Antônio Chechim Filho
Excursão Artística Villa-Lobos [Villa-Lobos Artistic Excursion]
Translated by Fred S. Sturm
Antônio Chechim Filho (Forward by Ciro Gonçalves Dias Junior)
The illustrious Brazilian author of this work was born in the city of Cruzeiro, in the State of São Paulo, on April 2, 1905. As a young child he moved the city of São Paulo. In that city, a little after his thirteenth birthday, he was hired as an apprentice by the Nardelli Piano Manufacturing Company, which, years later, became the Piano Manufacturing Company of Brazil (Fábrica de Pianos Brasil, S.A.) [hereafter “Piano Brasil”].
Everyone was impressed by this intelligent and extraordinarily dedicated young man, and so when he reached the age of only sixteen, in light of his rare ability, he was sent by the company to various cities in the interior of São Paulo, to correct defects in newly sold pianos. Customers were surprised, and didn’t believe that such a young man could adequately repair their instruments. But on many occasions customers expressed their happiness in finding their pianos brought into good condition again, and so Chechim’s reputation began to grow.
In 1931, at the age of twenty-six, he was selected by the company to care for the piano during the Villa-Lobos Artistic Excursion (Excursão Artística Villa-Lobos), in all of the cities to be visited during that tour. The reader will sense in this account the happy memories of contact with great artists, of the public concerts, and of his magnificent work, caring meticulously, with all the idealism of his young heart, for the piano.
In 1933, he was named General Manager of the manufacturing operations of Piano Brasil. He introduced various improvements in manufacture, including the seasoning of wood in a steam kiln. He continued in this work until 1938, when, retiring from factory work, he moved to the Office of Repair and Restoration, where he introduced a process to exterminate woodworms and termites in pianos, for the first time in São Paulo, using a gas chamber.
He constructed some pianos, all “by hand,” the first of which, with the name “Kekim,” is currently the property of D. Maria Lucy Chechim Lima, and can be found in the auditorium of the Hotel Fazenda Aguativa, in Cornélio Procópio-PR, where everyone admires the qualities of this beautiful instrument.
He had the most complete tool case imaginable, filled with specialty items, many of them rare and housed very carefully for their preservation. In 1968, after fifty years of activity dedicated to the piano, he suffered greatly, as he often related, when it was stolen from his automobile – this case that had been his companion for half a century. Overcoming the difficulties of having to use new and often inappropriate tools, he continued to work with enthusiasm and dedication until 1972, mostly for various individual artists.
When I speak with him about his life’s work, I am impressed by his love and devotion, by his profound dedication to research, discovering solutions so that the keyboard may always be faithful for the pianists. Senhor Chechim has many secrets, treasures of a long career, and which are united to an acute ear.
On November 11, 1984, I was invited to record a special program for the Radio University of São Paulo, which very successfully conveyed his memories and recollections of Villa-Lobos and the “Artistic Excursion.” He tells with pride and happiness of having been the technician and confidante of Guiomar Novaes, Antonietta Rudge, Souza Lima, Dinorah de Carvalho, Estelinha Epstein, Yara Bernette, and João Carlos Martins. He records also his familiarity with Professor José Kliass and with Artur Rubenstein, whom he knew from recitals given in São Paulo, along with many others.
These are a few details about a man with an enchanting personality: in him are joined wisdom and humility, elegance and goodness. I remember hearing expressions of admiration concerning him from my dear and unforgettable teacher, Maestro Souza Lima, and also from other similarly talented people, who considered the most perfect technician, the best piano tuner in São Paulo, to be Antônio Chechim Filho.
Ciro Gonçalves Dias Junior
São Paulo, March, 1987