitar! After all, this was music that was played in the dance halls in bad neighborhoods frequented by blacks, mestizos and loose women! Nevertheless, the affair contributed to the fame of Gaúcho.
So when you play this exuberant choro-maxixe (whether you call it Gaúcho or Corta Jaca) with your saxophone quartet remember it was brought to the world by two independent, vivacious ladies. Dedicate your interpretation to their memory and you will surely fully capture the verve of the music. Have fun!
Product details for Gonzaga: Gaúcho (Corta Jaca) for Saxophone Quartet w/ suggested solos
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