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Semanario Musical

(Santiago, 1852)

Prepared by Nelson Niño
Online only (2007)

Semanario Musical [SMU], the first Chilean journal dedicated exclusively to music, was published weekly in Santiago de Chile from 10 April to 24 July 1852. In all, the journal comprises sixteen issues, each containing four three-column pages. The copy of the Biblioteca Nacional de Chile used for this RIPM publication is missing two issues: No. 9 (5 June) and No. 13 (3 July). Issue no. 16 lacks pages three and four.

Semanario Musical was published at the initiative of José Zapiola, Isidora Zegers, Francisco Oliva and José Bernardo Alzedo. The important efforts of Zapiola and Zegers were recognized by Chilean music historian Samuel Claro Valdés and composer Jorge Urrutia Blondel in their Historia de la Música en Chile.

The journal’s content addresses a broad range of readers: there are sections dedicated to Chilean music history, biographies of European composers and performers, and the history of musical instruments. The first ten issues open with a section devoted to notes on Chilean music history (“Apuntes para la historia de la música en Chile”) paying particular attention to the country’s principal musical events during the first half of the nineteenth century. Thus, the journal highlights the arrival of foreign musicians in Chile during this period, as well as the creation of the early philharmonic societies, orchestras, military bands and choral societies. The opening section also introduces critical discussions on sacred music reporting in particular on the activities of the Cathedral of Santiago de Chile and on the organization of the recently created National Conservatory of Music. Among other topics, the Chilean national anthem composed by Ramón Carnicer with text by Eusebio Lillo is compared to the ‘original’ hymn by Bernardo de Vera Pintado and Manuel Robles. The journal includes a music dictionary, reviews of performances in Santiago de Chile, and advertisements. Occasionally a list of subscribers is published. Four musical compositions for pianoforte are issued as supplements.

The biographical section, taken from the Biographie universelle des musicians of François-Joseph Fétis, deals with the life and careers of the singer Angelica Catalani, the violinist-composer Niccolò Paganini, and the composers Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Gioacchino Rossini. Great attention is paid to the latter in a series dealing with his biography. The “Diccionario de Música” defines two hundred and sixty five terms and names from ‘A’ to ‘R’, beginning with the word ‘Acento’ and ending with ‘Respiración’ (Breathing). The definitions were taken from the writings of Rousseau, François-Joseph Fétis, Joseph Mainzer, Castil-Blaze and Quicherat, among others. The section “Historia de los instrumentos musicales” is a translation into Spanish of the writings of François-Joseph Fétis and treats numerous families of instruments, their history and technical features.

Critical reviews are limited to performances in Santiago de Chile except for some brief references to those in other provincial cities such as Valparaíso and Copiapó. For the most part, reviews deal with the Italian opera company managed by Rafael and Clorinda Pantanelli which included the soprano Teresa Rossi, the tenor Juan Ubaldi and the baritone Luis Cavedagni in operas by Donizetti, Verdi, Rossini and Mercadante. Of particular interest is José Zapiola’s harsh criticism of Antonio Neumane, director of the lyric season in Santiago de Chile and Valparaíso between 1851 and 1852, particularly for Neumane’s opera arrangements for orchestra based on scores for voice and piano. In his writings, Zapiola denounces Neumane’s replacement or elimination of orchestral instruments that were not available at the time.

The advertisement section promotes the pianoforte manufacturer Érard, tuning services, private lessons, and sales of printed music published by Julio Belin and Co., Civilización, and the brothers Germain in Santiago de Chile. The journal was distributed to one hundred and seventeen subscribers.