António Fortunato de Figueiredo
Maestro António Fortunato de Figueiredo (20 August 1903 – 1981) was a famous Goan conductor and violinist. He was India's first conductor of Western classical music.
António was born in Nacordá, near Loutolim, in Goa, then known as Portuguese India, the son of Gabriel de Figueiredo and Ermelinda Parras e Figueiredo. He learnt the first rudiments of music at primary school under the local teacher. Whilst studying at the Lyceum of Panjim, he learnt the Violin and soon became an accomplished player. He went to Portugal in 1927 to pursue an Arts degree at the University of Lisbon, but transferred to the National Conservatory of Lisbon (Conservatório Nacional de Lisboa in Portuguese), graduating with a Higher Education Degree in Violin in 1932. He then proceeded to Paris to further his musical studies in Musical Sciences and Composition & Harmony at the Faculty of Music and Musicology at the University of Paris (the Sorbonne).
António organised and directed choral groups (Orfeões in Portuguese) and string ensembles (Tunas in Portuguese) which staged many performances in Loutolim and Panjim, most of them in aid of charity foundations. The most memorable Orfeão was the one presented in aid of the crusade against Leprosy and Tuberculosis in 1946.
In 1948, António again embarked for Paris, with a Portuguese scholarship, to undergo a two-year degree in Orchestra Conducting. He studied at the National Conservatory of Music of Paris, under Maestro Eugene Bigot, earning the highest classification for excellence in conducting the orchestra of the Conservatoire, and thus gaining the title of Maestro. He then attended the Accademia Musicale Chigiana (Siena, in Italy), where he gained more experience under Maestros Paul van Kempen and Alceo Galliera, and then conducted the L'Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (Florence, in Italy) as a Guest-Conductor.
On return to Lisbon, Maestro António de Figueiredo conducted the Symphony Orchestra of Portuguese State Radio (Grande Orquestra Sinfónica da Emissora Nacional) in Lisbon – a concert broadcast worldwide.
Maestro António Fortunato de Figueiredo soon returned to Goa and, with assistance from the Portuguese government of the time, founded the Goa Symphony Orchestra (Orquestra Sinfónica de Goa), giving its first concert on 16 February 1952. The orchestra gave regular performances thereafter, the most memorable being the one given on the occasion of the 400th Death Anniversary and Exposition of the Relics of St. Francis Xavier, on 6 December 1952.
Other notable concerts were those in honour of Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, (one in 1963 on the occasion of his visit to Goa, shortly after the end of Portuguese colonial rule, and the other in 1964 as a tribute on Nehru's death), as also on the occasion of a meeting at Campal when Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister.
Soon after founding the Goa Symphony Orchestra, Maestro António convinced the Portuguese government to found the Music Academy of Portuguese India (Academia de Música da Índia Portuguesa), modelled on the lines of the National Conservatory of Lisbon. The pioneers in the Academia's foundation were, besides himself: Alfredo da Gama (Piano), Espírito Santo Mascarenhas (Cello) and Lourenço Menezes (Solfeggio).
The Music Academy of Portuguese India had its beginnings in a humble single-storeyed building at Fontainhas, next to Mary Immaculate's School. Maestro António de Figueiredo was its director until 1977, by which time, the Music Academy had merged with the Kala Academy, and handed the directorship to Lourdino Barreto. Today, the Music Academy is known as the Kala Academy's Department of Western Music. The last concert conducted by Maestro António de Figueiredo with the students of the Academy and the Goa Symphony Orchestra was Verdi's opera La Traviata.
Maestro António gave a number of palestras or lectures on Music and History of Music which were broadcast by the Goa's Portuguese Radio (Emissora de Goa) (before 1961 – the year of Indian annexation) and later by the All India Radio Panjim under their Portuguese language programme Renascença ("Rebirth" in English), at the Institute Menezes Braganza, and Clube Nacional. He also orchestrated the Portuguese and Indian national anthems, a number of Mandós and other Goan folk songs.
Maestro António arranged sound-tracks for the film on St. Francis Xavier (B&W) which was produced in Bombay in 1967. Some of the tracks were recorded at the Music Academy itself, with a subset of the Goa Symphony Orchestra and members of the Choral Society.
The Government of Portugal, in recognition of the efforts of Maestro António de Figueiredo in promoting the Arts, conferred on him a knighthood – Cavaleiro da Ordem de Sant'Iago da Espada (Knight of the Order of St. James of the Sword) in 1961. He also received accolades from the Institute Menezes Braganza and the Rotary Club.
Fortunato de Figueiredo's portrait hangs in the Kala Academy, and was unveiled by Pratapsing Rane on 20 August 1989. This date has been instituted as Founder's Day in the Kala Academy, in honour of Maestro António Fortunato de Figueiredo.