Camargo Guarnieri (b. 1907)
Nos. 4 - 6
Camargo Guarnieri was born in 1907 in Tiete in the province of São Paulo. His father came from Sicily and his mother was Brazilian and at his baptism he was given the additional name of Mozart, a firm statement of parental aspirations. He studied first with his father, a flautist in a wind band, and with a local teacher, before taking piano lessons in São Paulo with Ernani Braga and Antonio de sá Pereira. At the Conservatory he was strongly influenced by his teachers Lamberto Baldi and Mario de Andrade, the latter encouraging him to an interest in folk music. In 1927 he joined the teaching staff of the São Paulo Conservatory and the following years brought a number of piano compositions, songs and in 1931 a wind quintet, preceded in 1930 by the first of a series of six violin sonatas, the last of which was written in 1965. In 1936 his choral Coisa deste Brasil won him the first prize of the State Cultural Department, founded the year before. He also distinguished himself in São Paulo as a choral and orchestral conductor, notably with the Coral Paulistino. In 1938 a scholarship took him to Paris, following the example of Villa-Lobos fifteen years before. Here he studied with Charles Koechlin, his most important teacher, and the Paris Symphony Orchestra devoted a complete concert to his works. Other important contacts in Paris included the conductor Ruhlmann, from whom he had lessons, and Nadia Boulanger. At the outbreak of war he returned to Brazil.
1942 brought the first prize of the Philadelphia Fleischer Music Collection for Guarnieri"s first Violin Concerto, an invitation from the Panamerican Union for a concert in New York for the League of Composers and a performance of his Abertura concertante (Concert Overture) in Boston, for which Koussevitzky handed the baton to the composer. Other performances of his works and awards followed in the United States, while at home he won a Brazilian competition in 1946andin 1954 the first prize in celebration of the quatercentenary of São Paulo. He became a life member of the Brazilian Academy of Music set up by Villa-Lobos in 1945 and was later president of the Academy and from 1960 director of the São Paulo Conservatory.
In style Guarnieri belongs to a third generation of national Brazilian composers, following the first stage, initiated by composers like his teacher Braga, and the second stage epitomized in the work of Villa-Lobos, twenty years his senior. He was strongly influenced by Koechlin, who helped him consolidate his orchestral technique, without sacrificing his national tendencies, now absorbed more fully into his musical language. Although he very occasionally experimented with twelve-note technique, in general, like Villa-Lobos, he kept apart from the serialism that the German emigre Hans Joachim Koellreutter was promoting, with other contemporary European techniques.
The fourth, fifth and sixth Violin Sonatas of Guarnieri were written in 1956, 1959 and 1965 respectively and remain fully tonal. Sonata No.4 opens with passionate energy, vigorous and demonstrative in its musical gestures. The emphatic ending of the first movement leads to a gentle slow movement, the portamento and glissandi of the violin suggesting another mode of national musical idiom. The sombre mood restored after the dynamic climax of the movement is broken by an outburst from the piano, introducing a finale of strongly stated and dramatic melodic contour and colour, in which the opening figure undergoes various transformations.
Sonata No.5 starts more gently with a movement marked Comodo. Here again the melodic idiom, whatever its origin, is thoroughly absorbed into Guarnieri"s own distinctive musical vocabulary. Once more much use is made of a recurrent melodic figure in a texture that often suggests the neo-classical. A violin moto perpetuo brings the movement to an end, to be followed by the characteristically titled Temo (tender), with its immediate suggestion of motivic unity, but in a very different mood. The piano starts the last movement Gingando (swaying) in declamatory style, answered by the violin, in music of force, energy and brilliance, which brings occasional moments of lyrical relaxation.
The first movement of Sonata No.6, marked Tranquillo, is opened by the piano in a statement of thematic simplicity, taken up by the violin and growing in intensity as the movement progresses. A livelier section leads to a return of the earlier mood and material. The second movement, marked Misterioso, briefly introduced by the piano, unwinds with a sustained violin melodic line over vestigial piano comments, spare in texture and generally restrained in gesture. To this the last movement, marked Grandioso, offers a strong contrast, opening, in the mood implied, with a violin declamation over the fierce chords of the piano, moving on to energetic motor rhythms, lively sequential writing and further declamatory passages, all demonstrating the motivic unity of the movement and of the sonata.