The Complete Guitar Works of Burle Marx
The Complete Guitar Works of Burle Marx
Saudade do Nosso Amigo
Mr. B. A. C. H. Visits Brasilia
Violeiros de Guaratiba
I. Festa (Samba)
II. Santa Antonio da Bica (Choro)
III. Conversa (Fuga)
IV. Flora Amazonica (Fantasia)
V. Folias de Guaratiba (Frevo)
Saga do Medievo
This folio of solo guitar works is a true discovered treasure. I had the good fortune to become friends with Madalena Burle Marx, the composer’s daughter, and her husband, James Ryon, when they lived in Akron, OH. Ryon was the oboe professor for many years at the University of Akron, and Madalena held the position of principal cellist with the Akron Symphony Orchestra, and played with many ensembles in the area. I enjoyed playing chamber music with both of them on several occasions. When the subject of her father’s guitar works came up, naturally, I was intrigued. They were written for Andres Segovia, at the great performer’s suggestion; the two had a lasting friendship. Unfortunately, circumstances prevented them from being played by him. Instead, the scores languished, virtually unknown. I had the pleasure of premiering two of the works in 1989. After another lengthy hiatus, it is gratifying to finally see the entire collection emerge in print for the enjoyment of the entire guitar community.
Guitarists will quickly discern here a deep resource for the serious performer. The shorter works, Mr. B-A-C-H Visits Brasilia and Saudade do Nosso Amigo are compelling, beautifully drawn compositions which satisfy on many levels. They are melodically memorable, harmonically inventive, and structurally mature works which will easily find a place in the repertoire. The collection of short dance-style works, Violeiros de Guaratiba, shows Burle Marx’s less serious side. Even here, though, numerous subtle and surprising details keep the pieces from sounding like familiar Brazilian pop instrumentals. They are delightfully tuneful, rhythmically catchy, and always comfortable to play. The masterwork in the collection, the Saga do Medievo, is an extraordinary and important find for guitarists. Made up of over forty variations on a ground, it rivals Ponce’s Folias Variations in several ways. Burle Marx employs a breathtaking range of techniques and compositional devices to keep this work in motion. Its careful construction and inventive, often quite complex episodes belie its accessibility. This work is sure to find its way into the repertoire of serious concert artists.
Burle Marx’s compositions all show a sophisticated understanding of compositional technique. Throughout the works, though, the guitarist will delight in the pieces’ playability. He wrote extremely well for the instrument; much of this music is of intermediate level. Further, while the European influence on his compositional style is evident throughout, so is his Brazilian heritage. All of these works are clearly Brazilian. This, to my mind, is one of their greatest qualities. In many ways, Burle Marx achieved the same thing as his countryman, Heitor Villa Lobos: a convincing synthesis between the classical idiom and folkloric elements. It is my pleasure to help bring his guitar music out of obscurity, and my hope it will attract the notice it certainly deserves.
Director, Classical Guitar Studies Programs
The University of Akron/Oberlin Conservatory of Music
Born in São Paulo, Brazil, Walter Burle Marx began his career as a pianist, studying with Enrique Oswald in Rio de Janeiro, Tobias Mattay in London and James Kwast in Berlin. Although he concertized widely throughout Brazil and Europe in the 1920's, he also studied composition with Emil von Resnicek and conducting with Felix Weingartner during this period. In 1931 he founded the Rio de Janeiro Philharmonic and conducted numerous premieres with this orchestra, among them, the first South American performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Soloists with the orchestra included Arthur Rubinstein, Mieczislav Horszowski and Margaret Long. He was also the first to organize youth concerts in Brazil.
During the decade following his return to Brazil in 1931, Burle Marx continued to conduct in both Europe and the United States. Among the most notable orchestras that he guest conducted were the Berlin Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Detroit and the National Symphony Orchestras. He served as Music Director of the Brazilian Pavilion at the 1939 World's Fair in New York City where he conducted the New York Philharmonic in several premieres of works by now-notable Brazilian composers such as Heitor Villa Lobos and Camargo Guarnieri. He also introduced some of his own compositions. One of these, Fantastic Episodes, prompted N.Y. Times critic Olin Downes to remark, "It was a score of astonishing workmanship. Very few young men of his generation could write with such a proficiency that it conceals knowledge and seizes the public."
In 1947 Burle Marx was appointed Artistic Director of the Rio de Janeiro Opera. In 1949 he left Brazil in order to become a permanent U.S. resident and devote himself entirely to composition. From 1952 until his retirement in 1977, he taught piano, theory and composition at the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia. He continued to compose until his death in December of 1990.
The Burle Marx Music Society was founded early in 1987 to promote the music and work of W. Burle Marx and other Brazilian and Pan-American composers and musicians. The Society produces musical events, and distributes scores and recordings to performing ensembles and organizations. Associates in both the United States and Latin America are working with the Society to achieve these goals. Among Burle Marx's richly varied works are 4 symphonies, several pieces for solo guitar, 2 concertinos for piano and orchestra, a cello concerto, 2 string quartets, a quartet for ancient instruments, a quintet for flute and strings and a song cycle entitled The Great Occasions, featuring songs for American holidays as well as others celebrated around the world. His Halloween song provided the inspiration for a musical play with orchestra, chorus and soloists written for UNICEF entitled The Witchkids.
Madalena Burle Marx