The twenty members of the two-decades old, Brazilian string ensemble Orquestra Câmara do Amazonas, led by Bruno Nascimento, impressively take on four wonderful works by Latin American composers in a recent release now available on several platforms.

The four works in the album are deeply contrasting compositions. Miudinho, by Francisco Paulo Mignone and Mourão by César Guerra Peixe are both charming pieces d’occasion written in a vernacular pop Brazilian style.

Antônio Carlos Gomes, a 19th century Brazilian Romantic composer best known for his operas O Guarany and the Italian language Lo Schiavo is represented by his O burrico de pau (The Wooden Donkey) a work for strings in four movements that Gomes brought to life when inspired by a dream in which he rode a hobby horse that carried him to various places in his childhood. The set of four vignettes in the bright key of D Major is unquestionably the original creation of Gomes, yet redolent of Heitor Villa-Lobos’ A próle do bébé.

The Orquestra Câmara do Amazonas plays Antonio Carlos Gomes’s delightfully melodic music with vibrancy and nimble technical prowess.

The Cuban-born composer and multi-instrumentalist Yalil Guerra has distinguished himself throughout a career in which he has successfully embraced both concert and pop music.

Guerra’s El Retrato de la Paloma – one of this prolific composer’s most  accomplished works – depicts in four movements the birth – El Nacimiento (Maestoso con Amore), the flight from the nest – El Vuelo (Prestissimo e Grazioso) of a being – presumably the symbolic dove of the title – that in the third movement – El Primer Beso (Largo e Amoroso) and fourth movement – La Fuga (Allegro con Fuoco) transforms through the sensuality of the music into a human love object.

Guerra’s composition is imaginatively orchestrated, with the higher strings seeming throughout to hold on to a pervadingly melancholy tone while celli and basses often interject dissonances that especially in the slower passages disrupt the languor of the proceedings. The music of this compellingly intense yet brief tone poem is narrative, dramatic and unapologetically Romantic.

The Brazilian ensemble does itself proud with its flawless reading of these musical gems by Latin American composers – one of which – Yalil Guerra – lives and works in our country, all four deserving of greater recognition.

Rafael de Acha © 2023

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