CD Tributo a Guerra-Peixe











In the days when there were no recordings, no radio and no television, when the only way to hear music was live, it was very common for a single work to have many different versions so that it could be heard more readily. Composers themselves would make different versions, as would other musicians. We need only look as far as Beethoven’s own version of his Symphony No. 2 for Trio (piano, violin and cello), or Mendelssohn’s version of his Symphony No. 1 (for large orchestra), which the composer scored for two pianos, violin and cellos in order to play it with his brothers. 

Nineteenth century operas were published with three or more orchestrations, depending on the theaters’ possibilities, not to mention versions and adaptations of entire operas for piano only or for string quartet, in addition to sections that could even be played on barrel organs. 

Therefore, Tribute to Guerra-Peixe is no “heresy,” even for purists, since in addition to Staneck’s arrangements (or “versions” as I prefer to call them), it contains the Master’s works, some of these rare recordings with new sound quality that loses none of the original character. 

In Guerra-Peixe’s chamber repertory, Três Peças, from 1957, is of special note. Having matured in his Brazilian phase, the composer took inspiration from events of the masses - religious or otherwise - and from Northeastern folklore, which he studied and experienced in depth. A work originally written for viola and piano was soon written for violin and cello. For the first of these, “Galope,” the composer made a version for two flutes and strings for performance by the Orchestra Armorial. With regards to “reza-de-defunto,” insufficient documentation makes it impossible to determine if it is the composer’s creation or based on folk elements, especially in the piece’s opening. In “Toque jêje” it is clear: here we note not only the rhythm of the Pernambuco xangôs, but also a “toque cego” and “recitativo” based on a song the priest sings at certain times in the ceremonies. 

From viola and violin to violin and guitar another famous piece was written: “Mourão” is very well known, and the listener will recognize melodies and rhythms from the orchestral version, now in a chamber version for other instruments. 

With his Brazilian flavored “mariodeandradiano” (thank goodness!), Guerra-Peixe once again  reinterpreted a European form: he intentionally used the term cantoria (singing) instead of “cantata.” The first cantoria, Drummondiana, was composed in 1978 for voice and orchestra based on texts by Carlos Drummond de Andrade – one of the composer’s favorites – and soon written for voice and piano. This CD features two sections: the third and last. Without the text, the listener can appreciate Guerra-Peixe’s lyricism and – why not? – his romanticism.  

After abandoning dodecaphonism, in 1949 Guerra-Peixe moved into his second phase: Brazilian. This year’s trip to Recife in June was a catalyst for his aesthetic shift. At the end of the year, he actually moved to the city. New works were born as he embraced authentic Brazilian folk music and folklore: Suíte N° 1 for piano is one of them. The composer always preferred to call the first movement “Ponteado,” rather than “ponteio.” The other movements are already Brazilian, especially the “dobrado,” characteristic of those dear “rural bands.” The same year it was orchestrated and named “Suíte para pequena orchestra.” I myself directed the premiere of this version – forty-five years later! 

A inúbia do caboclinho, from 1956, which the composer considered an incidental piece for small orchestra and solo piccolo, was also written in three versions in April of 1971: for solo piano, for violin and piano and for flute and piano. Guerra-Peixe evokes the high pitch of the inúbia (wooden flute used in the caboclinho groups of Pernambuco) and the agility of its players. This work has drawn increasing interest from musicians and audiences. 

Guerra-Peixe was inspired by the book “The Swallow and the Tom Cat,” by another of his favorite writers, Jorge Amado. He wrote a summary of this novel, which the author approved, to serve as a guide for a musical work. Guerra-Peixe then composed O gato malhado, for piano, in April of 1982, and its orchestral version the following January. The writer himself, as well as the book’s illustrator, Caribe, attended the premier of the orchestral version of the work. Following the concert, TV Cultura da Bahia interviews an Amado moved by Guerra-Peixe’s music, which so well interprets the drama of his novel. I conducted this premier with the Orquestra Sinfônica da Bahia, and during the music actor Dino Brasil gave a dramatic reading of Guerra-Peixe’s text. The work was dedicated to Valéria Peixoto.  

Quatro coisas: Another Brazilian expression that Guerra-Peixe preferred to call “coisa” (thing) rather than bagatelle or the like. This piece was composed in December of 1987 especially for “mouth harp” (as the composer wrote in his handwritten catalogue) and piano, with another version written for flute or violin, and yet another for string orchestra and solo instrument, in April of 1991. I directed this premiere also, with Rildo Hora on harmonica and the Orchestra of Uni-Rio. Written in the composer’s later years, it is a work that really represents the “national synthesis” of the Master’s last compositional phase. 

As a former student of Guerra-Peixe, I must express my admiration for the versions of José Staneck, who deeply understood the composer’s musical thinking and even gives the impression that he studied instrumentation with him! 

Ernani Aguiar
of the Academia Brasileira de Música