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In Search of Alberto Guerrero

John Beckwith

Publication Year: 2006

In Search of Alberto Guerrero is the first full biography of the influential Chilean-Canadian pianist and teacher (1886-1959), describing Guerrero’s long career as virtuoso recitalist, chamber music collaborator, concerto soloist, and teacher. Written by composer John Beckwith, who was a student of Guerrero, the book blends research and memoir to piece together the life of a man who once insisted he had no story.

Guerrero was part of the intellectual scene that introduced Chileans to Debussy, Ravel, Cyril Scott, Scriabin, and Schoenberg. He and his brother played an active role in founding the Sociedad Bach in Santiago. In 1918 Guerrero moved to Toronto, making the Hambourg Conservatory, and later the Toronto (now Royal) Conservatory, his new base. He soon became one of Canada’s most active pianists. In what was then a novel activity, he played regular radio recitals from the mid-1920s to the early 1950s. He was also deeply engaged with issues in piano pedagogy, and worked with young talents including Canada’s much-acclaimed Glenn Gould. But unlike the shadowy role Guerrero is assigned in Gould biographies, here he is given proper credit for his technical and aesthetic influence on the young Gould and on other notable musicians and composers.

Guerrero left few written records, and documentation of his work by others is incomplete and often erroneous. Aiming for a fuller and more accurate account of this remarkably influential and well-loved man, Beckwith’s In Search of Alberto Guerrero gives an insider’s story of the Canadian classical music scene in mid-twentieth-century Toronto, and pays homage to the influential musician William Aide has called an “unsung progenitor.”

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiii

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pp. xv-xviii

Near the end of his forty-year career as pianist and teacher in Toronto, Alberto Guerrero was asked for a short autobiographical notice for publicity. “I have no story,” he said. The remark suggests long familiarity with, if not wariness of, standard blurbs that describe the winners of...

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Chapter 1: Chile / Canada—Beginnings in La Serena—Young Pianist, Young Composer—A Composer for the Stage—Two Composer-Associates—Writings

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pp. 1-27

Alberto Guerrero (1886–1959) spent his early life, until the age of thirty-two, in his native Chile, and his later years in Canada. The two countries lie a vast distance apart at the northern and southern outer extremities of the Western Hemisphere, and have had until late in the twentieth...

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Chapter 2: A Wedding, a Tour—New York and Back: A Farewell— Why?

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pp. 29-46

Guerrero’s most active season as a performer, 1915, was also the time of his marriage. His bride, Elena (“Lily”) Wilson, was the oldest daughter of a distinguished military figure, Lieutenant Colonel Aníbal Wilson Navarrete, and his wife María Werner Araya, and niece of an equally prominent...

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Chapter 3: Toronto: The Hambourgs—El cónsul—Personal Crises— Toronto: The Late 1920s and Early ’30s; The TCM— Performances

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pp. 47-69

The Russian-Jewish musician Michael Hambourg (b. 1855) emigrated to Canada in 1910 and established the Hambourg Conservatory of Music in Toronto. A fixture of the local musical scene for almost half a century (it closed in 1951), the conservatory was housed in a sprawling mansion...

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Chapter 4: The Andison Concerts; Malloney’s—Friendships—“A Great Piano Town”: The Five Piano Ensemble—The 1940s

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pp. 71-90

Between 1933 and 1938, Guerrero presented a remarkable succession of solo recitals before a select subscription audience, first in the home of Gordon and Mabelle Andison, 596 Huron Street, and later at Malloney’s Galleries. Andison was a professor of French at the University of Toronto...

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Chapter 5: Lessons—Changes—Glenn Gould—A Letter— The Final Public Recital

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pp. 91-110

I had regular piano lessons with Guerrero from the fall of 1945 through the early summer of 1950. In June 1945 he heard me play in my home town of Victoria as a TCM examination candidate. I still have his exam report, a mighty example of “telling it as it is.” ...

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Chapter 6: The 1950s—A Funeral—“Boswell”—Legacy

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pp. 111-126

At the start of the 1950–51 season, Guerrero’s old chamber-music colleague, the cellist-composer Leo Smith, became music critic for the Globe and Mail, and at his invitation Guerrero contributed occasional concert reviews. Excerpts from his brief notices of recitals given in...

Appendix 1: Alberto Guerrero, "The Discrepancy between Performance and Technique"

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pp. 127-129

Appendix 2: Boyd Neel, "Alberto Guerrero"

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pp. 130-132

Appendix 3: Reunion: Participants

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pp. 133-134

Appendix 4: Excerpts from the Program Note for the Symposium "Remembering Alberto Guerrero," Toronto, 25 October 1990

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pp. 135-136


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pp. 137-148


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pp. 149-151


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pp. 153-159

E-ISBN-13: 9781554580712
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889204966
Print-ISBN-10: 0889204969

Page Count: 180
Publication Year: 2006

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