I wrote the Missa de São Judas Tadeu during a dark period in Portuguese music, when virtually no symphony orchestras existed in our country. This was one of the motives that led to the reduced number of interpreters required by the work: one soprano and a quartet of instruments.
However, the numeric scarcity of the players was copiously overwhelmed by the quality contained within the group, since the soprano was the singer, Elsa Saque, and the instrumental group was the Opus Ensemble.
Speaking with Cardinal António Ribeiro, who attended the work’s premiere at the Church of São Roque, His Eminence asked me the reason for the mass’s name – São Judas Tadeu – and I answered that, according to what I understood, São Judas Tadeu was known as the patron saint of lost causes. Well, in my opinion, music in Portugal certainly seemed, in fact, like a lost cause…
In the realm of sacred music, I wrote, during my childhood, an “Ave Maria;” and later, following the death of Bruno Pizzamiglio, I dedicated a De Profundis to the memory of that superb musician. In fact, the De Profundis would be the first piece to reunite the Opus Ensemble as a quartet, one that now included the young oboist, Pedro Ribeiro.
These three sacred works were presented in concert, in a performance in Viana do Castelo, which is reproduced on this CD. To these I have added a Te Deum – another work rather outside the norms of its genre – since a Te Deum is normally a work for large ensemble. This one, however, employs the voice of one soprano (Margarida Marecos) who functions as if she were a narrator for a text, which is commented upon by a believer, (the piano, interpreted by Olga Prats) and by a bassoon (Vera Dias), who represents the restlessness of the agnostic…
Except for the participation of the two singers and the young bassoonist, I consider this to be a disk of the Opus Ensemble which consists exclusively of music from my own pen – a great honor for me in a year when I mark seventy years of life and a career of fifty-five.
The quantity of sacred music I have written was recently augmented by the Missa de São Francisco de Assis – for large orchestra, four vocal soloists, a child’s voice and organ – which will not, unfortunately, be premiered in 2009, the 800th anniversary of the work’s honoree, for reasons that continue to be linked, in large part, to those which motivated the Missa de São Judas Tadeu: for how long will music in Portugal be considered a lost cause – or one still far from winning…?
António Victorino D’Almeida
(translation: Fredrick Gifford)