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!
of the Academia Brasileira de Música