Marlos Nobre was born in 1939 in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil. He started playing the piano when he was four years old and even as a child, he loved improvising. After initially studying harmony and counterpoint at the Conservatoire, he joined the Institute of Music at the University of Recife. From 1960 to 1962 he left Recife to study Sociology and Anthropology at the University in Rio de Janeiro, and the choice of subject was to have a great bearing on the kind of music he was going to write.
When he was 19 years old he entered his “Concertino Opus 1 for piano and strings” into a competition held by Radio MEC in 1959 and won his first prize, launching him as a composer. Since then critics have called him “the worthy successor of Villa-Lobos” who died this same year. A series of further compositions led him to win 21 competitions in four years both in Brazil, the USA and Europe. In 1963 he won a two-year fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation to study in Buenos Aires with Alberto Ginastera and also with Malipiero, Messiaen, Dallapicola and Copland.
Late, in 1969 he won another fellowship from the Berkshire Music Center in USA where he worked with Gunther Schuller and Leonard Bernstein. In 1980 he won the Guggenheim Fellowship and lived in New York where he worked at the Center of Electronic Music at Columbia University with Vladimir Ussachevsky.
In spite of their avant garde character, Nobre’s compositions have strong national elements which make his work unmistakably Brazilian. His creativity is rooted in these deep layers of national elements mixed with his love for the music of Bartok, Lutoslawsky, Berio and Messiaen. All these contributed to his own and peculiar style as a composer, earning him an international reputation.
Nobre was the President of the Brazilian National Fondation of Music, the International Music Council of UNESCO (elected by unanimity in 1985 in Dresden, Germany), and the heir of the Contemporary programs at Radio MEC in Rio de Janeiro.
A friend of Arthur Rubinstein (to whom he wrote his Hommage to Rubinstein for piano) and Yehudi Menuhin (to whom he wrote his Desafio III for violin and piano), he was composer in residence at the Juilliard School, Yale, Indiana and Texas Christian Universities. From those Universities he accepted important commissions. His musical output features 130 Opus including orchestral, piano, chamber music, cantatas, oratorios; almost all of which are recorded in CDs all over the world. Since 1976 all his works were written attending important commissions from orchestras and institutions predominantly in Europe and USA. He is “Doctor Honoris Causa” from the University of Recife, and received the “Thomas Hart Benton Medallion” from Indiana University (2000) and the “Cecil and Ida Green Honors Professor” from Texas Christian University (2000); as well, he received a Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of La Habana, Cuba, (2005).
Since 2013 Marlos Nobre has been the Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Recife Symphony Orchestra, at 85 years old, the oldest symphony orchestra of Brazil.
His work Kabbalah will receive its West Coast premiere during the Memory & Meaning concert on Saturday, August 13.