Review of Radamés Gnattali Complete Music for Solo Guitar, Vitor Gaberlotto, 1999
The more I listen to Sudamerican composers’ music, the more I think that this continent is the perfect place where popular and high cultures were able to meet themselves without those prejudices and polemics that we usually find in European culture.
Let’s talk about, for examples, Radamés Gnattali (27 January 1906 – 3 February 1988), Brazilian composer of both classical and popular music, as well as a conductor, orchestrator, and arranger.
Reading his biography it may seems that Gnattali was predestined as a musician and a composer: his mother, Adélia Fossati, was a pianist and music teacher and his father, Alessandro Gnattali, had been a carpenter in Italy, but after arriving in Brazil applied his passion for music to creating a new career for himself as a successful bassoonist and conductor. Also his name, Radamés, was named after characters from Verdi operas.
He began to play the piano with his mother at the age of 6, and went on to learn the violin with his cousin Olga Fossati. When he was 9 he received an award from the Italian consul for conducting a children’s orchestra in arrangements of his own. In the following years, he also learned the guitar and cavaquinho and started playing these instruments in a successful group called Os Exagerados, as well as at silent films and dances. Then, Gnattali began a career in Rio as a successful conductor and arranger of popular music—activities which tended to divert his attention from other genres. Financial needs led him to work for radio stations and record companies as a pianist, conductor and arranger of popular music.
In parallel, he pursued a career as a self-taught composer of classical music. While beginning to compose music influenced by Brazilian folk materials, he continued to dream of becoming a major concert artist. Gnattali’s musical career straddled popular and classical genres and their traditions. His arrangements of samba pieces, involving strings, woodwind and brass (rather than the traditional accompaniments with two guitars, cavaquinho, accordion, tamborin and flute) exposed him to lifelong critical attacks from Brazilian musical traditionalists who resented the “jazzing up” of the genre. Conversely, some of his serious concert pieces (música de concerto) attracted the opposite criticism of inappropriately introducing instruments such as the mandolin, marimba, accordion, mouth organ and electric guitar into the concert hall. In doing this, he was inspired by his friends from the world of popular music, including Jacob do Bandolim (literally, “Mandolin Jacob”), Edu da Gaita (“Harmonica Edu”) and Chiquinho do Acordeom (“Accordion Chiquinho”), for each of whom he composed dedicated concert pieces. By the 1930s he was composing concert music in a Neo-Romantic style also incorporating jazz and traditional Brazilian strains. Over the decades, the emphasis Gnattali placed on these components shifted towards jazz in the early 1950s and back towards the Brazilian popular styles by the start of the 1960s.
I would like to thank brasilian guitar player Vitor Gaberlotto for releasing this beautiful “complete Music for Solo Guitar”, produced by Ulisses Rocha, where he plays all his solo work, In this record we could listen to Pequena Suite para Violao Solo, Danca Brasileira, Brasiliana n# 13, Toccata em ritmo de samba e I Dez estudios para violao, all for 19 beautiful tracks
Gnattali non only composed these guitar scores, but also three solo concertos and three duo concertos. His connections between popular and high cultures are clearly audible in his musics and are the roots of his musical ideas and creativity Brazilian composer Antônio Carlos Jobim included the song “Meu Amigo Radamés” as a tribute to Radamés in his final album, Antonio Brasileiro (1994). What else a contemporary composer would want more?