Francisco António Norberto dos Santos Pinto (1815-1860)

Francisco dos Santos Pinto, a Portuguese violinist, hornist and composer, began his music studies under Teotónio Rodrigues, cantor to the Bemposta Chapel. He then studied violin under José Maria Morte and French horn under Justino José Garcia, maestro of the “Real Cavalariça” (Royal Mews) band, which he joined later. He studied harmony under Eleutério Franco Leal and later under Manuel Joaquim Botelho.In 1830, at the age of only fifteen, he was already playing the French horn in the “Real Cavalariça” band .

When the civil wars broke out in 1832, he was first horn player in the “Banda da Guarda Real da Polícia” (Royal Police Guard Band). Shortly later he joined the “Teatro de São Carlos” Opera orchestra as a musician and it was for the “São Carlos” that he composed his first dramatic work, “Adoração ao Sol”. In 1839 he was given the interim unpaid position of clarion player in the “Orquestra da Real Câmara” (Royal Chamber Orchestra).

Later he became the more or less house composer for the newly opened “Teatro de Dona Maria” (1845).In 1845, on the occasion of a visit to Lisbon by Franz Liszt, Santos Pinto dedicated his 8th Symphony (or Overture) to the famous pianist. He even had his portrait painted holding the score. The painting is now in the “Museu da Música” in Lisbon. In 1849 he became professor for Brass Instruments at the “Real Conservatório de Lisboa” (Lisbon Royal Conservatory).

In 1857 he was appointed as musical director at “São Carlos”, the crowning glory of his career. Unfortunately, he did not have much time left to fully enjoy it.A large part of his known work, although it remains unknown to many, is dedicated largely to dance/ballet music (Vieira lists 19 oeuvres), some of which gained some international renown, and dramatic pieces (Vieira lists 52), of which the most significant are: “Os Dois Renegados” (“Teatro Real dos Condes”, 1839), which incorporated the famous «xácara dos dois renegados»; “O Alfageme de Santarém” (“Teatro Real dos Condes”, 1842); “O Templo de Salomão”  (“Teatro Dona Maria”, 1849); and, above all, A Casa Misteriosa (Teatro Dona.

Maria, 1850), a kind of comic opera after a text by  José Romano (himself a musician), of which Vieira says that it has “a most beautiful overture” . His work also includes a rich orchestral output: some 35 symphonies/overtures, which, in Vieira’s opinion, were generally “very well written and brilliant in effect, some of them quite difficult to perform”, and diverse solos and concert pieces for diverse instruments, amongst them the Fantasia for 2 Bassoons, performed with orchestra accompaniment at “São Carlos” in 1847 by Augusto Neuparth and Thiago Canongia.

Santos Pinto’s religious output was likewise quite prolific, with Vieira listing 45 sacred music pieces (with 28 written by the year 1850). Here one must mention the two Solemn Masses for 4 voices and orchestra and a Te Deum, for 4 voices and orchestra, dedicated to Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, King Consort of Portugal, to mark the baptism of his grandson and future king, D. Carlos. He was also a prolific composer of “modinhas”, and songs for voice and piano, of which the most noteworthy are those resulting from his cooperation on Castilho’s “Estreias-poetico musicais” (1853), for which he composed most of the songs (9 out of a total of 12).

His musical language denotes influence of the Italian style of Donizetti and Verdi, who had great influence in Portugal at the time. According to Vieira, his music “brought greatness out in a small orchestra” and was “characterized by a distinct individuality”.Friendly, helpful and congenial by nature, Santos Pinto was also, according to Vieira, held in great esteem by his colleagues.He was also a musician very much engaged in the political activities of his day.

During the civil wars of 1832-34, while still a military musician, he did not get involved in the political struggles, perhaps due to his youthful age. Indeed, Vieira writes that “contrary to Casimiro (Joaquim Casimiro Júnior), who ecstatically exalted himself for the Realist Party, Pinto calmly withdrew to his home when King Miguel’s troops abandoned Lisbon in 1833”. However, during the “Patuleia” civil war and “Maria da Fonte” revolution, Santo Pinto clearly came out on the side of the “Cartista” (Chartist) party by writing a “Marcha do Batalhão dos Voluntários da Carta” (March of the Charter Volunteer Battalion) while still an orchestra musician at “São Carlos”, which, according to Vieira “was heard with great enthusiasm”.

Later, he composed another anthem dedicated to Saldanha (João Oliveira e Daun, Duque de Saldanha) after his victory that ended the civil wars.The evidence we have shows that, in addition to being a follower of Chartism, Santos Pinto was also a Freemason. This is borne out by the “Hinos maçónicos” manuscripts also in the National Library (Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal). Furthermore, he was the founder of two important paramasonic musical institutions: the “Associação Musica 24 de Junho” and the “Academia Melpomenense”. 


VIEIRA, Ernesto, Diccionario de Músicos Portugueses, vol. II, p. 178.
BORGES, Maria José, A Música (p. 475-492), in Nova História de Portugal (coordinated by Joel Serrão and A. H. de Oliveira Marques), Vol. IX- Portugal e a Instauração do Liberalismo: Cap. IX (A CULTURA LITERÁRIA, ARTÍSTICA E MUSICAL).

By Maria José Borges
(translation: Liam Burke)

This composer has 30 works on AvA:

Orchestra (9)

Wind Band (6)

Chamber Music (1)

Woodwinds (4)

Brass (11)

Voice (4)

Piano (3)