Alberto Guerrero

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For the Puerto Rican Olympic shooter, see Alberto Guerrero (sport shooter).
Alberto Guerrero
Alberto Guerrero.jpg
Background information
Birth name Antonio Alberto García Guerrero
Born (1886-02-06)February 6, 1886
La Serena, Chile
Died December 7, 1959(1959-12-07) (aged 73)

Antonio Alberto García Guerrero (February 6, 1886 – November 7, 1959) was a Chilean-Canadian composer, pianist, and teacher. While he is most famously remembered as the mentor of Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, Guerrero influenced several generations of musicians through his many years of teaching at the Toronto Conservatory of Music.

Biography[edit]

Born in La Serena, Chile, Guerrero first studied piano with his mother and older brother Daniel; he was otherwise self-taught. After the family moved to Santiago in the early 1890s, he became part of a group of artists and intellectuals who called themselves Los Diez. As a resourceful composer and talented concert pianist, Guerrero would have a reform-minded influence on Chilean musical life.[1] His brother Eduardo became a music critic and Alberto contributed articles and reviews to the newspaper El diario ilustrado. He published a treatise in 1915 entitled La armonia moderna (now lost).

Guerrero introduced Chilean audiences to the modern music of his day, including works by Debussy, Ravel, Cyril Scott, Scriabin, and Schoenberg. He founded and conducted Santiago’s first symphony orchestra and was active in founding the Sociedad Bach in 1917.

In 1918, during a honeymoon trip to New York, Guerrero came in contact with members of the Hambourg family, who invited him to teach at the recently established Hambourg Conservatory in Toronto. Guerrero accepted this position and emigrated to Canada with his wife and daughter the following year.

In Toronto, Guerrero performed for a few years with the Hambourg Trio (having replaced pianist Mark Hambourg). While he shifted his focus to piano technique and pedagogy, he expanded his performing repertory to include works from Purcell through Les Six. As one of Canada’s most active pianists, he played regular radio recitals (a highly innovative move at the time) beginning in the mid-1920s and through to the early 1950s. He also initiated a subscription series of solo recitals from 1932-1937. Each season’s four or five recitals would cover often neglected works by Bach, Scarlatti, Haydn, Mozart, 18th-century Spanish composers, 20th-century French composers, and Stravinsky. Bach pieces included the complete inventions and sinfonias as well as the Goldberg Variations, all of which would be later popularized by his pupil Glenn Gould. Guerrero performed in various chamber ensembles with musicians such as with Frank Blachford (violin), Leo Smith (cello), Harold Sumberg (violin), and Cornelius Ysselstyn (cello). For over a decade, he was also a member of the Five Piano Ensemble.

In 1922, Guerrero left the Hambourg Conservatory and joined the Toronto Conservatory of Music (Royal Conservatory of Music), where he remained until his death in Toronto in 1959, having established himself as one of Canada's preeminent music teachers.

Guerrero was known to be quiet and focused.[1] His near self-effacement instead gave rise to the most prominent Canadian musicians of the late 20th century. He had a decisive technical and aesthetic influence on Glenn Gould, whom he mentored for 10 years, even though Gould would later claim to be self-taught. Guerrero was also known for his keen intellect and eloquence vis–à–vis painting, poetry, and philosophy (Comte, Husserl, Sartre). "He was one of the few musicians from whom a student would get a vista of ideas beyond music," recalls composer R. Murray Schafer,[2] who composed In Memoriam Alberto Guerrero a few months after his teacher’s death.

Compositions[edit]

Guerrero had been known as a versatile composer in Santiago. In addition to a number of chamber works and piano solos, he wrote music for 4 or 5 operettas and zarzuelas (now lost) which were produced in Chile between 1908-15. However, after moving to Canada, Guerrero focused more on teaching, though a couple of piano works (Tango and Southern Seas) were published in 1937. He also collaborated with his wife Myrtle Rose Guerrero to co-author The New Approach to the Piano (2 vols., 1935–36).

Students[edit]

Alberto Guerrero (standing) with his student Glenn Gould, Toronto ca 1947

As a prominent member of the music circles in Santiago and later at the Toronto Conservatory of Music, Guerrero influenced generations of students who would go on to shape the musical life of Chile, Canada, and beyond. What follows is an incomplete list:

Recordings[edit]

Glenn Gould: His First Recordings (1947–1952). Video Artists International 1198 (2001).

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Beckwith, John. "Alberto Guerrero." Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.
  2. ^ Schafer, R. Murray (2007). Program Notes (PDF).

Bibliography[edit]

  • Beckwith, John (2006). In Search of Alberto Guerrero. Wilfrid Laurier University Press. ISBN 0-88920-496-9.  The only book-length biography of Guerrero.
  • Aide, William (1998). Starting from Porcupine. Oberon Press. ISBN 0-7780-1047-3. 

Other Resources[edit]

An archive collection of Guerrero’s manuscripts and papers is located at the faculty of music library of the University of Toronto.

External links[edit]