Pianist and composer Heloísa Fernandes was born in the city of Presidente Prudente in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, and took up the piano at age five. She went on to study with Paulo Gori and Gilberto Tinetti, with whom she cultivated her taste for classical music, and graduated with degrees in piano performance from the Conservatório Dramático e Musical de São Paulo, in conducting from the Centro de Estudos Tom Jobim, and in composition from the University of São Paulo. Her repertoire focuses on instrumental interpretations of popular Brazilian music.
In 2001, she was one of five finalists in Brazil’s leading musical competition – the Prêmio Visa de Música Brasileira – recognition that brought her to national attention. And in 2005 she released her premiere recording – Fruto – on Brazil’s Maritaca label, with repertoire of her own compositions as well as her arrangements of works by Pixinguinha and Caetano Veloso. Her musical collaborators included some of Brazil’s finest musicians – percussionists Naná Vasconcelos, bassist Zeca Assumpcão, and musical director Gil Jardim. In 2008, she made her international debut to critical acclaim at Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina.
For the next phase of her composing work, Fernandes organized the project Melodias do Brasil – Identidade e Transformação. Over the course of twelve months, she studied the research of Mário de Andrade and his colleagues, who had documented Brazilian folkloric melodies in the years 1936 to 1938. They transcribed melodies from all parts of the country, and published 570 of them in Melodias Registradas por Meios Não-Mecânicos in 1946, the first edited material about folklore in Brazil.
Andrade believed that Brazilian composers could find the soul of Brazil in the melodies of its people, and that these melodies could be inspirations to create new works. His collection included candomblé, maracatú, cateretê, samba, toada, and many more. Fernandes chose a group of these melodies to be the spirits of new compositions. Their transformation into new works surprise people because they are not typical of the way Brazilian folklore is handled by today’s musicians. Rather than emulating their strong colors, pulse, and rhythms, Fernandes created a delicate and introspective world.
Arranged, performed, and recorded with her colleagues Zeca Assumpção (double bass) and Ari Colares (percussion), this collection was released as the CD Candeias, and presented by the trio on concert stages in Brazil and in Braga, Portugal, where the trio made its European debut. Fernandes emerged from these twelve months of intense and solitary study with an important contribution to Brazilian music, and an invigorated desire to compose more works in the days ahead.