Guarnieri, M[ozart] Camargo (1907–1993)

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Guarnieri, M[ozart] Camargo (1907–1993)

M[ozart] Camargo Guarnieri (b. 1 February 1907, d. 13 January 1993), Brazilian composer, conductor, teacher, and leader of the nationalist school of composers. Guarnieri was the son of a Sicilian immigrant remotely related to the Guarneri family of violin makers (the name was accidentally changed due to the mistake of an immigration official) and a Brazilian mother. His father, Miguel Guarnieri, an amateur musician, played the piano, flute, and string bass. He had a lifelong passion for opera and named his four sons Mozart, Rossini, Bellini, and Verdi. When Guarnieri became aware of the significance of the name Mozart, he dropped it and signed his name M. Camargo Guarnieri, feeling that it was presumptuous to be called by the name of the great master. Aware that his son had musical talent, and that educational opportunities were limited in the town of Tieté, Miguel Guarnieri moved to the city of São Paulo in 1922. In São Paulo, Camargo was placed under the tutelage of two teachers who exercised a decisive influence on his artistic and intellectual development: the Italian conductor and teacher Lamberto Baldi and Mário de Andrade, philosopher, teacher, and leader of the modernist movement in Brazil. Guarnieri studied with both teachers during the same period. Andrade undertook the direction of Guarnieri's studies in aesthetics and literature, and Baldi taught him counterpoint, fugue, and orchestration, while also gently guiding his efforts in composition. Guarnieri's first successful composition to exhibit obvious national characteristics was a sonatina for piano written in 1928. This work exhibited several characteristics of Guarnieri's mature style of composition: melodies that sounded folklike while avoiding direct quotations of folk melodies, use of typically Brazilian tempo and expression markings in Portuguese—Molengamente (indolently) and Ponteado e bem dengoso (with a plucked sound, coyly), contrapuntal writing, and use of layers of syncopated voices.

Guarnieri had a major influence on Brazilian music by his teaching of composition, by establishing a high level of craftsmanship in his own musical writing, and by providing a model of tonal and nontonal works with convincing national elements. Although Guarnieri did some writing in an atonal style, he soon came to the conviction that his style of writing was incompatible with what he regarded as the straitjacket of dodecaphony. He believed so strongly that atonality was incompatible with the development of national elements that he conducted a vigorous debate in Brazilian newspapers against what he regarded as the pernicious influence of atonality in the works of Brazilian composers.

Camargo Guarnieri wrote over six hundred musical works, many unpublished. The fifty Ponteios for piano are one of the most significant contributions to piano literature from any Brazilian composer and are a treasure of elements uniquely and distinctively Brazilian. Several orchestral works have won international acclaim, and his fourth and fifth sonatas for violin are masterpieces of the genre. He was also an important teacher of music, instructing students such as Vasconcellos Correa, Osvaldo Lacerda, and Aylton Escobar.

See alsoMusic: Art Music; Musical Instruments.


Marion Verhaalen, "The Solo Piano Music of Francisco Mignone and Camargo Guarnieri" (Ed.D. diss., Columbia Univ., 1971).

David P. Appleby, The Music of Brazil (1983).

Additional Bibliography

Grossi, Alex Sandra de Souza. "O idiomático de Camargo Guarnieri nos 10 improvisos para piano." M.A. thesis, Universidade de São Paulo, 2002.

Silva, Flávio. "Camargo Guarnieri e Mário de Andrade." Latin American Music Review 20, no. 2 (Fall-Winter 1999): 184-212.

                                     David P. Appleby

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Guarnieri, M[ozart] Camargo (1907–1993)

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