Twelve Etudes in 6 Strings
by Cyro Delvizo
Francisco Mignone (1897-1986) was a Brazilian composer, pianist, and conductor with both an informal and an academic background (from choro street gigs to Milan, Paris and São Paulo Conservatoires). Mignone composed more than 1000 works, a number almost only comparable to Johann Sebastian Bach. Mixing popular and classical features, he synthesized the Brazilian identity and merged it with modern processes. This is evident in his Twelve Guitar Studies (collecting local genres such as modinha, seresta, choro, and frevo, among others). Created in 1970, these studies have been celebrated worldwide as technically challenging and, for this very reason, have rarely been played by guitarists, resulting in few live performances and recordings. To change this reality and to (re)introduce them to the audiences, the outstanding and daring guitarist Cyro Delvizio realized his doctoral research at the University of São Paulo applying multiple and creative problem-solving tools to this work, creating more than 875 different solutions to Mignone’s Twelve Guitar Studies passages. Only after this tireless search for the best artistic and musical solutions, Delvizio recorded his own judicious, invigorating and knowledgeable rendition of those studies at one of Rio de Janeiro’s leading recording studios, Toca do Bandido. With this recording and with his thorough creative process, Delvizio honors the artist’s primary mission of pursuing perfection. Not as a final goal, but as a means to achieve self-improvement, like an always moving horizon motivating the journey leading to it. And speaking of travels, Delvizio’s passionate guitar tone, allied with Mignone’s inspired creative mind, is a true invitation for the listener to stroll through the nooks and charms of Brazil’s diverse soundscape.
It took several years to Francisco Mignone to believe in the artistic value of the guitar, probably due to the prejudices against this instrument found in Brazil in the first half of the twentieth century. But when listening to a live performance by the great guitarist Carlos Barbosa Lima in 1970 he seems to have become suddenly convinced of the instrument’s potential and composed, within just three months, not only his Twelve Studies, but also his Twelve Waltzes for guitar, in all minor keys, and later a Concerto for guitar and orchestra.
Although Mignone’s Twelve Guitar Studies are well known for their Herculean technical challenges, they manage to offer great opportunities for the performer’s development. They also lead listeners on a tour through the plural and mixed Brazilian culture, guided by Mignone’s astute musical view.
At the beginning of this full exploration of the guitar vocabulary, his Etude 1 seems to seek inspiration from Francisco Tárrega’s Estudio Brillante, which also is reminiscent of Brahms’s 4th Symphony. Mignone repeats the theme many times and takes it to different paths on each repetition giving the impression of seeking his own voice, which he seems to find in Etude 2. This second piece refers to the Seresta, a musical genre used for night serenades. Here a long and lyrical melody explores the singing potential of various guitar strings, each with its own tone.
The Etude 3, despite being called “Tempo de chorinho”, presents more than that: it promotes an integration between Choro (an urban genre) and Sertanejo (a rural music) by putting the “baixarias” (choro bass licks) in dialogue with country strumming and parallel thirds.
Focusing on slurs technique, Etude 4 results in a very agile Gallop. Each bar is repeated twice in a process similar to the first Villa-Lobos studies. Its aggressive character is counterbalanced by a slow, meditative section, before a return to the initial gallop.
“Song without words” could be the description of Etude 5. A long chordal introduction sets the mood for a sentimental melody in the style of a Modinha (an ancient Brazilian song genre) first appearing on the bass and later on the treble in a faraway remembrance of the second part of “São João tem uma gaita” (Saint John has an accordion), a Brazilian folk song.
Etude 6 recalls a Maxixe, an African-Brazilian dance from early 1900’s first reproached by its lasciviousness, later progressively to be accepted by high society. This particular piece seems to mimic Ernesto Nazareth’s style, a famous Brazilian popular pianist and composer, whom Mignone met. Once more, the composer develops his musical ideas brilliantly; the main theme reappears three times, always with a distinct, creative and surprising treatment.
Etude 7 presents a Lullaby, as expressed in the composer’s manuscript. But surprisingly its tender melody is accompanied by gloomy chords, being therefore, according to Flávio Apro, more aligned with Brazilian folk lullabies that aim at educating through fear. Despite sounding simple, the Etude works on the performer’s ability of sustaining long notes.
To create a sudden contrast, the Gallop rhythm returns, even more frantic and harsh in Etude 8, also evoking something of the Frevo (a fast carnival music type from northeastern Brazil). Again the main theme is well developed, reappearing and changing thanks to Mignone’s great compositional craftmanship: he moves it to other keys, reverses its direction (from high to low) and even transforms it into a major key, displaying his full vocabulary. After the re-exposition, the piece closes with parallel major chords, once again with a Brazilian country connotation.
In a new contrast of sonority, Mignone seems to return to the choro in Etude 9, proposing an exercise of “levadas”, the name given to folk music accompaniment patterns. Here the challenge is to change the pattern every bar, something rather unusual in solo guitar pieces and even risky, in a manner of speaking. Again, the “Choro” visits his “countryside cousin”, who appears to be sometimes playing languid pastoral melodies.
Etudes 10 and 11 seems to provide an anticlimax to the cycle, paving the way for its denouement, and both offer antagonistic exercises: The tenth features a solo melody accompanied by repeated chords, while in the eleventh the chord blocks themselves build the melody.
Etude 12 is considered one of the most challenging in the series, mainly due to its demanding first section that seems more suited to a piano than to a guitar (especially for the left hand), but results in a great virtuosity. The middle section is diametrically different and much simpler, with an almost folkloric melody creating a remote allusion to the song “O Cravo brigou com a Rosa” (“The struggle between the carnation and the rose”), with a clear intention to give the interpreter some rest before resuming the initial theme. In the end, the folklike motif returns gloriously with full guitar chords, almost mimicking an orchestral tutti.
In a humble homage, Cyro Delvizio also reveals himself to be a composer; he builds his Fantasia on a Theme by Francisco Mignone theme over the beautiful Waltz n.3 by Francisco Mignone. his objective here is not to copy from the great master, but to learn from him and connect him to the present.
English translation: Chiara Bertoglio
Cyro Delvizio is one of the leading guitarists, composers, and researchers of his generation. Having devoted his considerable skills to spreading Brazilian classical music to various audiences, he performed in all 27 Brazilian states (a total of 130 concerts) as part of the SESC Sonora Brazil 2013-14 Project with Duo Cancionâncias (with soprano Manuelai Camargo), an unforgettable human and musical journey.The above-mentioned Duo also won prizes as the "V Villa-Lobos Museum selection of young musicians" (2008) and "Art Circuit" (2011), sponsored by the Cultural Bureau of Rio de Janeiro, recorded independently their first CD, called "Saudades" (2013) and performed at the "Guitar Foundation of America International Convention 2016", the USA most prestigious classical guitar festival, where he also conducted classes.
As a soloist, he won first place in the "VI Selection of Young Talents of AV-Rio" (2008) and "V National guitar competition Fred Schneiter", receiving a CD recording in Mexico as an extra prize in this last one, where he made release tours in 2012, 2013 and 2014 of his first solo CD "Reminiscences from Brazil" (Tempus clasico).
Delvizio was a soloist with symphonic ensembles such as "Orquestra Sinfônica da URFJ", "Orquestra Sinfônica Municipal de Campo Grande", and also with choirs, playing Castelnuovo-Tedesco´s "Romancero Gitano", in many occasions. He also debuted works by Edino Krieger, Marco Pereira, Ricardo Tacuchian, Dimitri Cervo, and Ronaldo Miranda, among other authors.
As a composer, he won the "1st Composition contest of UNIRIO" (2008), and the 4th place in "Contest Oscar Niemeyer - 100 years" (UFRJ, 2008). His works were performed at the XVIII and XXIV "Contemporary Brazilian music Bienal" (2009, 2021), and also in the USA, Portugal, Finland, Japan, and France. His "Folk Suite No. 1" was premiered in 2020 by Orquestra Filarmônica de Goiás commissioned by the prominent British conductor Neil Thomson. In the same year delivered his "Forest Scenes" suite for recorder orchestra commissioned by Stuttgarter Blockflötenorchester, from Germany, soon to be premiered. During social isolation, he composed "The Plague" a small opera that first debuted as a remote video recording and later, in 2021, staged and streamed.
His "Divagações Intervalares" for piano and string orchestra was recently debuted in 2021 at the XXIV Contemporary Brazilian music Bienal. Delvizio tends to address social issues in his works, as in his "Indian Requiem, op. 33" for soloists, choir, and orchestra.
Delvizio is a Doctor in Arts (USP, 2019), Master in Musicology (UFRJ, 2011), and Bachelor in Classical Guitar (UFRJ, 2008) under the tutoring of Dr. Turibio Santos. His dissertation won the "FUNARTE Prize of Music Critic Production 2013" for publishing. The book "Agustín Barrios in Dreamland: the Amazing journey of a Paraguayan Guitarist Across Brazil" is available in Portuguese and English, and was presented at the "GFA International Convention 2015" at Oklahoma City, "New Mexico Classical Guitar Festival", "New Orleans International Guitar Festival", "Mangoré Series" (at Manaus, Brazil), among many others concerts and lectures.
(b São Paulo, 3 Sept 1897; d Rio de Janeiro, 2 Feb 1986). Brazilian composer and conductor. A son of an Italian immigrant musician, he began flute and piano studies with his father, continuing his piano training from 1907 under Silvio Motto. At an early age he played both of his instruments in local dance orchestras. He studied the piano, the flute and composition at the São Paulo Conservatory, where he was a pupil of Cantù and from where he graduated in 1917; although Mário de Andrade was his teacher for history and aesthetics, it was only later that Mignone came under Andrade's influence. By 1920, when he left for Europe, Mignone had composed and conducted several orchestral pieces. He studied under Ferroni at the Milan Conservatory, and there he wrote the opera O contratador de diamantes (1921), first performed in Rio de Janeiro in 1924; Congada, taken from the second-act ballet, achieved great popularity. A second opera, L'innocente, was presented in Rio with great success in 1928; the following year Mignone returned to the São Paulo Conservatory as a harmony teacher. In 1933 he moved to Rio and was appointed official conductor and conducting teacher at the Escola Nacional de Música; he also taught privately for many years. After a European conducting tour (1937–8) he visited the USA for the first time in 1942. In New York the League of Composers had some of his works performed and he conducted the NBC and CBS orchestras in concerts of his music. During the next two decades he held many different appointments in Brazil, among them the music directorships of the Teatro Municipal, Radio Ministério da Educação e Cultura and Radio Globo.