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
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)
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