GUARNIERI: Piano Concertos Nos. 1-3 (Max Barros/ Thomas Conlin/ Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.557666)
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Mozart Camargo Guarnieri (1907-1993)
Piano Concertos Nos. 1, 2 and 3
Mozart Camargo Guarnieri is universally recognised asthe most important Brazilian composer after Villa-Lobos. His impact on the musical life of Brazil, as acomposer, teacher, and conductor, can hardly beoverestimated. Guarnieri influenced a new generationof nationalist composers for whom the use of folkmaterial was not so much a compositional premise, as ithad been earlier in the century, but rather one additionalsource of material that could be freely combined withelements derived from other musical traditions. Thisnew approach lent their work an aura of universalitycoloured by regionalism, which remains highlyappealing to a foreign audience. No one combined andbalanced these materials with greater sensitivity,inspiration, and compositional virtuosity thanGuarnieri, and yet the most astonishing aspect of hisaesthetic approach to nationalism is that he shied awayfrom quoting any traditional melody (as Villa-Lobosand many of Guarnieri's contemporaries did),preferring instead to evoke the particular rhythms,melodies, and sonorities that characterize Brazilianmusic through completely invented material.
Guarnieri's nationalism is best understood within thebroader context of the aesthetic pluralism thatcharacterized the second half of the twentieth century,when nationalism was no longer an expedient forlabeling some musical cultures as peripheral or exotic.
Guarnieri's nationalism was of the same kind that madepossible the highly inventive music of composers asdiverse as Stravinsky, Bartok, Ginastera, and Copland.
Guarnieri's musical personality makes animmediate impression, as Copland himself had anopportunity to experience. In 1941, following anextended trip through South America, Copland reflectedon his experiences and his exposure to the musicaltrends then in vogue in the continent. He wasparticularly struck with the diversity of musicaltraditions in Brazil, and his discovery of a thriving artmusicculture was undoubtedly surprising to him.
Among the composers he met was Guarnieri, whom heassessed in highly complimentary terms: