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Camargo GUARNERI (1907-1993)
Piano Concerto No. 1 (1931) [19:46]
Piano Concerto No. 2 (1946) [22:57]
Piano Concerto No. 3 (1964) [27:06]
Max Barros (piano)
Warsaw PO/Thomas Conlin
rec. 20-21 Aug 2004, 24-25 June 2004, 4-5 Jan 2003, Philharmonic Hall, Warsaw. DDD
NAXOS 8.557666 [69:49]

While Bis are making real headway with recording the seven symphonies by Guarnieri it has fallen to Naxos to address the piano concertos.

Back to basics. Camargo Guarnieri is the second most noted Brazilian composer - the first being Villa-Lobos. Rather like the music of his more illustrious compatriot Guarnieri's works received performances in the USA and Europe. Stokowski, Ormandy and Leonard Bernstein included his music in their orchestral concerts.

This is the world premiere recording of the First Concerto which had to be reconstructed from orchestral parts. Its rhythmic vitality and range of orchestral effect is notable. The dissolute and the dangerous rub shoulders with the exuberance of carnival and the noise of street life. Yet in the attacca second movement there is time for hushed and murmurous self-absorption. The finale rasps, rattles and cracks with electricity. Everything is pellucidly laid out in a score that has the rude eruptive energy of Villa-Lobos without his dense horizontal voluptuousness. This is a cracking performance too.

The tang and burr of this score owes something to the use of the reco-reco (scraper), the chocalho (rattle) and culca (friction drum).

Guarneri in the piano solo shows the syncopative brilliance of Walton, Lambert and Prokofiev in music that is picaresque, brusque, fantastic, stirring and triumphant. This is very much the case with the Second Concerto. Another thing you come to notice quickly is his mellow way with the middle movement of the concertos which are enchantingly time-stoppingly thoughtful as a counterpoise to the headlong rhythmic activity by which they are hemmed in. In the case of the Second Concerto the romance is touched with the metropolitan romance of Gershwin.

There is a tightening of romantic belts in the Third Concerto. The rhythmic threat and vitality is still there in the solo part but some dissonance is present in the ruthlessly exciting solo part. James Melo, in his invaluably informative note, remarks on the work's sinfonia concertante nature although solo and group lines from the orchestra strike me as just as integral in the other two concertos. Once again the middle movement is romantic yet for example in the filigree butterfly dialogue with the flute (1:40 onwards) there is a degree more chill in the air.

This is presumably the first of two CDs to provide a complete cycle of the six piano concertos. I hope so. For now the adventurous will be rewarded with three piano concertos bursting with vitality and charting Guarneri's way with the rhythm and romance of the big city.

Rob Barnett

See also reviews by John Phillips and John Quinn



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