André Mehmari is considered one of Brazil’s most talented musicians. His activities as pianist, composer, and arranger are highly regarded in both popular and classical music. As his compositions have been performed by leading orchestras such as Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo and chamber ensembles such as the São Paulo String Quartet, his career in jazz and Brazilian popular music has attained wide attention with performances in all of Brazil’s major jazz festivals and abroad at Umbria Jazz in Italy and Juan Les-Pins in France.
Born in 1977 in Niteroi (RJ), he began to study music with his mother at the age of five, and completed an organ course in the Conservatory of Ribeirao Preto (SP). At age ten, having taught himself jazz improvisation, he wrote his first compositions; and, at 15, while teaching organ in the Conservatory, he was invited to compose a method for keyboard beginners. The result was a 20-piece collection, a work greatly appreciated by young musicians and their teachers. Mehmari’s precociousness as a composer and multi-instrumentalist was well documented by the media.
He began study at São Paulo State University (USP) in 1995 and, in the same year, won the University’s competition for original Brazilian popular music (MPB). Two years later, the same honor was awarded to him for classical music. Both his performing schedule and composing activity grew busier as he began touring and writing orchestral arrangements for major musical events in São Paulo. In 1998, he won the first national Prêmio VISA de MPB competition, the most important award for popular music in Brazil. The competition’s prize is the recording of a new CD, which became Mehmari’s first release and brought him concert opportunities throughout Brazil.
More than thirty albums have followed, including Lachrimae (2004), featuring two different piano trios and singer Mônica Salmaso; Piano e Voz (2006) with singer Ná Ozzetti; De Árvores e Valsas (2008), devoted entirely to André’s compositions; Miramari (2009), a collaboration with clarinet master Gabriele Mirabassi; Gismontipascoal (2010), with mandolin virtuoso Hamilton de Holanda and winner of the 2011 Prêmio da Música Brasileira; Afetuoso (2011), a return to his dynamic piano trio music; Canteiro (2011), a two-CD set with performances by thirteen of his favorite Brazilian singers; Triz (2012), with Chico Pinheiro and Sérgio Santos; André Mehmari e Mário Laginha ao vivo no Auditório Ibirapuera (2012), a concert recording with Portuguese pianist Mário Laginha; Angelus (2013), a collection of Mehmari’s chamber music works for several Brazilian ensembles; Tokyo Solo (2014), a solo piano concert recording; Miramari (2014), a DVD of performances by Mehmari’s duo with clarinetist Gabriele Mirabassi; Ouro sobre azul (2014), a solo piano recording devoted to interpretations of the works of composer Ernesto Nazareth, known as the inventor of modern Brazilian piano. He returned to the piano trio for As Estações na Cantareira (2015) and Na Esquina do Clube o Sol na Cabeça (2019). The solo album Noël: Estrela da Manhã (2020) is devoted to composer Noel Rosa, and Nossa Brasil (2019) pairs Mehmari with mandolinist Danilo Brito. Música para Cordas (2019) presents Mehmari’s works for strings in new recordings directed by violinist Emmanuele Baldini. While these works offers musicians distinct from the others, they share Mehmari’s blend of lyricism, dynamism, and elegance.
In 2006, he won the Carlos Gomes award for classical music revelation of the year, and was appointed resident composer for the São Paulo State Wind Band. The Pan American Games commissioned him in 2007 to compose music based on themes by Villa-Lobos, Jobim, and Chico Buarque for ceremonies at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã Stadium. For her Spanish Schubertiade, pianist Maria João Pires commissioned him to write Viagem de Verão. In 2008, he premiered Jazz Concerto for piano trio and strings with Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo as well his double concerto for jazz piano, clarinet, and winds with clarinetist Gabriele Mirabassi and the São Paulo State Wind Band. The following year brought forth Ballo, a full scale ballet commissioned and performed by São Paulo Companhia de Dança with choreography by Ricardo Scheir. The German network Deutsche Welle commissioned him in 2010 to create a new work for Sinfônica Heliópolis, an orchestra organized in one of São Paulo’s poorest slums and now one of the world’s finest youth orchestras. Cidade do Sol (City of Sun) is a portrait of the orchestra itself, which it premiered at Beethovenfest in Bonn and Berlin. In 2015, the Miami Symphony Orchestra commissioned Mehmari to compose and perform a new concerto for two pianos and orchestra, which he premiered with pianist Christopher O’Riley; and Orquestra Filarmônica de Minas Gerais commissioned him to write Divertimento. The São Paulo String Quartet commissioned Re: Cordare, premiered in 2016, the same year he wrote arrangements for the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. In 2017, Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo commissioned Variações Concertantes sobre um tema de Ernesto Nazareth and premiered the work at Festival Internacional de Inverno de Campos do Jordão. In 2018, Orquestra Experimental de Repertório commissioned him to write TORÉM for orchestra, choir, and female voice. Their premiere included vocalist Marlui Miranda and singers from the indian people of Tremembé de Almofala.
Mehmari’s active performing calendar includes his trio, duos with singer Mônica Salmaso, mandolinist Danilo Brito, clarinetist Gabriele Mirabassi, vibraphonist-percussionist Antonio Loureiro, and pianist Mário Laginha, as well as solo piano concerts. He continues to be one of the most sought-after composers in Brazil.