:: The articles in this series were originally published
:: in the online magazine Daniella Thompson on Brazil.


One can always dream

Unraveling the Gnattali-Barbieri mystery.

Daniella Thompson

23 December 2006

My friend Eddy Pay, he of Early Morning Music on KPFA 94.1 FM, recently regaled me with Clara Sverner and Paulo Moura’s 1986 disc Vou Vivendo, calling my attention to track eight, “Samba-Canção” by Radamés Gnattali. What particularly struck Eddy was the uncanny resemblance between the opening of this composition and that of the famous theme music for The Last Tango in Paris (1972), composed by Gato Barbieri.

Eddy wanted to know which of the two compositions came first.

A quick Web search uncovered two items by the late music and film critic Aramis Millarch. On 24 April 1986, Millarch wrote in the Estado de Paraná:

In the concert of the pianist Clara Sverner and the saxophonist Paulo Moura a week ago at the Guaíra [theatre in Curitiba], several of the more alert spectator felt a curious similarity between one of the program’s numbers, “Samba-Canção” by Radamés Gnattali, and the theme of the film The Last Tango in Paris by Gato Barbieri. Clara and Paulo confirmed the similarity of the two tunes, but Paulo has an argument that clears the 80-year old Gnattali of any responsibility: “Samba-Canção” is a theme from 1959. The music of The Last Tango in Paris was composed in 1971, after the Argentine saxophonist had spent some time in Rio de Janeiro, full of enthusiasm for the Bossa Nova. So if anyone copied another, it wasn’t the great Gnattali. Anyway, the tune is gorgeous and can be appreciated in the LP Vou Vivendo (EMI/Odeon), with Clara and Paulo Moura, which already qualifies for placement in the list of best instrumental albums of 1986.

Three days later, Millarch returned to the same topic in his review of Vou Vivendo:

A curious detail to observe in this magnificent disc: in its chords, “Samba-Canção” (track 2, side B) clearly reminds us of the theme of The Last Tango in Paris, composed by the Argentine Gato Barbieri for Bernardo Bertolucci’s film (1972). An important detail: the theme by Radamés is from 1959, when he also recorded it. Coincidence or not, coming from Buenos Aires in the late 1950s and attracted by the effervescent Bossa Nova, Barbieri spent some time in Rio de Janeiro and also showed enthusiasm for the work of Gnattali. There can be no question as to the authorship of Gnattali’s beautiful “Samba-Canção.” Now, his influence on Barbieri is another matter. Listen and be convinced...

So far, so good. But on which disc did Gnattali record “Samba-Canção”? Here things hit a snag, since Radamés has composed and recorded more than one “Samba-Canção.” At least two other of his compositions, Brasiliana Nº 7 and Suíte Coreográfica, contain a movement called “Samba-Canção.”

Radamés recorded both suites with his sister Aída. Brasiliana Nº 7 was released in 1958, Suíte Coreográfica was recorded at Rádio MEC in 1960 and not released until the 1990s. Although the Brasiliana Nº 7 includes the participation of tenor saxophonist Sandoval Dias, the “Samba-Canção” movement has nothing in common with the one played by Sverner and Moura.

There was nothing for it but to contact Paulo Moura and ask how he obtained the composition. Moura’s wife, Halina Grynberg, pointed me to the disc Paulo Moura Interpreta Radamés Gnattali (1959) on the musician’s website. There I found no “Samba-Canção.” Halina soon became exasperated with my repeated questions, but the pianist Cliff Korman mercifully came to my aid.

Korman is Moura’s partner in the discs Gafieira Dance Brazil, Mood Ingênuo: Pixinguinha Meets Duke Ellington, Paulo Moura visita Gershwin & Jobim—Rhapsody in Bossa, and Gafieira Jazz. He pointed to Paulo Moura Interpreta Radamés Gnattali and asked, “Is it ‘Sempre a Sonhar’?”

And it is. Same tune, different name. You can listen to the complete track and form your own opinion. And while you’re at it, listen to the entire album, which is indescribably beautiful.

Why was the title changed in 1986 from “Sempre a Sonhar” to “Samba-Canção”? Perhaps because Martinho da Vila released his own song titled “Sempre a Sonhar” in 1984.

But what of Aramis Millarch’s claim that “the theme by Radamés is from 1959, when he also recorded it”? The Paulo Moura website and Halina Grynberg were mum on this subject, but thanks to the excellent discography at Memória Musical, this question, too receives an answer:

Paulo Moura Interpreta Radamés Gnattali
(1959) Continental LPP 3078

Musicians: Paulo Moura (saxophone), Radamés Gnattali (piano), Baden Powell (electric guitar), Trinca (drums), and Vidal (contrabass).

Advantage, Gnattali.

Copyright © 2006–2013 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.