We’ve got bogged down a little with this: it’s so engrossing we’ve played it on repeat instead of getting on with other reviews.
Guarnieri was born Mozart Camargo Guarnieri in 1907, and his dad was an Italian immigrant and music lover. He not only named his sons after great composers (Mozart, Verdi, Rossine and Belline, the latter two both spelt with a final e instead of an i), but moved to the Brazilian capital in 1922 to give young Mozart, who had started composing at 13, a better chance of being able to develop his musical talents. What a nice story.
Guarnieri met poet and musicologist Mário de Andrade in São Paulo in 1928, which led to the birth of the Brazilian Nationalist School, and the idea of “Brazilianization”, and it’s the latter that seems most relevant for this CD.
It’s Western-sounding but infused with the spirit of energy from Brazil. The cliché might be the “spirit of carnival” but Camargo might say infused with Brazilian folk rhythms.
The Seresta for Piano and Orchestra opens. It was written for solo piano, harp, xylophone, timpani and strings, and it opens as a headlong dash into the slower piano-led second movement, then a more livelier third, opening with timpani. It’s clearly Western in tradition, modern without being wacky, and full of life.
The Choro for Bassoon and Chamber Orchestra (choro means cry) is next and opens with martial snare and dryly gloomy bassoon. It was one of the last things Guarnieri wrote and he died before its world premiere; his son Daniel was left in a coma and he himself had been diagnosed with throat cancer. The first piece movement is Calmo (“calm”, presumably) and is slow, although it has a jazz feel to it as it plays on – some folk music trying to break out – the second movement being livelier and quite jolly.
The Choro for Flute and Chamber Orchestra is next, offering a more ethereal feel, flautist Cláudio Nascimento giving a good performance.
The Chôro for Violin and Orchestra ends the CD over three movements. It’s a more expansive piece, the opening section feeling a little pastoral English, maybe even some larks ascending, and some nice contrasts between the orchestral strings and the lone but melodic violin. This section is one of the highlights of the CD. It becomes increasing more divergent in sound, more reminiscent of campfire dancing in the Wild West than bird-related English music, although the campers would be gauchos or vaqueiros. The third movement is livelier and in places similar to something Mike Oldfield might do, all repetition and building up. The rhythm gets intricate towards the end, and it all builds to an enjoyable climax.
The players not mentioned are Olga Kopylova on piano, Alexandre Silvério on bassoon, Davi Graton on violin and the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra.
This enjoyable CD is out on Naxos, 8.574197.