Mozart Camargo Guarnieri (February 1, 1907 – January 13, 1993) was a Brazilian composer.Guarnieri was born on February 1, 1907, in Tietê, São Paulo, and registered at birth as Wolfgang Mozart Guarnieri. Guarnieri’s father was a Sicilian immigrant who married a Brazilian wife and gave each of his children a name honoring a great composer. One of his brothers was named Rossine (a Portuguese misspelling of Rossini) Guarnieri, another one Verdi Guarnieri. At age ten, Guarnieri began to fulfill the implied promise of his name by beginning musical studies. In 1923, the family moved to São Paolo, where he took piano lessons; to help support the family and to pay for further musical studies he played in silent theater orchestras and in café bands. He also took classes in piano and composition at the São Paolo Conservatório, a Musical and Theater Conservatory, studying composition and conducting.
By the time Guarnieri was 21 he had written his Brazilian Dance and his Canção Sertaneja, highly popular pieces (the dance is his best-known work outside of Brazil) that put him on the road to renown. In 1927, he was appointed to teach piano at the Conservatory. His reputation was bolstered by the appearance of the early installments in his body of songs, one of the most important by any Latin American composer. When he began a musical career, he decided his name was too pretentious and subject to puns. Thus he adopted his mother’s maiden name Camargo, and thenceforth signed himself M. Camargo Guarnieri. In 1935, the city of São Paulo founded its own Department of Culture. Guarnieri took over its conducting position and gained special esteem as a choral conductor. In 1936 he was the first conductor of the Coral Paulistano choir. In 1938 a government fellowship enabled him to study in Paris. He took counterpoint, fugue, composition, and musical aesthetics courses from composer Charles Koechlin, undertook conducting studies with Franz Rühlmann, and, like so many other twentieth-century composers, attended master classes with Nadia Boulanger.
In 1942, Guarnieri’s violin concerto was the first prize of the Philadelphia Free Library Fleischer Music Collection. His small symphonic piece Encantamento became especially popular. Early in the 1940s, his first two symphonies were premiered in Brazil and the U.S. The Symphony No. 2 became known as a “Symphony of the Americas.” Some of his compositions received important prizes in the United States in the 1940s, giving Guarnieri the opportunity of conducting them in New York, Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago. In 1945, he was appointed conductor of the São Paolo Symphony Orchestra. In 1948, he legally changed his name to Mozart Camargo Guarnieri, but continued to sign only the initial of his first name.
Guarnieri’s Symphony No. 3 (1952) was dedicated to the 400th anniversary of the founding of São Paolo. Some critics consider his Symphony No. 6 his finest achievement in the form. Aside from opera and other stage genres, Camargo Guarnieri wrote in virtually every genre of classical music. His violin sonatas are particularly well respected among chamber music players, but the crown jewel of his oeuvre is his series of over 200 songs. These adroitly reflect the main currents of Brazilian music: Portuguese, Afro-Brazilian, and Amerindian. Many of them have been adapted by Brazilian popular musicians. A distinguished figure of the Brazilian national school, he served in several capacities; conductor of the São Paulo Orchestra, member of the Academia Brasileira de Música, and in 1960 Director of the São Paulo Conservatório, where he taught composition and orchestral conducting. His works include symphonies, concertos, cantatas, two operas, chamber music, many piano pieces, and over fifty canções.
Guarnieri began to adopt 12-tone elements in his music around 1960, but then took time off from composition to reconsider his aesthetic approach. Finally he returned to his established style, if anything increasing the emphasis on national and popular elements. Guarnieri is universally recognized as the most important Brazilian composer after Heitor Villa-Lobos. He was a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity. Shortly before his death, he was awarded the Gabriela Mistral Prize by the Organization of American States as the greatest contemporary composer of the Americas. He died in São Paolo on January 13, 1993, just a few weeks short of his 86th birthday.
After the era of Heitor Villa-Lobos, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Camargo Guarnieri became the best known Brazilian composer. His music is as imbued with the same quality of “Brazilianness” as that of his predecessor, and it is not as polyphonically complex. Most of his music included a variety Brazilian national elements. Guarnieri’s work in the popular music field and his contact with the nationalist Brazilian ethnomusicologist Mario de Andrade influenced him to adopt Brazilian popular and folk influences in much of his music. Camargo Guarnieri is particularly noted for his art songs and dance pieces, many of which have also been successful as popular songs. His completely violinistic sonatas for violin and piano, Nos. 4-6, written in 1956, 1959 and 1965, are a fascinating addition to duo repertoire.
My collection includes the following work by Camargo Guarnieri:
—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources