Fernando LOPES-GRAÇA (1906 - 1994), one of the first 20th Century
Portuguese composers of any real significance, composed a huge and varied
output in almost every genre, including a good deal of choral music (mainly
on Portuguese poets' words), of orchestral and chamber works of which the
present release presents a quite interesting selection.
These three pieces were written in quick succession, between 1964 and 1966.
Lopes-Graça's First String Quartet, completed in 1964, was
awarded the First Prize at the 1965 Prince Rainier III de Monaco composition
competition. It is cast in five compact contrasted movements encompassing
a wide range of moods and emotions, The music, somewhat redolent of late
Bartók, that of, say, the Sixth String Quartet or the Third Piano
Concerto, is by turns robust and flexible, warmly tuneful and rhythmically
lively, full of invention and economical, superbly crafted and eminently
accessible. A wonderful piece of music indeed.
The Suite Rústica No.2 Op.166 dates from 1965. It is based
on Portuguese folk songs and dances as was the earlier orchestral Suite
Rústica No.l of 1950. It is, of course, a lighter piece in which the
composer's fresh and unproblematic approach of folk material is clearly in
evidence. This is a delightful set of colourful miniatures.
On the other hand, Catorze Anotações Op.170 of 1966,
yet another set of miniatures, is rather more akin to Webern's Bagatellen
Op. 9 though in a much more accessible, less radical, musical language.
As implied by the title ("14 Annotations"), the fourteen short sections vividly
depict a huge variety of moods without any attempt at development. This
beautifully varied and contrasted work is a further example of
Lopes-Graça's ability to develop apparently simple material into a
substantial musical structure.
Lopes-Graça's music, which was new to me (as it may be to many readers),
proves very rewarding on repeated hearings. This and other releases from
the same source show him to be a warm, human personality whose music possesses
a strong power of communication which is possibly its most endearing quality.
The present release, a re-issue of an older LP (which accounts for the limited
playing time), provides for the best possible introduction to Lopes-Graça's
music. The more so that the celebrated Tatrai Quartet prove deeply sympathetic
and play these unfamiliar, though very attractive, works with conviction
and commitment. The 1979 recorded sound may not be up to present-day standards
but is still quite satisfying, and should not deter anyone from investigating
the music of this very distinguished composer who was one of the major
personalities of the 20th Century Portuguese music.
Other Lopes-Graça reviews
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