Archive for category Classical Music

NUM 1083

Title: Música Coral Portuguesa do Século XX

Artist: Coro de Câmara de Lisboa

Composers: Fernando Lopes Graça, Luiz de Freitas Branco, Joly Braga Santos

The Coro de Câmara de Lisboa (Lisbon Chamber Choir) was founded in 1978, by Prof. Teresita Gutierrez Marques, as Lisbon National Conservatory’s chamber choir. The choir is formed by twenty young musicians who perform — a cappella or in collaboration with instrumental ensembles — portuguese and foreign works from the Renaissance to the 21st century. They have already performed several world premières.
The Choir has always been very active, maintaining an artistic level which is unanimously applauded by the public and the critics. They have performed all over Portugal and in the most important concert halls of Lisbon (Belém Cultural Centre, Gulbenkian Foundation, S. Luiz and Trindade Theatres, etc.), and has participated in the most significant cultural exhibitions (Capuchos and Sintra festivals, the Gulbenkian Festival of Ancient Music, Lisbon ’94 – European Capital of Culture, Expo ’98 – World Exposition of Lisbon, the International Festival of Organ in Lisbon, etc.).
Abroad, the Choir has also performed extensively. Invited by institutions such as the European Choir Federation, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Fundação Oriente or the Ministries of Culture of Portugal, Spain and Cape Verde, to give a few examples, the Choir has sung, among other places, in Madrid, Cuenca, León, Seville, Sória, Vitoria (Spain), Paris, Strasbourg, Rouen, Caen, Mont. St. Michel (France), Brussels, Malines (Belgium), Amsterdam (the Netherlands), Rome, Bergamo, Biella, Bolzano, Novara, Trento, Turin, Verona (Italy), Bonn (Germany), Vienna (Austria), London (UK), Montréal (Canada), New York, Santa Barbara, San Diego, San José (USA), Belo Horizonte, Florianópolis, New Hamburg, Porto Alegre (Brazil), Montevideu (Uruguay), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Puebla (Mexico), Santiago de Cuba (Cuba), Macao and Cape Verde.
In its three participations in the International Choir Competition of Tolosa (Spain), Coro de Câmara de Lisboa has obtained a 1st and a 3 rd prize in the Polyphony class and two 2nd prizes in the Folksong category

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BRUMAS


Brumas (CD NUM 1197)

Ângela Silva
soprano

Paulo Guerreiro
horn

Francisco Sassetti
Piano

Eurico Carrapatoso | António Rebello Neves | João Francisco Nascimento
Vasco Pearce de Azevedo | António Victorino D´Almeida

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Eurico Carrapatoso

Sete melodias em forma de bruma
(traditional melodies from Azores)
This work was ordered by the Direcção Regional de Cultura of Azores.
It consists of harmonisations over traditional melodies from Azores that was written in 1998 and performed for the first time by Ana Ferraz (soprano), Gabriela Canavilhas (piano) and António Costa (trompa) at Expo 98.
It is dedicated to the earthquake victims in Faial that occurred 9th July, 1998.
The tone is melancholic resembling mysterious brumes over that magical archipelago. Those Isles are also painted by blue and green.
This is one more step in my personal discovery, feeling myself very portuguese, in direction of my musical graal.

Eurico Carrapatoso, Dez, 2009

Rebello Neves
Rebello Neves (1874-1957) – He was born in Tavira and died
in Faro, where he spent the greater part of his life.
He mostly composed song for voice and piano with texts of portuguese writers, specially from the region of Algarve. Besides, he was pianist and conductor, directing school choirs and orchestras from Algarve.
Ângela Silva, Jan, 2010

Five Portuguese Songs
These five songs composed by my great-grandfather (Ecos da Serra, Partindo-se, Cantiga de Embalar, Embalando um coração e À luz dos Olhos Teus) belong to a song compilation published in May, 1946 for Algarve Region. This edition was an initiative by the president Dr. Jose Correia do Nascimento , after taken a deliberation in Dez, 1944 for Municipal Chamber of Faro. He was influenced by the homage paid to Rebello Neves and decided to create the “City Medal” to award the people that deserve the honour to be distinguished in the city of Faro. The first medal was created for Maestro Rebello Neves.
In these songs there is a great simplicity and melody richness where we can find different characteristics of his music: Sadness in Partindo-se, rural character in Ecos da Serra (rural but with great vocal demand for the soprano part who should own a sweet and flexible high range), melancholy at À luz dos teus olhos (slow valse character) or sweetness in Embalando um coração and in Cantiga de Embalar (dedicated to “his granddaughter “, my mother).

Vasco Pearce de Azevedo – Fev, 2010

João Francisco Nascimento
Portuguese composer João Francisco Nascimento (b. 1957) graduated from Universidade Técnica de Lisboa with a degree in Physical Education in 1984.
He taught Physical Education in several institutions such as Fundação Liga Portuguesa dos Deficientes Motores. In 1993 he began his musical studies with Eurico Carrapatoso at Academia de Amadores de Música. In 1997, he began
his composition studies with António Pinho Vargas and Christopher Bochmann at the Escola Superior de Música de Lisboa. From 2005-08 he made a master’s degree with Christopher Bochmann at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa where he graduated with highest honors. Since 2003, he has taught Analysis and Techniques of Composition at the Conservatório Regional de Évora. Since 2006, he has taught Musical Analysis and History of Music at the Instituto
Superior de Estudos Interculturais e Transdisciplinares (Instituto Piaget –’D0Almada). His works have been performed by most major ensembles and orchestras in Portugal.

Nossa Senhoras das Neves
“Nossa Senhora das Neves” is a song of Alentejo, the region of Beja, mentioned in the book “Moments vocals of Baixo Alentejo” of João Ranita of Nazareth. Tell us about our mother and God’s mother, linking us to “Mother Nature”, to the immensity of the plain land that collects, protects and embraces calmly travel adventure in it.
Ilhas, December 8, 2009

Gabriela
Gabriela was a very young girl, who for many years ago used to take the train line in Estoril. Dark-skinned, curly long hair and his smile were so infectious that the old hermit could not resist smiling when secretly watched her running away having the rain her companion.
Ilhas, December 8, 2009

Vasco Pearce de Azevedo
Born in Lisbon, Vasco Pearce de Azevedo finished his Bachelor Degree in Composition at the Lisbon Superior School of Music, having studied with Christopher Bochmann and Constança Capdeville. He frequented several Master Classes in conducting having worked with Jean-Sébastien Béreau, Ernst Schelle, Jenö Rehak, and Octav Calleya (orchestral conducting) and with Erwin List, Josep Prats, Johann Duijck, Laszlo Heltay,
Edgar Saramago, and José Robert (choral conducting). Vasco Azevedo received his Master’s Degree in orchestral and choral conducting at the University of Cincinnati, under the supervision of Gerhard Samuel, Christopher Zimmermann, Elmer Thomas, and John Leman. He obtained, in 1997, the 3rd Prize in the IIIº International Conducting Competition Maestro Pedro de Freitas Branco, and in 1996, a Honourable Mention in the 2nd Fundação Oriente International Competition for Young Orchestra Conductors. In 1988, in the “Novos Valores da Cultura” Competition, he obtained the 1º Prize in Choral Music with the Syntagma Musicum Choir, and a Honorable Mention in Composition with the piece “3 Pantoneças in Memoriam Alban Berg”.
Vasco Azevedo was Principal Conductor of the Portuguese Musical Youth Orquestra (1992–95), and is since 1995, Principal Conductor and Music Director of the Lisbon Sinfonietta. Vasco Azevedo has been guest conducting the Portuguese Symphony Orchestra, the Lisbon Metropolitan Orchestra, the OPorto Classical Orchestra, the OPorto National Orchestra, the Filarmonia das Beiras, the Algarve Orchestra, the Viana do Castelo Professional School of Music Orchestra, the Artave Orchestra, the Sinfónica Juvenil, and the Portuguese Schools of Music Orchestra. In 1999, he conducted the première of “Dançares” by Fernando Lopes-Graça and the portuguese première of “Agon” by Stravinsky, with the Portuguese National Ballet Company. He is currently a teacher at the Lisbon Superior School of Music. He also has a Degree in Electrotechnical Engeneering.

Bela Aurora (traditional melody from Azores)
This is an harmonization of a melody from S. Miguel at Azores.
This melancholic melody is made by the soprano part, practically free of alterations, while the horn plays a complementary role presenting some material in contrapunto with the voice.
In which of these three strophes are used different harmonisations; the first is written in a diatonic minor tone, the second is also written in a minor tone including some chromatics elements – it is the most dense of the three versions (also happens that the melody changes a little bit to emphasize the pain); the last one written in a relative major tone with some chromatisms, is the brightest of the three strophes.
In the short introduction preceding the soprano part, the horn exposes the theme based in a melody inversion while the piano accompaniment anticipates the harmonization that comes after the voice.
Vasco Pearce de Azevedo – Dez, 2009
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Salvaterra me desterra (traditional melody from Beira Baixa)
The first version of “Salvaterra me desterra” was composed in July, 1988, when Maria Ana Lourenço asked me to write an harmonization of a portuguese popular song for contralto.
That time she needed a portuguese piece for an International Singing Competition in Cervera (Spain) and I decided to write an harmonization typical of the 20th century portuguese composers that emphasizes a pure and simple melody. In July, 1989, I decided to adapt the piano part for five voices (SMzATB), keeping the melody in a solo part (contralto or baritone). This orchestration is also available in a third version for Viola and String Orchestra, similar to the choir version I made before.

Vasco Pearce de Azevedo – Dez, 2009

António Victorino D’Almeida
António Victorino D’Almeida was born in Lisbon on May 21, 1940. A student of Campos Coelho, he completed his superior studies in piano at the National Conservatory of Lisbon, graduating with high honors. He then studied in Vienna, where he received his degree, with highest honors, from the Superior School of Music in Vienna (today, the School of Music), studying with Karl Schiske.
As a concert artist, he developed an intense international career, which placed him among the finest Portuguese pianists of his time, but this activity was inevitably reduced after D’Almeida accepted the post of cultural attaché in Vienna.
His principal activity is, however, composition. Certainly one of the most prolific of Portuguese composers – his works include music for piano solo, piano with other instruments, chamber music, works for orchestra and orchestra with choir, vocal music ranging from Lieder to opera, as well as much music for inema and theater. His music has received praise from such illustrious figures as Hans Swarowski, Godfried von Einem,
João de Freitas Branco or Dimitri Shostakovich.
At the moment, there are nine CD’s, published on the label, Numérica, devoted entirely to the music of António Victorino D’Almeida. Some the most recent of these include “Sinfonia Nº2 | Concertino”, “Sinfonia Nº 3 | Sinfonia Nº 4”, Dinis e Isabel and other Chamber Works” as well as “Sacred Music.” In addition to these, further recordings, by the Opus Ensemble for example, also include works from D’Almeida’s pen.

Três canções op 91 sobre textos de José Carlos Gonzalez e Vocalizo
José Carlos González stands, in my opinion, among the great poets of his generation, part of the famous group associated with café Gelo, so relevant to the surrealist movement in Portugal.
He was a man who displayed an extreme sensitivity to music, a deep connoisseur of the musical repertoire, and his poetry – which, in some cases, directly approaches works by great composers, as is the case of Schubert’s “Octet”… – is clothed in a rhythm and in an expressive language that makes it particularly musical…
Regrettably, there was not enough time for me to produce more Lieder to texts by this author, who was, at the same time a great personal friend – the three presented here are the only ones that exist…
It may be observed that I seek to be coherent in my belief that no instrument is more important than any other, that everything depends on the exact moment in which instruments intervene so that their characteristics may take part in the musical interplay – and I never make an exception for the voice.
For me, this also completely excludes the highly reductive idea of so-called accompaniment: in the music which I make, no one accompanies anyone else, so that everyone is a soloist, in this or that passage…
So, when writing for voice, piano and horn, I may also be writing for horn, piano and voice – or piano, voice and horn…- since no element is, by nature, more salient than the others.
There exist, of course, instruments which are inherently more or less discreet than others, but that is merely a question of character…
And that fact that the voice pronounces the words does not mean, from my point of view, that the other instruments are not interpreting the meaning of the text.
In fact, the Vocalizo was also composed to a text of José Carlos González, whose sense is in the very music, so much so, that I remember quite clearly having explained to him that in this specific case, I would even remove his words.
As a stalwart surrealist, he immediately agreed. In fact, he even considered that it should be up to the listener to imagine those words and the ideas transmitted by the music, without being influenced by his own reading…
In this way, the current disc contains the four (and not three) Lieder which I wrote to texts by a great poet who remains insufficiently well known by the vast majority of people to be properly appreciated within the Portuguese cultural heritage.

António Victorino D’Almeida – Fev, 2010

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NEW RELEASE – NUM 1200 Chopin | 19 Waltzes

NUM 1200
CHOPIN – 19 WALTZES
António Victorino D’Almeida – piano

This present record, with the integral 19 Chopin Waltzes is, with no doubt, a great surprise and the pianist Hans Graf – Professor at the Superior Music School of Vienna – considered “unbelievable” the way Victorino D’Almeida got the time to combine his other multiple activities (…“in which the originality of his literary works are comparable to the phantasy of his movies and his compositions, which show his extraordinary personality”) with such a big pianistic work, remarkable for the “perfect grasp” of the instrument and the stilistic knowledge, both of the author (Chopin) and of each piece, always marked by the energy and the joy of life of this exceptional artist”.
A similar remark was made by the famous pianist Alfred Brendel in a letter written to Victorino D’Almeida.
Victorino D’Almeida gives us his own “reasons” for the issue of this record:
In the first place I wanted to homage my Portuguese piano Professor, Campos Coelho, whose teachings are always present and never forgoten, even during the years I’ve paused my pianist career. In the second place, I intended to give a response to the old fascination that I had for the “prodigious” world of the Chopin Waltzes, so often misunderstood.
As a matter of fact, I consider Chopin as a half-polish and half-french composer, but I think that the waltzes reveal much more his French heritage, and when I viewed “The Ball”, this remarkable picture by Ettore Scola, I decided to go to the “studio” to revive it in a certain way, through the interpretation of the 19 waltzes (which
I dedicated to Ettore Scola, “a certain Paris story…”).
In the third place, thanks to the great sound technician – José Manuel Fortes – who with his deep cultural skill and conscience produced this wonderfull work, that may never have existed otherwise.
Finally, I also dedicate this work to the Austrian Firm E.T.E., this to remember that due to the incentive of Erika Pluhar and the “Trio”, with herself and Peter Marinoff, I have returned to the piano concerts, though with a very different style of the repertory.

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NUM 1193

Title: DINIS E ISABEL an Other Chamber Music

Artists: Orquestra Utópica, Quinteto de Metais LX Brass, Nuno Corte-Real, Ana Ferraz, José João Gomes dos Santos, Antonio Costa, Ravelle Chapuis, Carmen Cardeal, Janete Santos, Ana Pereira, Joana Cipriano, Carolina Matos, Ingeborg Baldaszti & Ricardo Rocha

Composer: António Victorino D’Almeida

In general – but with a sufficient number of worthy and honorable exceptions, which are, in many cases, enough to annul this negative observation – I am seldom enthused to hear singing, as I find myself far from considering, as some affirm, that the human voice is the most beautiful of instruments. On the contrary, I must confess that much vocal music even manages to actually bother me, for example, the use of voice can render melodies that would be perfectly acceptable, if played on other instruments, completely unbearable.However, I insist in the value of the exceptions, and wish to clarify that the voices which fascinate me might come from a Beniamino Gigli, Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti or a Maria Callas, Franck Sinatra, Carlos do Carmo, Amália Rodrigues, Edith Piaf or an Ellis Regina, among many other exemplary cases. And so, overcome by a sense of wonder and true enchantment, I employed the voice-without-words of Ana Ferrraz in “Dinis e Isabel,” considering that, in this instance, I was before a truly perfect instrument!Neither can I ignore that the art of singing is connected, and very much so, to verbal articulation, which gains special relief in those wonderful singer/songwriters like a Brel, or a Brassens – who are even said to have “weak” voices… – or in the true marvel that results from just any Lied sung by Fischer-Dieskau!This relation between sound and word may become truly beguiling. One of its greatest proponents is found in an amazing composer, Giacomo Puccini – so much so, that it would be difficult for me to imagine him without access to the human voice, irrespective of the prodigious quality of his orchestration!And so, I will not transform a problem of sensibility, one that is perhaps shared only by me, into a theory, much less a rule, given that the world of exceptions is so truly vast that I would easily fall into difficult and constant contradictions. This is how I feel, and I will not hide this reality, even though it might keep me within the bounds of the “artistically correct.”  Therefore, I wish to convey quite openly that in my interpretation of that most beautiful text by António Patrício in “Dinis e Isabel” (I had already done something similar with “Dom João e a Máscara,” in fact) is exclusively instrumental, so that the admirable timbre  – allied with superb musicality – of Ana Ferraz, functions in equal measure with the role of the horn, piano, flute and harp, instruments which, in this case, also benefit from musicians of noteworthy quality.
I was invited to write a Decateto (no. 1) to be performed in Porto and I immediately accepted the proposal, since, in addition to my own fascination for chamber music, the relatively large number of available instruments would permit me to establish relationships and sonorous effects similar to those possible in more symphonic situations. It so happens that I was wrong – I did not understand the commission arranged over the telephone…- and I wrote the piece for an instrumental formation that was nearly the opposite, in timbral terms, of the one asked of me. With only one week until the beginning of rehearsals, I had no alternative but to write, this time with the instruments initially requested, the Decateto no. 2 (which should have been the first one…) in a very short period of time, but I enjoyed resolving this “mistake,” especially since I consider that the two works complement each other in several manners.

“Memória” is a small piece dedicated precisely to the memory of someone already disappeared – known as Odette de Saint-Maurice – who produced a body of literature perhaps legitimately related with the so-called “romance cor-de-rosa” (overly simplistic, hyper-romantic novels), although this classification never offended the author.  She was more preoccupied with writing Portuguese well, which she always succeeded in doing, despite her great number of books – books that have undeniably marked at least two generations of Portuguese youth.

Many have asked me about the meaning of my piece entitled “O Pássaro que salvou o mundo,” (“The bird that saved the world”).  And I admit that it would be, in whatever circumstances, absurd to imagine a bird capable of saving the world – perhaps this already attributes an a priori sense of (a late) surrealism to this little quartet for flute and three string instruments.I wish to remind the reader, however, that the hypothesis of the world needing to be saved through the intervention of just anyone seems even more absurd…In fact, the nonsense is to be found in the perspective of the world (or life itself) needing to be saved, in accepting the systematic decimation of thousands of species, or the climatic phenomena that will lead to what is really no longer a distant future, putting an end to the career of that pernicious creature called the Human.And that reality is presented to us every day, and each time with more destructive power.Well, under these circumstances, if we are to accept the abominable and – from my perspective – abstruse idea that the world may be in risk and is therefore in need of saving, then the identity of its savior seems to me irrelevant, even if it turns out to be a simple bird… The bird does not even understand for what reason the world might be in need of saving, and at times, seems completely irritated with the situation.  But he does what he can, and, in the end, there is even a glimpse of the vague possibility that the world, thanks to the bird, or who knows what…can, perhaps, be saved…In Memoriam is a piece dedicated to a dear friend of mine since childhood, Engineer Armando Antunes, with whom I have shared, throughout the years, many important moments of my life – without forgetting a game of football played on top of a table, in which we both developed a virtuosity nearing perfection!… Armando Antunes died while champion of this game (which is a truly unparalleled game, although lamentably unknown, I must clarify) and I inherited the title.  But deprived of adversaries capable of challenging my skills, I am forced to play alone…The last time that I saw my old friend was at a concert where my piece, basically for brass instruments, “O Render dos heróis,” was performed.  This is why I have chosen the instrumentation of brass quintet to pay him this homage.

Ingeborg Baldaszti and Ricardo Rocha, piano and Portuguese guitar, respectively, are among the instrumentalists – from anywhere in the world – that I most admire.  I do so as much for their technique, which boarders on the amazing, as for their moving expressive capacities.  Unfortunately, from all of the music that I have written for this quite original duo, there exists only this little recording, Tocata, taken from the music I was invited to write for the television series by Moita Flores, “A Ferreirinha.”At any rate, even though I hope, for all the reasons, that these two fine musicians will be able to perform together many more times, I felt that, independent of the very specific character of the pieces – obviously, music for film or television… – it would not be fair to waste this opportunity to show the public what these two instruments, so seldom associated, are able to do together.

A. Victorino D’Almeida


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NUM 1192

The 3rd and 4th Symphonies of
António Victorino D’Almeida
In the program notes to the published score of his 3rd Symphony,1 António Victorino D’Almeida refers to a saying attributed to Portugal’s King, Dom João II (ca. 1455-1495):  “there is the time of the owl, but there is also the time of the hawk”. The King’s quotation emerges in the context of an appraisal of experimentalism, where the hawk conjures the image of the sly, opportunistic predator (the composer of seductively sonorous but  undeveloped sketches), in contrast with the shrewd owl (the methodical craftsman who painstakingly constructs a complete work). Already this context speaks volumes about the perspective of a composer who attributes opus numbers to works  published in 2007 and 2009 (op. 142 (Symphony No. 3)  and op. 154 (Symphony No. 4), respectively)2: it is as though the composer wishes to confirm that the listener stands before a complete and carefully thought-out whole, presented in a four movement plan, as happens in both works recorded here – hence the name, symphony. But this term should also be understood in its most “ancient” sense (i.e., originating in Italy during the late Renaissance), where it implied a group of heterogeneous instruments playing sounds [-phonia] together [syn-]. In fact, it seems that by evoking this dialogue with tradition, D’Almeida provides a framework for the listener’s interaction with his music.3
Understanding “how time passes”4 is an extremely important issue, one that has shaped much of the music written in the twentieth century (and considering the Portuguese King’s astute observation, the problem has apparently been known to everyone else since at least the fifteenth century). Returning to the owl and the hawk, but this time, focusing on the temporal issue behind the King’s quote, may provide some insight for understanding the various kinds of time or the way musical time may function in D’Almeida’s music. In fact, there seems to be a careful utilization of both hawkish and “owl-like” approaches at work here, in order to construct an internal balance of “opposites.” Traditional multi-movement symphonic form lends its built-in contrasts: fast – slow – dance – fast. A D’Almeida symphony typically begins with a more complex (read: owl-like) first movement (although in these works, any real vestiges of sonata form are virtually eclipsed), is followed by a lush singing movement (which always manages to go “off the rails” here and there), proceeds to a wry (read: hawkish) dance (often a scherzo or waltz) and closes with the inevitable finale, typically acting as a counterbalance to the opening movement (though the finale of the Fourth Symphony is a noteworthy departure from the expectedly frantic closing speed).
If these contrasts are more or less inherited attributes,  then the way time passes within each of these movements is where the composer’s invention lies. As previously mentioned, the traditional sonata shapes (with all of their tonal implications) have been jettisoned for formal procedures akin to those in Stravinsky’s landmark piece, Symphonies of Wind Instruments (1921). In this work, the title “symphonies” refers to the three kinds of music that make up the piece, each with a different tempo and character. In Stravinksy, these are combined in order to form a new continuity, as the kind of music sounding at any given moment is interrupted by what follows, creating a kaleidoscopic form of changes.
Something similar happens in these symphonies by D’Almeida, which again summons the dynamic of the owl’s and hawk’s times. The Portuguese composer prefers to take some material, perhaps a sardonic scherzo (Sinfonia 3, III), an invented, nostalgic song recalling his youth (Sinfonia 4, IV), or even thematic material from his own incidental music for his film, A Culpa (Sinfonia 3, IV), and use it as the basis for his “temporal” variations within a movement. Aspects of the basic material will be re-worked in a variety of settings, where each successive version clashes in some way with the former’s tempo, harmonic world or musical texture (as though what follows presents us with a different kind of time). In this way, the composer creates a parade of coherent (read: owl-like) successions of seemingly opportunistic (read: hawkish) changes.
But, if the composer has let go of the sonata approach traditionally associated with symphonic movements, this parade of on-stage characters constantly changing their costumes does receive some structuring from two other  formal archetypes, namely, the broad arch-forms associated with more lyrical movements and rondo-forms. This achieves a bow in the direction of the classical masters: one cannot help but recall Haydn’s delicate movements when encountering D’Almeida’s indication, Allegretto, in Symphony 3, and Mozart’s loathing of symphonic Adagios seems aptly reflected in the absence of any prolonged stretches of lethargic music.
Large-scale, arched shapes are employed in both the dance movements (the 3rd movements of both symphonies recorded here), where, in the fourth symphony, for example, sinuous waltzing interrupts a more barbed Allegretto.  In the “slow” second movements (here, a Moderato and an Andante, respectively) the juxtaposition game from the opening movements continues, imbuing the entire time-span of the symphony with a certain higher-order unity that glides above the tumult of the surface changes of speed and character. Neither is the rondo limited only to the finale – instead, it permeates all stages of the formal parade. The traditional return has been substituted with the idea of the refrain, since, although characters may revisit the stage, there is almost always subtle variation in their orchestral guises, their written-out reappearances (to paraphrase Bartók, the time of the exact formal repetition has passed). But in D’Almeida’s music, the return itself partakes in the interplay of times, since one excellent way to sense the passing of time is by standing still – a feat accomplished musically by returning “to square one” and repeating the game all over again.  This heightens one’s awareness of the different juxtapositions and makes any changes all the more dramatic.
And finally, if the reader will indulge one last musing of an ornithological nature:  does all of this make António Victorino D’Almeida an owl that hunts by day or a hawk who flies by night?
Fredrick Gifford

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NUM 1194

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)

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NUM 1191

Title:  Sinfonia nr 2 & Concertino


Artists: Festival Symphony Orchestra, Orquestra Sinfónica Portuguesa, Antonio Victorino D’Almeida

Composer: António Victorino D’Almeida

A portrait of António Victorino D’Almeida (with Jean Cocteau in the background)
“Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.”
When I first encountered this quotation, it was attributed to Jean Cocteau.  Since then, I have seen it ascribed to a different person nearly every time I encounter it.  (And if we were to confer with the nearly infinite source of disinformation the Internet is quickly evolving to become, I’m certain we could find the same quotation attached to any number of luminaries).  Whatever the case, the universality of the attribution speaks both to the inherent veracity of the statement as well as to the proclivity of culture to borrow and integrate good ideas.  It is not perchance then, that I have chosen this particular sentence to frame a small portrait of the music of António Victorino D’Almeida.
First, the choice of this quote by Cocteau raises a question about historical proximity.  The music of António Victorino D’Almeida included on this CD, although not literally contemporary with the modernism of Cocteau (the works recorded here were written after the French author’s death), immediately conjures the sound world associated with the Paris inhabited by Cocteau in the 1920’s and ‘30’s.  Any listener familiar with music from the French capital during the fist half of the twentieth century will no doubt share the composer’s sardonic grin as she encounters reminiscences of Debussy, Gershwin, Stravinsky, Ravel, Honegger, Prokofiev, Auric and maybe even Satie.  Such “reminiscences” are not mere quotation, but rather, the evocation of a style (or styles) and all the associated trappings.  It’s as though the composer clothes himself in the costumes and customs of a given stylistic world and then writes at least a few phrases of well-behaved music in it before moving onto his next stylistic “target.”
Then there is a line of thought centered around borrowing – Cocteau as the creative plunderer of Greek drama in La Machine Infernal, for instance. (In fact, the mechanical bubbling conjured by Cocteau’s title might seem a rather appropriate metaphor for the orchestral “factory”  encountered on the current recording, as the musicians toil away to make the high number of character changes take place so seamlessly).  Perhaps plunderer is too harsh a term, although it is difficult to resist the image of the French dramaturge as some sort of surrealist Giovanni Belzoni, penning his initials on the pyramids of Greek drama.  And Belzoni brings us back to the thread of cultural appropriation and borrowing – after all, where would the British Museum be without its obelisks?  That is to say, why shouldn’t António Victorino D’Almeida be able to export the styles of musical monuments from their original contexts and shape them to achieve his own creative ends?  In fact, the plurality of the composer’s borrowings is what drives his musical discourse.
Before the so-called post-modernist period, one typically spoke of collage or pastiche, and it seems that the satire implicit in the latter term (with all its echoes of Cocteau) is at the heart of D’Almeida’s endeavors.  How else could a “stinger” (the most crassly “closed” of closing gestures) seeming to come from a film of the Golden Era of Hollywood elide so smoothly with a continuation in the form of a gossamer texture evoking the “impressionist” aether? How does “Gershwin-like” Americana commingle so easily with Viennese waltzing? (Although I have latched onto Cocteau, it is clear that D’Almeida’s frame extends well beyond France).  The satire results from the new continuity created by these seeming mismatches.
Here we strike on another ray, one that stretches from Cocteau to António Victorino D’Almeida via that most double-edged of dramatic tools, parody.  Of course when we think of Cocteau, we mean dramatic parody. But with D’Almeida, we have two kinds of parody to deal with: musical and comedic parody (and with so many sharp edges, it’s unlikely that someone won’t get hurt…).  Musical parody refers to the very old practice of borrowing pre-existing music and composing with it, in order to create a new composition. Employed extensively by late-Medieval and Renaissance composers, many times this sort of borrowing involved the innocuous use of a four-part (sacred) motet to generate a 5-voice mass, for example.  But at times it played with the more flagrant integration of a popular chanson into the polyphonic texture of liturgical music, projecting the profane onto the sacred in a manner that bordered on sacrilege.  Of course, such a loaded technique was enthusiastically revived in the last century by the theatrical surrealists and musical “neo-classicists” working in Cocteau’s Paris, and continues to be echoed in D’Almeida’s music.
But D’almeida’s parody is not literally concerned with embedding known tunes into his textures, rather, his rapid-fire evocations of “profane” situations challenge the canonic form of the symphony as erudite concert music, in the vein of his modernist predecessors.  But in the Portuguese composer’s music, the challenge is not one to be taken lightly – in fact humor can be quite a serious matter.
At this junction with parody and humor, our train of thought must detour briefly towards another composer – one, no doubt, very close in spirit to D’Almeida – the American Charles Ives.  In Ives’s musical parodies (here the term applies in its literal sense), the religious hymn tunes that are set in counterpoint with patriotic numbers (at times quite comically) are done so, not to belittle the component sources, but in order to throw them into a new dialogue – a result akin to the effect of the juxtapositions in the music of António Victorino D’Almeida.
Yet another fleeting thought: we are struck by the multi-faceted approach to art in his vast output.  Here is a man who writes both original pieces as well as histories and criticism, makes films and retains the role of a personality in the story of his nation’s culture.  It is an observation that could apply equally to Cocteau as well as D’Almeida.
Still, the reader may protest, charging that I haven’t spoken directly about the music on this CD.  But that probably won’t bother the composer too much.  The main reason Cocteau’s provocative quote came to mind in the first place was a question of appropriateness (and here, the echoes of Igor Stravinsky, a great collaborator of Cocteau, are quite loud ), or rather, the lack of appropriateness of verbosity in the face of music whose discourse relies on experiencing the voyage of unexpected twists and turns into and out of nearly as many styles, speeds, keys and characters as the pieces have minutes.
And after saying all of this, what if I am mistaken – what if the incipit wasn’t even by Cocteau at all?
Fredrick Gifford

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