Like football (soccer) and coffee, the guitar is inextricably linked with Brazil in the collective imagination. Yet despite its significance to the country’s musical identity, the major class divide in the colonial period saw the guitar dismissed as an instrument of the common, uneducated populace, in contrast to the piano, which represented the aspirations of the wealthier middle classes.
Things changed in the early 20th century, however. In 1916 a performance by Italian-Brazilian guitarist Canhoto won over both media and Brazilian elite, heralding the start of a new era for the guitar, and various Italian luthiers moved to the New World, taking advantage of the great market opportunities Brazil offered to turn their craft production into a more industrial enterprise.
The guitar’s status as a national symbol rests on an identity-building process combining various elements, and that mix of cultural influences can be seen in the compositions of Radameìs Gnattali (1906–1988). He used elements of popular music in his supposedly high-brow compositions, blurring the boundary between the two styles. Gnattali fought relentlessly to break down the barriers between classical and popular music, becoming the most important – and most prolific – Brazilian composer in the guitar repertoire of the 1950s. His music has its own unique sound, featuring magnificent writing for the instrument, unexpected harmonic solutions and boundless inspiration.
The Brazilian composer, pianist and conductor Francisco Mignone (1897–1986) – another musician of Italian heritage – was considered a ‘nationalist’ by scholars and ‘high-brow’ by those from the world of popular music. His vast oeuvre for guitar includes two large cycles – the Estudos (recorded here) and the Valsas – which showcase exceptional technical flair and impressive stylistic versatility, delving into everything from popular music to serialism.
The guitar is, like football and coffee, an element linked to the collective imagination of Brazil. The guitar's contribution to Brazilian musical culture has been fluctuating: the great class differences of the colonial period had de-qualified it as the instrument of the ignorant and uneducated populace, as opposed to the piano, which instead carried the ideal of the richer bourgeoisie. This situation changed however at the beginning of the 20th century, when composers emerged who linked the “higher” and “lower” culture.
This 2-CD set present the complete studies for guitar by two Brazilian composers (both children of Italian immigrants): Radamés Gnattali (1906-1988) and Francisco Mignone (1897-1986).
Gnattali’s music is unique: the writing for the instrument is excellent, the harmonic solutions surprising and the inspiration inexhaustible. After Villa-Lobos, Gnattali's work is considered to be the most appreciated and performed. Francisco Mignone, before being regarded as a 'serious composer', was successful in the popular genre. Adopting the pseudonym Chico Bororó, he composed many valsas and maxixes: their popular influence can be found in all his later musical output. Mignone's works for guitar includes two great cycles, the Estudos and the Valsas, characterized by exceptional technical brilliance and uncommon versatility of styles, from folk to serial composition.
Played with rich colors and immense joy by Italian guitarist Andrea Monarda, about whom Ennio Morricone said: “I am truly grateful to M° Andrea Monarda for his precise analysis of my Quattro pezzi for guitar. I am grateful for the attention and the experience of the brilliant professional who, with his sensitive interpretation, ‘discovered’ the secret intentions of the composer.”
Recorded November 2021 in Molfetta, Italy.
Bilingual booklet in English and Italian contains liner notes by musicologist Miriam Di Pasquale Baumann, along with the artist biography Andrea Monarda plays a Sergio Abreu guitar (1991).