Sept 9th 2009

Review from Oct 2002



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Camargo GUARNIERI (1907-1993)
Symphony No. 2 Uirapuru (1945) [29.27]
Symphony No. 3 (1952) [32.57]
Abertura Concertante (1942, rev before 1951) [11.45]
Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paolo/John Neschling
rec Feb 2001, Sala São Paulo, Brazil
BIS BIS-CD-1220 [75.13]


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 Arnold. sample

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.

Rob Barnett



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