On the international stage Brazilian composers have
had their music eclipsed by that of Heitor Villa-Lobos. Guarnieri is
one of those composers who had to live in Villa-Lobos's shadow. He also
carried the handicap of his parent's choice of first name. His full
name was Mozart Camargo Guarnieri. At first he sported his given
first name but in his thirties he decided that it was presumptuous to
use the name 'Mozart' and to all intents and purposes discarded it.
Guarnieri's parents were amateur musicians. Their nine
children included four boys: Mozart, Belline, Rossine and Verdi. Under
the tutelage of the Brazil-based Italian conductor Lamberto Baldi (dedicatee
of Guarnieri's Third Symphony) he made musical progress and had compositions
of his performed in both São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro. In the
1930s he moved to France and there studied under the compositional rigours
of Charles Koechlin. He learnt conducting from François Rühlmann
at the Paris Opera. He was a staunch anti-dodecaphonist.
Expect from Guarnieri the same irrepressible energy
and joie de vivre that you get from Villa-Lobos, Ives and Grainger.
The two half hour symphonies are each in three movements. The Second
Symphony is not afraid of rough energy (tr 1 sample
and 3 sample ) which capriciously fades
into reverie as in 3.34 (first movement sample)
with its woodwind reflection. This work has the vitality of the Americas;
the turbulent spirit of creation, exploration and joy and a jazzy accent
in the Festivo finale. Sometimes, as in the Terno second
movement, he draws on Stravinskian models such as the bleak serenades
of the Rite. This only provides him with a launching point from
which to let his melodic gift loose (tr 2. 2.15 sample).
Villa-Lobos's symphonic poem and choral works bearing the same title
(Uirapuru - a reference to an Amazonian bird) were written before
the Guarnieri symphony. The Third Symphony is less exotically
euphoric than the Second and some might say that the North American
influence had unduly diluted and civilised the Brazilian fantasy and
replaced it with the music of the far Western prairies Opening
. Further evidence of this is to be found in the sly and beautifully
turned trumpet solo at 00.31 in the Decidido third movement.
sample The vivo section of the
middle movement is a louche affair with woodwind writing close to Malcolm
The Overture is dedicated to Aaron Copland and
Copland fingerprints are there to be heard as in the placid lullaby
of 4.38 onwards sample . It is not difficult
to see why Guarnieri's music appealed to Leonard Bernstein. The Fourth
Symphony Brasilia (1963) is dedicated to Bernstein.
There are seven symphonies so presumably, subject to
sales, we will hear more from John Neschling and this orchestra which
was founded almost half a century ago.
Likely to appeal strongly to those who are already
captivated by Villa-Lobos, by Copland (El Salon Mexico and Danzon
Cubano) and by Bernstein's rip-roaring Candide.