The Music of Guernieri



GUERNIERI: Elementa I: Breath / Sebastiano Severi, cel / Elementa II: Fluctus; Lumina; Pulvis…sulla iv corda; Nihil / Giacomo Scarponi, vln; Cristina Marrai, pno / Lightscape. Elementa VII: Notturno; Aube; Apres-dinnada; Vesprada; Furiant – Notturno / Angela Beghelli, Laura Biffi, Maura Morongiu, sop; Marco Venturuzzo, fl; Adriano Piccioni, bs; Marrai, pno / Con Templum Cœli / Giacomo Scarponi, vln; Cristina Marrai, pno / Quartetto 2: Immaginari sonori Rapsodico / Quartetto Mirus / Adorno Te devote / Coro Euridice, dir. Maurizio Guernieri / Tactus TC 960701

This CD presents the chamber music of modern Italian composer Maurizio Guernieri (b. 1962). The composer describes his Elementa series as “meditations on the relationship between man and nature, and on the elements of nature, which, being often mismanaged by man, contribute to their own flourishing or decadence,” while Con Templum cœeli is a meditation upon looking skyward and the quartet explores “sound environments.” Adorno te devote is a vocal version of Con Templum.

Guernieri’s writing uses microtones and clashing harmonics within an amorphous framework of sound. Part of the fascination of Elements I: Breath is the incredibly rich, deep tone of Sebastiano Severi, a masterful cellist with a wonderful technique. Guernieri also uses dramatic upward flourishes at unexpected moments to create drama as the music progresses, but I’d have to give some credit to Severi for imparting so much feeling to the score as well since Guernieri’s music is as much about mood as about the notes being played.

One can also hear this in the dramatic violin-piano duets of Elementa II. After reviewing so many recordings where the instruments and/or singers are swathed in reverb, it’s a real pleasure to hear a CD where the musicians are miked quite closely, making it sound as if they were playing in your living room. Here Guernieri relies heavily on long-held notes while the harmony shifts underneath, moving to faster, more dramatic passages in Lumina. Strange things are definitely happening here! No. 3, titled Pulvis…sulla iv corda, features edgy, rough-sounding bowing from the violin against both low and high-end chords from the piano, while in Nihil he uses an ostinato rhythm in the piano against high, edgy violin figures, sometimes lyrical and sometimes quite edgy.

Lightscape and Elementa VIII are played by a trio of flute, bass and piano. Here, Guernieri focuses on the lyrical aspects of the flute but does not ignore the ostinato rhythms that the piano can produce or the low, long lines of the bass. One thing I particularly like about his music is that he uses a varied approach from piece to piece; he does not just have “one voice” as so many modern composers do. Even within this one piece, Guernieri shifts rhythms and moods frequently, creating a mosaic of sound and feelings.

Elementa VII combines a trio of female voices with the chamber trio to create a multi-faceted work in which Guernieri pulls out all the stops rhythmically, melodically and in terms of constantly shifting meter. In Furiant- Notturno,  he uses strong contrapuntal figures  for both the voices and the instruments, often playing against one another.

We then hear Con Templum Cœli in both of its forms, as an instrumental and as a choral work. Here Guernieri relies more heavily on tonal harmonies and simple ostinato rhythms to make his points, and the music becomes even richer in the choral version.

This is one of those rare CDs of modern music that holds your interest from beginning to end. all of it superbly played and sung.

—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley

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