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Luperce Miranda - Brazil's Paganini of the Mandolin, Part 1

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Elisa Meyer Ferreira

I'm currently riding in a motorhome somewhere in the middle of North Carolina, and recalling one of my most pleasant memories- the chats I used to have with my beloved mandofriend Mr. Paulo Fasanaro. Every Saturday morning, we used to get together at a very traditional "roda de choro" in São Paulo city where Mr. Paulo would be waiting to offer me his mandolin to play. I would be anxious to show him the new things I practiced during the week. He would show me some of his new compositions. We'd have serious conversations about picks, right hand techniques, strings, mandolins and everything that involves mandolins and music- and of course gossip! All this would be punctuated by his sharp-tongued comments and his delightful Recife accent- everything was made more fascinating by it!

Today I want to write about the mandolinist who Mr. Paulo most admired. His eyes would sparkle when he talked about him, a man who he was lucky enough to see live playing at jam sessions. He played by the side of monsters such as Sivuca back in Recife. His name was Luperce Bezerra Pessoa de Miranda or Luperce Miranda.

Luperce Miranda

I remember Mr. Paulo telling me with his eyes wide-open and filled with great admiration:

"He would play from up and down the neck without looking as if it was the most normal thing. Sivuca would play some super-fast runs on the accordion and Luperce would repeat everything on the mandolin."

Luperce was born in Recife, on July 28th of 1904. Recife is a large, gorgeous ancient city in the State of Pernambuco, northeastern Brazil. It was occupied by the Dutch for many years, and is the land of Frevo, Maracatu, carnival, and highly skilled musicians.

Both of Luperce's parents were pianists. His father, João Henrique Pessoa de Miranda used to play in bars and clubs. Very early in their lives, he would take his sons along to gigs.. Around the age of 7-8 Luperce became an integral part of his father's bohemian life. They used to leave late together, playing serenades as they walked home.

Coming from a family of eight children, Luperce was the fifth, and very early began to play instruments and be part of his family band, with his father and brothers. At the age of eight, Luperce composed his first piece. Apparently, he had two sisters who played the mandolin very well too but were not allowed to play out of home. Luperce also played piano very well, but it was on the mandolin that he became exceptional. According to Luperce:

"[My family] was a real orchestra, each one of us with our own instrument."

Unfortunately, in 1915, his father left the family to live with another woman. Little by little Luperce became responsible for taking care of the family and the house. In the next year Luperce played his first concert at the most famous and respected theater in Recife called "Santa Isabel" when he was only twelve years old.

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"He was already a professional at twelve years old, performed and earned his first profits as a musician. Henceforth, it was easy to arrange the first jobs at concert-cafes, dancing-cafes and movie theaters." O Globo, 10/04/77.

Around 1918/19 Luperce had his own ensemble with ten musicians called the "Jazz Band Leão do Norte," where he was the "pianist boss."

As I mentioned, Recife has been always famous for its carnival, but it is not the same carnival we are used to seeing from Rio de Janeiro The carnival in Recife has a distinct style. The "samba schools" only arrived in Recife in the the mid 1940s.

The carnival was the most important thing (both socially and culturally) in Recife. The kind of music played there wasn't samba, but was instead the fast frevo*. Everyone would be wearing costumes, and dancing to the sound of "club frevo" music. This style was orchestrated with brass and woodwinds, with trombones and the requinte as the highlights of the arrangements.

After frevo at the parade, they would have the Maracatu. The Maracatu is not a club, but a nation, formed by descendants of black Africans in Brazil. In the Maracatu there would be only a percussion orchestra with a king, a queen, and their court. There would be one lady walking in the front carrying a black doll as part of the tradition.

The third part of Carnival in Recife would be the"blocks." Groups of people from a certain neighborhood would get together to sing and dance downtown, accompanied by a "wood and strings" orchestra. They would wear costumes and sing frevo-canção or marches. The wood and string orchestra was made up of acoustic guitars, mandolins, banjos, cavacos, flutes, clarinets and pandeiros. This sound particularly inspired and influenced Luperce's musical identity.

Some time later, when he was 17 years old, Luperce was playing a gig at a very fancy and famous confectionery called Confeitaria Gloria. And one day Pixinguinha's ensemble the "Oito Batutas" was touring in the north and had concerts in Recife. Pixinguinha ended up seeing Luperce playing at the confectionery and invited him to play to his ensemble at the hotel. Luperce could not join the Oito Batutas in their tour because his father didn't let him go at such a young age.Luperce also didn't want to leave his mother alone since he had become the family's provider!

In Recife in 1922, Luperce received a gift from the directors of the "Bloco Carnavalesco Pato Guisado" of a German "Alpino" mandolin. Prior to this he had a French-made mandolin that he could not remember the maker's name.

Instead of traveling to Rio de Janeiro where the music scene was biggest, Luperce stayed in Recife. Here he met a schoolteacher named Maria José da Silva, and they fell in love. Maria taught him how to read, write, and sign his name so they would be able to marry. Her family was opposed to the marriage, so they made plans to elope to Luperce's sister's house. When her family saw how serious they were, they accepted her choice and they were all united for a marriage ceremony in 1923.

Luperce organized an ensemble with Jararaca e Ratinho called "Batutas Pernambucanos," inspired by Pixinguinha. Later he organized another ensemble called "Turunas da Mauricéia." Both of the ensembles left for Rio de Janeiro, but without the virtuoso mandolinist Luperce!

"I'll go next month!" Luperce would always say about Rio. From as early as 1921. it was his wish to go there, but there was always something in the way.

But destiny knocked on Luperce's door once more, and in 1928 he finally went to the "cidade maravilhosa" or Rio de Janeiro.

The samba de embolada "Piniao," composition by Luperce Miranda and Augusto Calheiros recorded by the "Turunas da Mauricéia" in 1927, was a hit in the Carnival of 1928 in Rio de Janeiro.

Another composition by Luperce Miranda called "O Pequeno Tururu" recorded by the "Turunas da Mauricéia" in 1927

See it at (embedding disabled by the video owner.

Here the choro "Pra frente é que se anda" composition and performance by Luperce Miranda and his ensemble "Voz do Sertão" from October 1928.

Another composition by Luperce the polca choro "Não te arrecebo" performed by him and his ensemble "Voz do sertão" from October 1928.

And one of Mr. Fasanaro's favorite was this mesmerizing waltz called "Alma e Coração" (Soul and heart), performed by Luperce and the ensemble "Voz do Sertão" in September 1928.

I hope you enjoyed knowing a little bit about this amazing artist. On the next article I will tell you more about him and his music!

Grande abraço,
Elisa Meyer

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Updated Sep-19-2023 at 1:01pm by Mandolin Cafe



  1. mikeo2's Avatar
    Delightful! Thanks for sharing and looking forward to future write-ups.
  2. Marguerite's Avatar
    thank you very much.
    That is very interesting.
  3. jomandomtl's Avatar
    Thanks for sharing all this beautiful story of Luperce Miranda
  4. Jim Garber's Avatar
    I have one album of his music but tried to find his tune book which I believe is out of print. A friend made me a copy of it. He was an amazing player.
  5. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
    This last video with the tune "Alma e Coração" is just absolutely beautiful but you need to listen to the entire recording. It's really a stunning piece of music.
  6. Billy Packard's Avatar
    Alma e Coração is breathtaking!