Biographical note on Francisco Curt Lange

Francisco Curt Lange was born in Eilenburg, Germany, on December 12, 1903, to an upper-middle-class family with ample cultural background, which provided him a degree in architecture at the University of Munich (cf. MERINO MONTERO, 1998), as well as excellent musical training (cf. VELAZCO, 1989), in addition to other studies.

Curt Lange came to South America in 1923, soon after the First World War, and shortly thereafter became a naturalized citizen of Uruguay, changing his birth name, Franz Kurt Lange, to the spanish form through which he would be known throughout the world. Subsequently he made his home in Montevideo, the city in which he married, where he began his long career, and with which he maintained ties throughout the course of his long life.

His intense performance as educator, researcher and supporter of cultural activities during practically all of the twentieth century took place within a rather broad geographical area, so that he became one of those most responsible for the advancement of Latin-American musicology, and especially for the development of the Brazilian historical musicology.

Almost all of the musicological publications dedicated to the Brazilian music of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries contain references to the work of Curt Lange. Due to his extremely important surveying of primary sources, his work is still the chief reference regarding the Brazilian music of the colonial period, and particularly the music of the composers of Minas Gerais in the eighteenth century. His work has become an obligatory source for the knowledge of musical life in Minas Gerais in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the few scores of musical works from this period that have been, so far published are, in some way, the result of his pioneering work.

But the importance of his work goes beyond the Brazilian borders, to the extent that he played an equally important role in musicology in Argentina and in other Hispano-American countries, as well as standing out as editor of periodicals such as the Boletín Latino Americano de Música – BLAM (1935-1946), through which he put into practice the movement known as Americanismo musical, initiated by him during the thirties. In Uruguay, acting with official support, he worked for the establishment of solid musical education. He conceived and co-founded the Instituto Interamericano de Musicologia (1938) – the continuation of the Instituto de Estudios Superiores, created previously – and of the Editorial Cooperativa Interamericana de Compositores (1941). He collaborated in the Servicio Oficial de Difusión Radio Eléctrica – SODRE (created in 1929), in the organization of its discography and in the musical programming of its radio station, CX6 (initially known as CWOA), working enthusiastically for the Discoteca Nacional and for the use of radio broadcasting, then in its infancy, as a means of educating the masses, as well as of disseminating scientific and artistic knowledge (cf. MERINO MONTERO, 1998). His pioneering work had deep repercussions in the area of musical composition of the twentieth century as well, being responsible for encouraging composers from various American countries. Lange was the first publisher, for example, of The unanswered question, by Charles Ives, one of the various works, previously unpublished, which he published in the musical supplements of the BLAM.

In 1948, he moved to Mendoza, in Argentina, where he was entrusted to create a Department of Musicology at the Universidad de Cuyo and to direct the Revista de Estudios Musicales (1949-1954). From 1958 on, he lectured at several universities in North America, and acted as researcher for UNESCO in Minas Gerais, Brasil (1958-1960), thereafter acting as Cultural Attaché of the Uruguayan Embassy in Bonn, Germany (1961-1963). In the following decades, he participated in various international congresses focused on Latin American musicology, and worked as invited professor in many institutions devoted to instruction, culture and art, besides acting as a researcher supported by renowned institutions, until settling in Caracas, Venezuela in 1986, where, also as Cultural Attaché of the Uruguayan Embassy, he worked with the Biblioteca Nacional and directed the Revista Musical de Venezuela, published by the Fundación Vicente Emilio Sojo, along with other projects.

A few years before, in 1983, Lange had managed the transfer of the collection of Brazilian musical manuscripts put together in the 1940s and 1950s to the Museu da Inconfidência, in Ouro Preto (Minas Gerais, Brasil) – where it came to be called the Francisco Curt Lange Collection –, concluding a long period outside Brazil. In 1989 he received the degree of Doutor Honoris Causa from the Federal University of Minas Gerais, which, in 1995, came to house his personal archive, from then on known as the Curt Lange Archive – UFMG. We know that, in great part, the coming of his personal archive to Brazil, and more specifically , to Minas Gerais, was due to Lange’s own wishes, thus joining the collection of musical manuscripts which had arrived earlier, and further reinforcing the historical and biographical bonds between the eminent musicologist and Brazil, thus redoubling our responsibility.

Lange continued to be active to the last moments of his life. Just a few months before his passing he participated in international meetings in the area of musicology. His musicological production can be known through already-published bibliographies, among which we especially focus on the one found in the special number of the Revista Musical de Venezuela (n. X/28, maio-dezembro, 1989), a Festschrift dedicated to Lange on the occasion of his eighty-fifth birthday, completed in December 1988. There is also another bibliography published by MOURÃO (1990), as well a valuable review by MERINO MONTERO (1998) of the six volumes of the BLAM (1935-1946), accompanied by a competent analysis of his musicological production.

Francisco Curt Lange passed away on May 3, 1997, in Montevideo, Uruguay, leaving behind a great contribution to Latin American music and culture, a contribution increased with the availability of his personal archive, a true torrent of knowledge, source for innumerable theses and dissertations. It was his implicit will that the archive should become the object of study on the part of new generations of researchers, which we believe to be a rare gesture of great unselfishness and profound generosity.