Polkas and Tangos

Lista de Tangos de Nazareth
elaborada pelo próprio compositor
(Coleção Andrade Murici)

In Rio de Janeiro in the 1880s virtually everything was imported from Europe: from pens to musical scores, from ideas to fashion. Through the Customs Office passed musical instruments, composers, conductors and whole companies who landed here for the opera season when works by Bellini, Rossini, Verdi and Carlos Gomes were staged. Musical societies were also very popular in the city, like the Club Haydn and the Club Rossini, in São Cristóvão, where Ernesto Nazareth made his first public appearance, in 1886. The city was beginning to develop the habit of concerts, and there was always the presence of a European pianist: Gottschalk, Arthur Napoleão, Theodor Ritter.

Rio de Janeiro imported new steps and new rhythms in ballroom dances. The dance masters, who taught the good families in their own homes, were on great demand. The waltz was one of the first dances in which the couples embraced and thus it was a great schock even in European courts.


Cover of the Álbum de Música para Dança, published by Bevilacqua & C.




Around 1850, the polka (brought from Poland by Phillip Caton, had its première in Rio at the Teatro São Pedro. Its cheerful and playful rhythm made many people believe it had been born in the Paris vaudevilles. The Jornal do Commercio announced: "The polka is another imported good from France, robbed of her rights in spite of all the vigilance of Customs..." Soon later, the salons and theatres were the stage for the mazurka, the redowa and the Warsovian. Another boom was the "tango", not the Argentinian tango, but a Brazilian fusuin of the habanera with the time of the polka and sometimes of the maxixe, which resulted in a more joyful and playful rhythm. (Luiz Paulo Horta. Dicionário de Música. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 1985)


Ernesto Nazareth refused the popular designation of maxixe to his music. Instead, he preferred it to be called "Brazilian tango". The tangos became his registered mark. Among the most famous are Odeon, Brejeiro and Sertaneja.

Cover page of the Tango Perigoso Ed. Musicaes Casa Mozart


Cover page of the Tango Feitiço

Vieira Machado & Cia Editores



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