Radamés Gnattali (1906-1988) is a fundamental name in Brazilian music. A classically trained composer, conductor, orchestrator, and arranger, he worked for a living in the popular side of the business, deeply influencing Brazilian popular music with his arrangements and conceptions. His compositions, both in the erudite and popular fields, concurred to bridge the gap between the two idioms, a self-imposed task that was always kept in sight throughout his whole life.
Gnattali was known as a talented arranger and was hired by many of the best popular musicians and radio stations to produce arrangements, including some of the first arrangements of Brazilian popular music for symphony orchestra. He embraced the sound of Glenn Miller and American swing and jazz and added American jazz harmonies to his sophisticated arrangements, to the disgust of hard-line nationalist critics. He worked as an arranger for radio for thirty years and later for TV Globo. Gnattali's work expanded the scope of Brazilian popular music, through his work he added legitimacy to instrumental popular music such as choro.
A career profile by Alvaro Neder available at AMG
As an example of Gnattali's work as an arranger, composer and instrumentalist I recently found a cd by Radamés Gnattali Sexteto on EMI, Brasil (CD 5936302), containing 8 tracks of recordings by this unit, shown below.
The music on the cd has compositions in the great tradition of choro (track 1-4 and 7), two tracks are devoted to compositions by Gnattali displaying his conception of a cross over between erudite and popular, one of them beeing a short homage to another renown Brazilian composer, Tom Jobim. The other composition by Gnattali is his 'Divertimento para seis instrumentos' written for this performing group. - I think this recording is interesting and highly recommended as an example of how classic choro is combined with a modern conception of harmony, the performance in all 8 track is seamless by all involved, both the sextet and the overdubbed strings. Some of the arrangements had me thinking of a Brazilian autentic issue of be bop, others - like the arrangement of "1 X 0" by Pixinguinha - left me with a feeling of listening to ragtime, both experiences incorporated in a great fascination with the music on this cd. Recommended, definitely.Tracklist and info on personnel inserted below.
1. 1 x 0 (Benedito Lacerda - Pixinguinha), 2. Cochichando (Alberto Ribeiro - Pixinguinha - João de Barro), 3. Urubu Malandro (Louro - João de Barro), 4. Sofres Porque Queres (Benedito Lacerda - Pixinguinha), 5. Meu Amigo Tom Jobim (Radamés Gnattali), 6. Nova Ilusão (José Menezes - Luiz Bittencourt), 7. Por um Beijo (Terna Saudade) (Anacleto de Medeiros - Catullo da Paixão Cearense), 8. Divertimento para Seis Instrumentos (Radamés Gnattali)
Personnel: Chiquinho do Acordeon: accordion, Laércio de Freitas: piano, Luciano Perrone: drums, Radamés Gnattali: piano, Pedro Vidal Ramos: bass, Zé Menezes: el-guitar. All arrangements by Radamés Gnattali.
I found a video performance on YouTube of two piano compositions by Gnattali, performed by classical piano player Marc-Andre Hamelin.