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 1196

MIGUEL TORGA – POESIA

Aurelino Costa – voz

Victorino D’Almeida – piano

Os textos de Miguel Torga, mesmo que se refiram a temáticas urbanas, deixam sempre transparecer uma cultura da natureza, como se as palavras brotassem da terra e do granito das serras.

Contudo, essa força telúrica oscila entre a rudeza dos sons e uma comovente ternura pelos seres e pelas coisas da vida.

Dir-se-ia que é fácil encontrar uma resposta musical para as imagens literárias.

Por outro lado, Aurelino Costa transmite-nos de uma forma admiravelmente impressiva a mensagem dos poetas, nomeadamente a de Miguel Torga, e a junção da música improvisada à solidez dos textos escritos torna-se quase intuitiva, tão natural no calor de um palco como na teórica frieza de um estúdio de gravação.

Por tudo isto, é sempre para mim uma experiência fascinante trabalhar em conjunto com este extraordinário declamador

António Victorino D’Almeida

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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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NUM 1189

Title: Missa Grande

Artist: Coro de Câmara de Lisboa

Composer: Marcos Portugal

Marcos Portugal was the most famous Luso-Brazilian composer ever.  In Europe his notoriety was mainly due to the dramatic works, and particularly due to the opere buffe. In Portugal and Brazil, however, his sacred music, of which we know more than 130 works, exerted an influence (still to ascertain in its entirety) that lasted for more than 100 years. Three of the most paradigmatic 19th century works were written by Marcos Portugal and remained in the churches’ repertoire until the beginning of the 20th century: the Great Mass in E b major (c.1782-90) [P 01.09],* the Te Deum in D major (1802) [P 04.08],* and the Matins of Our Lady of Conception in C major (1802) [P 03.05].*
Despite this evidence, the composer’s music is almost entirely unknown, a fact expressed in the lack of editions and in the rarity of recordings of integral works.
Marcos António Portugal was born on the 24th of March 1762 in the parish of S. Isabel in Lisbon. He was the grandson of Joaquim Mendes Ferreira, musician at Freixial, and the son of Manuel António da Assumpção or Ascensão, musician of the Santa Igreja Patriarcal (Patriarchal Holy Church). He was admitted to the Seminário da Patriarcal in 1771, a music school founded by D. João V in 1713 responsible for the training of almost all of the best Portuguese musicians of the 18th and early 19th centuries. His first works – including a Miserere from 1776 – date from such time when Marcos António was an intern student there. His music teachers at the Seminário were João de Sousa Carvalho and, most likely, José Joaquim dos Santos and Father Nicolau Ribeiro Passo Vedro.
In 1780, the 18 year old youngster started writing new music for the Patriarchal Church’s liturgical functions, and was later hired by the same institution as organist and composer. Before eventually being admitted to the Irmandade de S. Cecília (the musicians’ guild) on the 23rd of July 1783, Marcos António (the variant of his name he used at the time) composed several psalms, two antiphons, and at least one Te Deum. The widespread recognition of his talent soon reached the Royal Family and, on the 4th of December 1782, the Queen D. Maria I commissioned a mass com instrumental (with orchestra) for S. Bárbara’s feast, usually celebrated with solemnity and devotion at the Royal Queluz Palace. This occasion was of the utmost importance since it marked the beginning of a closer collaboration between Marcos Portugal and the Royal Family, and particularly Prince D. João (later King João VI), a relationship that would condition the rest of his professional life, and even influence his style.
Until 1792 his compositional activity was centered in the religious ceremonies taking place at the Patriarchal Church and Queluz, slowing down from 1785, when he also turned to composing royal birthday odes, entremezes, and Portuguese operas for the Teatro do Salitre. In the second half of the 1780’s he switched to another variant of his name, Marcos António da Fonseca Portugal (Fonseca Portugal being his mother’s surnames), and using the titles “Music Master of the Teatro do Salitre”, and “organist and composer of the Patriarchal Holy Church”.
His stay in Italy lasted from 1792 to 1800, with a brief sojourn in Portugal from mid 1794 until July 1795. In that country he premiered at least 21 operas, a surprisingly high number for a period of only six and a half years. This production illustrates the creative ability and extraordinary working capacity of Marco Portogallo (name by which he became known internationally). Manoel d’ Almeida Carvalhaes painstakingly describes the phenomenon of the premieres and dissemination of the composer’s operas in the indispensable work Marcos Portugal na sua música dramática: between 1793 and the second decade of the 19th century there were about 400 premieres and staged productions (implying thousands of performances) in more than 100 cities, including Lisbon, Vienna, Paris, London, Saint Petersburg and Rio de Janeiro. This unprecedented success was mainly due to the comic genre.
Back to Lisbon in 1800, the fame of the “Great Marcos” was at its peak, and he was offered two of the most significant music positions in the Kingdom: Music Master at the Seminário da Patriarcal (ceasing the function as organist at the Patriarchal Church), and Maestro at the Real Teatro de São Carlos (São Carlos Royal Theatre). A few years later he would also become Music Master of the Infantes Maria Isabel (born 1797), Pedro (born 1798), Maria Francisca (born 1800) and Isabel Maria (born 1801). These appointments attest the trust and admiration of the Prince Regent D. João for Marcos Portugal and his work.
During this period the focus of his activity were the opere serie for the Teatro de São Carlos (10 of them with roles created for the prima donna Angelica Catalani), as well as sacred music for Queluz (the habitual royal domicile) and the Basilica of Mafra’s Convent, where D. João took up residence after the aborted Autumn 1805 coup, and where he stayed until departing for Brazil. The repertoire for Mafra is particular since it is destined for the set of 6 organs and the voices of the monks.
Marcos Portugal was not among those who departed with the Portuguese Court on the 29th of November 1807, just before the arrival in Lisbon of Junot’s troops; however, after urgently being called by the Prince Regent to “go and serve Him in [Rio de Janeiro’s] Court”, he arrived in June 1811. The strategy and motives of the Monarch, and the role he had reserved for Marcos, besides that of music master to his son and daughters, was more comprehensive, as can be inferred from the letter the composer received less than 4 months after his arrival:
[…] It being required by decorum and decency, that the Pieces of Music, that are to be staged at the Public Theatres of this Court on the days that the Prince Regent Our Lord honours us with His presence, should be executed with the regularity, and good order, that are indispensable on these occasions, and there being united in Your Person all the circumstances of intelligence and worth needed to regulate and conduct such Spectacles properly: It pleases Him to charge you with overseeing and directing them. […]
The signalled nuance is revealing: the ceremonies attended by the Prince Regent were “different”, of another level of importance. This applied not only to the Public Theatres, but also to the Royal Chapel. Furthermore, a mise en scène is implied on all the public appearances of His Royal Highness. In the mind of D. João, the style of music that Marcos Portugal had, for years, been developing to potentiate the staging of Royal Power, was one of its essential ingredients. The composer not only wrote and chose the music, but made sure everything ran smoothly and in “good order”. In the widest sense his function was that of a “Director of Court Music”.
The virtuosic and dramatic music provided by Marcos enhanced the technical and expressive capacities of the soloists and, particularly, of the castrati, since he wrote for the individual idiosyncrasies of each singer. It is clear that the talents of the Italian castrati and the aesthetic they represented were an important part of the spectacle of exhibition of Royal Power: His Majesty was prepared to pay 100$000 reis per month, exactly double the Chapel Master’s salary, Father José Maurício Nunes Garcia, and double the salary of Marcos Portugal! Their participation in the two events with the greatest sociopolitical repercussions whilst the Portuguese Court remained in Rio de Janeiro was certainly decisive: the marriage of Prince Pedro and the Archduchess Leopoldina on the 7th of November 1817, and the Acclamation of King João VI, which took place on the 6th of February 1818.
The music situation at the Royal Chapel was radically altered with the return of the Court to Portugal and with Brazil’s independence in 1822. Not only some of the musicians working for the King of Portugal crossed the Atlantic (but not the castrati), but the financial difficulties originated increasing budget cuts, resulting in the diminution of gala ceremonies and in the degradation of the quality of the music performed in the Imperial Chapel.
Marcos Portugal, whose salary remained intact, decided to stay in Rio de Janeiro serving the new Emperor. From de 1st of January 1825, he was also appointed Music Master of the Imperial Princesses, the daughters of D. Pedro, D. Maria da Glória and D. Januária Maria. After remaining loyal to D. Maria I and D. João VI for 40 years, Marcos António Portugal dedicated the last 9 years of his life to the Emperor of Brazil, D. Pedro I, without the former glory, it is true, but apparently as esteemed by the son (his dedicated pupil) as he had been by the father.
According to Article 6. § 4º of the first Brazilian Constitution (1824), he became a Brazilian citizen. Marcos also wrote an Anthem for the Independence of Brazil (1822) sung during the 7th of September celebrations for several decades.
He died of a third apoplectic attack on the 17th of February 1830.
The Missa Grande [Great Mass] (c.1782-1790) is one of Marcos Portugal’s three sacred works that reached a remarkable geographical dissemination, as well as a constancy of liturgical usage lasting until the beginning of the 20th century. From the middle of the 19th century it became known as Missa Grande, possibly by virtue of the long Domine Deus, a sextet for 2 sopranos, alto, tenor and 2 basses. Its importance, influence and paradigmatic character are expressed not only in the large number of versions (15 were found so far), authored by Portuguese composers (among them António da Silva Leite, Eleutério Franco Leal and Mathias Jacob Osternold), but also in the noteworthy number of extant copies – 80 in total – found in public and private Portuguese and Brazilian archives. The successive adaptations attest to the functional characteristics of this music, and reveal some of the compositional and performance practices of the period.
The work predates the Italian period and was probably the result of a royal commission. It is a beautiful example of the concertato style (in which the choir and soloists alternate and dialogue), and reveals an inventive and mature composer. The sextet Domine Deus, the duet for 2 sopranos Quoniam tu solus, and the Crucifixus, are among the more inspired pages. Prominence should also be given to the Christe and the [Cum Sancto Spiritu] in gloria Dei Patris, two long fugati modeled in the works of the Neapolitan Davide Perez (1711-1778), active in the Portuguese Royal Chapel from 1752 until his death, and João de Sousa Carvalho (1745-1798), Perez’s successor and the music teacher of Marcos Portugal.
The version recorded here by the Lisbon Chamber Choir, scored for soloists, mixed choir and basso continuo (thoroughbass), was written by the composer and should date from c.1782-1792 [P 01.09, V2];**  the original version is for orchestra. It is the world premiere recording of the work.
ANTÓNIO JORGE MARQUES
* Numbering refers to the entries of the Thematic Catalogue of the Sacred Works of Marcos Portugal. P = Portugal.
** V2 refers to the work’s second version.

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Alfredo Keil – Gabriela Canavilhas – Ana Ferraz

Numerica’s Ref.: PS 5003
ALFREDO KEIL (LISBON 1850 – HAMBURG 1907)
SONGS AND PIANO PIECES
Alfredo Keil was a highly talented composer who occupies an important position in the last quarter of the 19th century in Portugal, not only in the field of music but also as a painter, and yet both his biography and musical output remain to be studied.
It is, to say the least, paradoxical that a man who is generally described as a dilettante and amateur should have left something in the region of two thousand paintings – including the finest works of the period in this country – as well as three full-length operas, including the historical landmark Serrana (completed in 1895), the only Portuguese opera to have retained a place in the repertoire from the time of its premiere in 1899.(1)
Known as being the first opera to be sung in Portuguese, Serrana is the most clearly nationalistic in intention of Keil’s three operas, including for instance stylised examples of folksong. It should be noted, however, that the subject matter for Dona Branca (premiered in 1888) and for Irene (first performed in 1893) was equally Portuguese, and that there were comparable instances of folk inspiration. As for the use of Italian, common to most Portuguese operas prior to Serrana (and a number of later ones too), contrary to popular belief, this was not merely the consequence of a preconception with regard to our own language; it was rather the result of all the singers contracted by the Teatro de São Carlos, the Lisbon opera house, being Italian. Indeed Serrana was sung in Italian at first performance.
Labelled “neo-Romantic” as a painter, in his operas, through a combination of ingenuity and intuition, Keil concocted a very individual mix of various musical trends of the period. The structuring of the opera, in separate numbers, is Italian but we should also note the melodic and harmonic influence of Massenet, a composer with whom Keil maintained a firm friendship as well as a regular correspondence and to whom the score of Serrana is dedicated. There are hints of Wagner in the use of Leitmotiv and in his describing the genre of D. Branca and Serrana as “Drama Lírico”, and particularly in his calling Irene a “Lenda Mística” (Mystical Legend). In Serrana, an opera dlrectly escended from Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana in his giving it a rural setting, he brings us to the world of Italian Verismo.
It is difficult to reach a verdict on Dona Branca and Irene, two operas which have never been staged or even heard during the last hundred years. As for Serrana, it is incontestably – notwithstanding its slight technical weaknesses – an opera that works and is capable of moving us just as it did a hundred years ago.
This disc illustrates a better known facet of the somewhat restrained late Romantic that was Alfredo Keil, with songs and piano pieces that belong to a practice of performing salon music that came to an end with the arrival of the 20th century. Even if it is not to these that Keil owes his importance to Portuguese music, they certainly evoke a discreet charm of a different era, as a fine, artistic sociological document. They offer no more than a dim reflection of Keil’s artistic career. The songs using French poems and style, as well as the piano pieces, are early works, while “Fado” and the three popularly inspired Portuguese songs are late, exploring a more personal indigenous style and sensibility.
* * *
Born in Lisbon on 3 July 1850, Alfredo Keil was of German ancestry on his father’s side and Alsatian on his mother’s. (2) His father, João Cristiano (Johann Christian) Keil, settled here in 1838 as a tailor and could count the King among his clients; his mother, Maria Josefina Stellpflug, belonged to a family resident in Portugal since the late eighteenth century.
While still a child, Alfredo Keil visited various countries with his parents, showing a precocious interest in painting and music. During his adolescence he dedicated himself particularly to the former, his drawing teacher being Joaquim Prieto. At 12 he composed and published his Op. 1 for piano (Pensée Musicale).
In 1868, not yet 18 years old, he went to Bavaria to study in Munich and Nuremberg, where his teachers at the Academy of Fine Arts were Kaulbach and Keeling. He sent his first paintings from there for an exhibition of the Sociedade Promotora das Belas Artes (Society for the Promotion of the Fine Arts).
In 1870 the Franco-Prussian War forced him to return to Portugal, where he continued to study painting under Prieto and Miguel Lupi. He was awarded a prize by the Sociedade Promotora in 1874 and 1876, also competing in and receiving awards from a number of international exhibitions.
Meanwhile he was gaining popularity in elegant salons as a composer of waltzes and polkas. In the area of music, his teachers were the Hungarian Oscar de Ia Cinna (piano) and The Portuguese Ernesto Vieira (harmony) and António Soares (rudiments).
In 1883 his one-act comic opera Susana was performed at the Teatro da Trindade, to a text by Higino Mendonça. On 10 June the following year, in the aftermath of the Camões tercentenary (1880), his cantata Patrie was performed in the old Whitoyne Coliseum, under the direction of Filipe Duarte. 1885 and 1886 respectively saw the premieres of his symphonic poem Uma Caçada na Corte and the cantata As Orientais, given by the Academia dos Amadores de Música at the Trindade Hall. But this was also a period of great activity as a painter, from when most of his small paintings of Colares date.
Dona Branca, his “Dramme lyrique” in a prologue and four acts was premiered at the Teatro de São Carlos on 10 March 1888 and was his first important work. To a libretto by César Fereal, based on the poem of the same name by Almeida Garrett, it was enormously successful, being performed thirty times there before going on to the Teatro Lírico at Rio de Janeiro.
Two years later, the British Ultimatum set into motion a massive wave of patriotic fervour. Encapsulating the feelings of the nation, Alfredo Keil composed the march A Portuguesa, to which Henrique Lopes de Mendonça added lyrics that rapidly came to be sung all over the country it was to the sound of A Portuguesa that the Republican Revolution broke out in Oporto on 31 January 1891, leading to the 20¬ year prohibition of public singing of this march. Taken up once more by the people at the time of the revolution of 5 October 1910, it was finally adopted by the Republic as its National Anthem – a destiny never foreseen by the monarchist Alfredo Keil, who had meanwhile passed away.
Returning to 1890, this was the year in which the Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II first put on the historical tragedy A Morta by Henrique Lopes de Mendonça for which Keil composed incidental music. In the same year he held an exhibition where he sold about 300 paintings. One of the purchasers was King Luís, who had asked Alfredo Keil in 1886 to compose a cantata to celebrate the marriage of Prince Carlos to Princess Amélia of Orleans, thus giving birth to O Poema da Primavera (only performed posthumously in 1930). It was to King Luís that the composer dedicated the score of Dona Branca, published in Paris.
The four-act “Leggenda mistica” Irene was first performed at the Teatro Regio, Turin, on 20 March 1893. Also to words by César Fereal, it was published two years later in Leipzig and staged at the São Carlos in 1896.
At about this time Keil completed A Serrana, to a libretto by Henrique Lopes de Mendonça, based on the tale Como ela o amava (“How she loved him”) by Camilo Castelo Branco. The premier took place at the São Carlos on 13 March 1899. A reduction for voices and piano was published in Rio de Janeiro by a huge group of admirers (rather as happened with the Symphony “A Pátria” (‘The Fatherland”) by Viana da Mota), with illustrations by Roque Gameiro, Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro and others.
Throughout this period Aldredo Keil continued to devote himself to painting. In the last years of his life he particularly devoted his attention to his collections of works of art, especially to his famous collection of musical instruments. This came to include as many as 400 different items and now forms part of the collection of the Museu de Música in Lisbon. His valuable collection of paintings included a Goya, a Luca Giordano, a Bruegel and numerous Portuguese old masters. His magnificent library included a number of rare works, including manuscripts, some with illuminations. He himself published the volumes Breve Notícia da Colecção Keil – Instrumentos de música (1904) and Colecções e Museus de Arte de Lisboa (1905).
Alfredo Keil was a man who gained the affection and appreciation of institutions and ordinary people alike. Called upon by all walks of life in the country, this universality led to the composition of a number of occasional works, such as the Hino do Infante Dom Henrique and the Marcha de Gualdim Pais. The lyrical symphonic poem A Índia (originally intended as an opera, which was never completed) was commissioned by the Geographical Society, to signal the quatercentenary of Vasco da Gama’s discovery of India in 1898 (its demise was due to lack of funding).
At the time of his premature death on 4 October 1907, Alfredo Keil left an unpublished book of verse, drawings and songs, all of which he had produced himself, published a year later as Tojos e Rosmaninhos (“Gorse and Rosemary”). Otherwise among his musical works, he left sketches for another opera, Simão, o Ruivo, and an enormous number of small vocal and instrumental pieces.
* * *
Among the works included on this disc, dating from prior to the opera D. Branca, the Six Mélodies, to a poem by Sully Prudhomme and J. T Saint Germain, were published in Paris Choudens Père & Fils. The rest were published in Lisbon by Augusto Neuparth: Murmures, Jeunesse and Autrefois belong to the album Douze Mélodies, Op. 9, dedicated “à Sa Majesté Le Roi D. Louis ler; Souvenances, Serments d’Amour and Chimère are taken from the volume Impressions Poétiques, Op. 12, dedicated “à S. M. La Reine de Espagne Marie Christine”, Beauté, Op. 15, is from the volume Folhas de Album, dedicated “a Amélia, Duquesa de Bragança”.
Um Fado, Op. 75, N° 12, dates from 1902 and was published posthumously by J. Heliodoro d’Oliveira. Cantiga de Cego, Sacrilégio and Promessas form par: of tine volume Tojos e Rosmaninhos, also published posthumously by the firm Editora.
(1) Apart, alas, from the last 20 years. Having been systematically staged for some seven decades, it has not been revived since 1979.
(2) The principal sources consulted for [his biographical note are: his obituary, included in N° 212 of the magazine A Arte Musical (15 October 1907); issue N° 88 of the periodical Vértice, which marked the centenary of Keil’s birth with a series of articles (December 1950); the entry given over to Keil in the Dicionário de Música by Fernando Lopes-Graça and Tomás Borba. Even more than is usual for Portuguese composers, Alfredo Keil suffers from a total lack of literature dedicated to him.
ANA FERRAZ (Soprano)
She studied Singing at the Conservatório Nacional, Lisbon, with Hugo Casaes and Elsa Saque, and at the Escola Superior de Música, Lisbon, with Helena Pina Manique. With awards from the Centro Nacional de Cultura, the British Council and the Fundação Oriente, she went on to study singing in Florence and Barcelona with Gino Bechi, Magda Olivero and Paul von Schilavski, and stage performance at the “Mayer-Lismann Opera Centre” in London.
She has won prizes at various national singing competitions and at the International Francisco Viñas Competition (Barcelona), where she won a Katia Ricciarelli scholarship to study in Italy.
She made her debut at the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos, Lisbon, in November 1991 in the opera Amor de Perdição, by António Emiliano, which was also performed at the Théâtre La Monnaie, Brussels, as part of the 1991 Europalia Festival. She subsequently performed in La Spinalba, As Damas Trocadas, Guillaume Tell, Gianni Schicchi and Don Giovanni. She sang as a soloist in the same theatre’s Salão Nobre in the series “Young Soloist Recitals” and in the concert given as a homage to António Fragoso. She was also a member of the cast of the Portuguese version of Benjamin Britten’s opera The Little Sweep, and in late 1997 took part in Stephen Sondheim’s musical Sweeney Todd at the Teatro Nacional Dona Maria lI, under the direction of João Paulo Santos.
In the 100-day Festival (1998), she sang in Don Giovanni, performed at the Belém Cultural Centre. She is a regular performer with the group ópera de Câmara do Real Theatro de Queluz.
In concert she has worked with the Oporto Classical Orchestra, the Lisbon Metropolitan Orchestra, the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra and the Lithuania Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Mark Stevenson, Ki-Sun-Sung, Meir Minsky, Ketil Haugsand, Vladimir Ziva, Manuel Ivo Cruz and Jorge Matta.
She has sung at the principal music festivais in Portugal, as a performer of Lieder, opera and oratorio.
She has recorded a number of CDS for Polygram, Movieplay and EMI Classics and made several recordings for Portuguese National Television (RTP) and Radio (RDP).
GABRIELA CANAVILHAS
Gabriela Canavilhas, an Azorean descent, started her musical studies at the Ponta Delgada Conservatoire (S. Miguel, Azores), and finished her Piano Course at the Lisbon National Conservatoire.
She obtained a Diploma of Honour in Chamber Music at the famous Accademia Musicale Chigiana, Siena, Italy. In 1989, she was awarded First Prize in Classical Music in the national contest Cultura e Desenvolvimento, promoted by the “Clube Português de Artes e Ideias”. In 1990, she was awarded First Prize in Duo Piano/Clarinet, in the V International Contest “Città di Moncalieri” in Turim, Italy.
As a performing pianist, she has opted mainly for chamber music. She is also interested in vocal music, Lied, chamber song and choral music, and has performed with countless singers and several choral formations.
The promotion of chamber and contemporary music is one of her major objectives, and her work is today regarded in Portugal as an important reference as far as Portuguese music and contemporary music are concerned.
She devotes special attention to Portuguese music, having played the first performance in the 20th century of the Quintet in D Major by João Domingos Bomtempo, as well as first performances of works dedicated to her by contemporary Portuguese composers. She has also recorded on CD several works by contemporary Portuguese composers.
She has frequently recorded for RDP (National Radio Broadcasting) and RTP (National Television). She has also recorded a CD for the Palácio Nacional da Ajuda with musical works belonging to lhe archives of the palace, music for Clarinet and Piano for Ovação editions, “Evocação” and “Vocalizos” (Movieplay-Classic) with 20th century’s Portuguese music and for Strauss Portugalsom one CD with J. Domingos Bomtempo’s Piano Sonatas.
Gabriela Canavilhas  is presently the Portuguese Minister of Culture

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