Monday, June 21, 2010

Guarnieri's Piano Concertos Give Your Ear A Workout

"The most important Brazilian composer after Villa-Lobos" the liner notes for today's CD tell us. Mozart Camargo Guarnieri (1907-1993) may well be that. I have had the misfortune to miss a decent performance of any of his works over the years. I still have a few recordings, made in the pre-stereo era, sounding like the orchestra was trying to play inside a soup can. (Or desperately trying to get out of that can!)
Suffice to say that I didn't get the full impact of his music. Until now.

Guarnieri's Piano Concertos Nos. 4, 5, and 6 (Naxos 8.557667) as performed by Thomas Conlin conducting the Warsaw Philharmonic with Max Barros, piano, gives you full-throttle music, excellently executed.

This is exciting, dynamic modernism, alternately brash and pellucid. Its motor-sensory insistence suggests early Prokofiev or middle period Stravinsky. The melodic invention and overall orchestration suggest nobody.

The generous inclusion of the last three concertos (composed 1968-87) gives us an extended look at the composer in a sort of international modern framework. It's not music overflowing with South American folk strains. They are not well-known works, at least in the States, but they should be. No. 6, in fact, enjoys its world premier performance here.

If you love the modern style, this one will be a real treat. Bravo Guarnieri!

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