Posts Tagged Fernando Lopes-Graça

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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NUM 1188

Title: Compositores Portugueses XX-XXI

Artists: Coro de Câmara Lisboa Cantat, Coro Sinfónico Lisboa Cantat, Jorge Carvalho Alves, Clara Alcobia Coelho

Composers:  Fernando Lopes Graça, Paulo Lourenço, Tiago Marques, Eurico Carrapatoso

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NUM 1150

Title: Opus Ensemble 2007

Artists: Opus Ensemble, Pedro Ribeiro, Ana
Bela Chaves, Olga Prats, Alejandro Erlich Oliva

Composers: Franz Joseph Haydn, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Fernando Lopes-Graça, António Victorino D’Almeida

OPUS ENSEMBLE 2007
Presenting world-premiere recordings of two notable works dedicated to the Opus Ensemble by Portuguese authors is the basic concept that determined the choice of repertoire on this CD.
The persistent action of dissemination of Portuguese music begun by the Opus Ensemble in 1980 had an unconditional proponent in Fernando Lopes Graça.  His artistic and human relation with Olga Prats and Ana Bela Chaves predates the founding of the Opus Ensemble, which the great composer welcomed with sincere enthusiasm. In this way, preexistent ties generated new and vigorous connections.
Geórgicas was dedicated to the Opus Ensemble in 1989. The world premiere took place in Tomar (12/14/1991) and the Latin-American premiere was organized by the Wagnerian Association of Buenos Aires, with assistance from the ministerial guardian of culture of the Republic of Argentina and with the support of the Portuguese Embassy (08/25/1993). A studio videorecording of the work was made by RTP (Portuguese Television) and a live audiorecording was made by RDP (Portuguese Radio); but  until now, the work was never published on CD.
De Profundis à memória de Bruno Pizzamiglio (Op. 130) by António Victorino d’Almeida was the first work dedicated to an Opus Ensemble regrouped as a quartet, after its reduction to a trio motivated by the death, in 1997, of the founding oboist of the ensemble.
Its premiere (Viana do Castelo, 09/20/2003) signaled the first performance of the Opus Ensemble with Pedro Ribeiro, who, is now a permanent member of the group.
In the program notes for that event, the composer wrote (excerpts):  “Bruno Pizzamiglio left us and his place in the Opus Ensemble stayed empty and silent.  But nothing can last forever – not even the absence dictated by death – when one considers such a superior concept, complex but concrete, called resurrection… De Profundis is, without a doubt, a long and agitated meditation on this strange phenomenon – at times frightening or even aberrant, in other cases, almost bearable as natural – which is the passage of someone we know, with whom we have dealt and worked, from the world, apparently far from his future resurrection”…. A single sonority clearly in the major mode, on the final beat of the final measure, defines the certainty that I have always had in the indisputable truth of that resurrection and that the Opus Ensemble would reemerge today without empty space or silence, not because the grief is past, but because time has passed.”
Haydn and Beethoven, heavy names in any repertoire, are particularly welcome here, as they constitute referential archetypes worthy of special admiration. This is assumed publicly, on the part of the two illustrious Portuguese creators that the Opus Ensemble, with pride and gratitude, pays homage on this CD.
Finally, a warm greeting for João Almeida (Antena 2) and Fernando Rocha (NUMÉRICA), who, enthusiastically and effectively made the realization of this undertaking possible.
Alejandro Erlich Oliva
Lisbon, 2007

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NUM 1182

Title: Música Portuguesa Para Um Quarteto

Artists: Quarteto Lopes-Graça

Composers: Fernando Lopes-Graça, António Victorino D’Almeida

The members of this Quartet, formed at the School of Music of the National Conservatory (Lisbon – Portugal), are musicians possessing outstanding solo and chamber careers who are also teachers at that institution. This project intends to bestow on its Conservatory, as happens at many of its fellow schools around the world, a group of reference in the area of string performance capable of developing permanent teaching activity (quartet master-classes) as well as promoting the school, both in Portugal and abroad.

The ensemble performed in the most recent editions of the “La Folle Journée” Festival at the Cultural Centre of Belém, Lisbon, as well as in the Festival “In search of a Lost Concert House”, in Lisbon, and in many other major venues, including anniversary commemorations for Lopes Graça and Mozart.

It devotes special attention to repertoire by contemporary Portuguese composers, having given several world premieres of such works. One important example, a concert given last December in Andorra on the theme of “the Portuguese musical tradition of the 20th century,” deserves particular mention.

Its first CD includes major works by Lopes-Graça and Antonio Victorino d’Almeida.

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NUM 1139

Title: Obras para violoncelo e piano

Artists: Jed Barahal, Christina Margotto

Composers: Luís de Freitas Branco, Fernando Lopes-Graça

Luís de Freitas Branco’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, composed in 1913, after his studies in Berlin, reveals the composer’s naturally classical tendencies and exemplifies his use of cyclical composition techniques associated with the aesthetics of César Franck.  In the unanimous opinion of musicologists and critics alike, it is one of the most remarkable works in the Portuguese chamber repertoire and, for this reason, a rare example of world-class Portuguese music.

Nowadays, however, a work achieves international recognition only if it has been successfully recorded by more than a few artists.

Apart from its intrinsic value, a musical score’s interpretation by several performers with different cultural backgrounds, and in diverse circumstances, is what will eventually reveal a work in all its dimensions, including the ones that the composer himself may have been unaware of.  That is why LFB chose to grant performers the greatest possible freedom of interpretation.

It is to exactly this degree that a competent and talented performer presents himself as a co-author or co-creator of a work that is only capable of fulfilling its potential through him.  The true greatness of a musical composition may remain obscure or never fully develop without the existence of a diversity of interpretations.  This means that it is essential to make known new interpretations by performers of as many different nationalities as possible.

For Portuguese music to get this kind of publicity, it is important, if not indispensable, that instrumentalists of other nationalities take an interest in a work and play it regularly.  Just imagine what Mozart’s Jupiter symphony would have been if during the last 200 years it had been performed by one or two Austrian orchestras and a handful of their conductors.  Even if the worthiness of a score is undeniably the first requirement for its acceptance by the public, it is still not the only requirement.  The existence of what I have called a “diversity of interpretations” is an extraordinarily relevant factor in our high-tech consumer society.

I was fortunate enough to have had the pleasure of hearing a wonderfully stirring live performance of this sonata – the best of all I have had the opportunity to hear in person – by the American cellist Jed Barahal and the Brazilian pianist Christina Margotto in a concert that was part of a series commemorating the 50th anniversary of LFB’s death.  From now on, the public will be able to hear this remarkable interpretation by Jed Barahal and Christina Margotto.  We owe our thanks for this project, first of all, to the dedication and artistic enthusiasm of two foreigners who, so much the better for us, have chosen to live in Portugal. Someone else, however, is also responsible for this CD’s existence: I am referring to my dear friend Maestro José Atalaya. This recording is the treasured fruit of the infinite love of a student for his departed master, as well as the result of a sustained and noble effort carried out over several decades by Maestro Atalaya in support of performing artists.  It is the consequence of something as rare as it is beautiful: the dual acknowledgment of a gift from the past and of the present.  Let us hope now that musical audiences will enjoy them both.”

João Maria de Freitas Branco

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NUM 1145

Title: Lopes-Graça, In Memoriam Béla-Bartók, Op. 126

Artist: Antonio Rosado

Composer: Fernando Lopes-Graça

Fernando Lopes-Graça (1906-1994)
In Memoriam Béla Bartók: 8 Progressive Suites for Piano
Of the great pianistic cycles of Fernando Lopes-Graça, (6 Sonatas; Glosas; 24 Preludes; Travels in My Land; Hour after Hour, Year after Year; Festive and Funeral Musics; Rustic Portuguese Melodies; Cosmorame; etc.), In Memoriam Béla Bartók: 8 Progressive Suites for Piano, LG 140 (LG: from the catalog of the composer’s estate developed by Teresa Cascudo and published by the Museum of Portuguese Music, in Cascais) remains, paradoxically, one of the most important and one of the least performed and recorded.
Lopes-Graça gave the premiere performance of suites I, II, V and VI between 1963 and 1964, and Olga Prats, the dean of the master’s great interpreters, did the same in 1971 and 1976 for numbers IV, VII, and VIII, recording the latter, in what was at that time – and has remained until the current moment – the only commercial recording available on the market.  Even so, the fragmentation of the premiere of the Suites is not so surprising, since the composition of its component works extended from 1960 to 1975. The first attempt at a complete presentation was made by the Municipal Council of Matosinhos (an institution very connected to Lopes-Graça since the 1980’s; patron of the complete recording of the 6 Sonatas, as well as the current CD), which, on November 27, 1995, exactly one year after the death of the composer, brought together the pianists João Espírito Santo, Olga Prats, Miguel Borges Coelho, and Vitáli Dotsenko in the Town-hall.  Unfortunately, João Espírito Santo found himself impeded from performing the 5th Suite.  The current double CD is, therefore, 31 years after the composition of the final Suite, the world premiere of the complete version of one of the most fundamental works from its composer’s catalog.
The importance of In Memoriam for Lopes-Graça must have been significant, not only in terms of its temporal extension (1 hour and 40’), complexity and compositional richness, but also because the composer considered orchestrating some numbers; for example, appended in pencil on the first page of the manuscript of the 3rd Suite: “Orchestrate pastoral numbers from the suites for a Pastoral Suite  (or Pastoral Hours)”.  This desire was in fact begun in the 19 measures of the (undated) orchestration of Dawn (6th Suite) and Pastorale (7th Suite), both destined for an unfinished orchestral work entitled Bucolics.
The tribute to Bartók, one of the composers of reference for Lopes-Graça, if not the composer of reference, is therefore the most certain indicator of the importance which these eight suites will have assumed for him.  The progressive character of the pieces is typical of a mentality with pedagogical aims, one which sees a pedagogical, musical and even ethical model in Bartók’s Mikrokosmos.  By matching these suites to similar works by the influencing master, Lopes-Graça mirrors in a clear and unequivocal manner his own personal belief in the dialectical forces which impel Humanity in the direction of a – hopefully – better future.  As in Bartók, pedagogy and ethics, humanism and art, inextricably link themselves in the music of Lopes-Graça.
The eight suites progress, from first to last, not only in terms of pure pianistic difficulty (problems of fingerwork), but also in terms of the complexity of the written music (which, at times resorts to the use of 3 staves simultaneously) and of esthetic richness, as well as in simply temporal terms (from the 7’ of the first suite to the 20’ of the final one).  Problems of physical resistance and complex musical enigmas are added to the problems of fingerwork, issues which will only be resolved by certain interpreters, those inclined to embark on a true musical voyage.
It will be of interest, from this point of view, to observe the global form:
Total durations (partial durations written by Lopes-Graça at the end of each piece, of each suite – in the manner of Bartók):
1st Suite 7′
2nd Suite 8′
3rd Suite 12′
4th Suite 13′
5th Suite 11′
6th Suite 12′
7th Suite 14′
8th Suite 20′

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NUM 1124

Title: Fernando Lopes-Graça Integral das Sonatas Para Piano

Artist: António Rosado

Composer: Fernando Lopes-Graça

Fernando Lopes-Graça (1906-1994)
The six Piano Sonatas
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From the seven sonatas of Bomtempo to the six of Lopes-Graça, no other Portuguese composer has written a cycle of such important works for the piano in this classical form. Even after Lopes-Graça, the only composer closer to the present time who dared to create a similar cycle, is António Victorino D’Almeida (born in 1940, also a pianist), who until now (2004) has already completed seven sonatas. This scarcity, nevertheless, comes as no surprise, since it includes – except for Prokofiev – the whole of the musical twentieth century, either because of the complete rejection of classical forms by many composers, or of their appropriation by other more subtle intentions (the operas Wozzeck, by Alban Berg or The Turn of the Screw, by Benjamin Britten…) or, in short, of the substitution of these by balletic, jazzistic, or neoclassical forms and structures of a baroquian aspect, these last metioned having become popular in the first half of the century as they recuperated preceding forms and structures prior to the Beethovenian sonata, which genre reached its highest peak up until our time (the opposite of a Prokofiev, who wrote five concerts and nine sonatas for piano and seven symphonies). The only collection of importance with regard to the use of classical forms, in Lopes-Graça’s own catalogue, consists in just this collection of six works.
But if it is still early to evaluate the contribution of Victorino D’Almeida concerning the history of the genre, the same cannot be said of Lopes-Graça. All six Sonatas have been available for some years in digital form, and in two of these cases, (the Fifth and Sixth Sonatas) interpreted by Olga Prats and Nella Maissa, to whom these works were dedicated, make of these recordings true historical moments (the other recordings are of Maria da Graça Amado da Cunha and Miguel Henriques).
With the appearance of this double CD of António Rosado, which includes the complete cycle, one witnesses another historical moment which completely justifies the attention of the musicologists in one of the most important moments of the piano works of Lopes-Graça. A reading in their totality of the Sonatas by one sole interpreter with sufficient emotional distance both from the author as well as from the works (which permits a certain analytic interpretative objectivity), with the help of modern and excellent recording conditions (which did not always happen in the past) and master of a powerful technique at the service of a very personal musicality, will certainly shed new light on the pieces and their author.
The piano was for Lopes-Graça, as it was for many others before him, a vehicle of communion with a musical reality, a virtual diary, a source of experimentation (Ao Fio dos Anos e das Horas – Through the Years and the Hours – for example, subtitled “cadernos de um compositor” – a composer’s notebooks – is a real diary, “written” on the keyboard…). Constituted by dozens of works, which are comprised of hundreds of small pieces, this important pianistic “corpus” begins at the age of twenty-one with Variations on a Popular Portuguese Theme, written in 1927, his Opus I, and ends with the Tocata, Andante, and Fugato of 1991, not only his last piece for piano but also the penultimate one of all the works of his catalogue (Lopes-Graça composes a small piece for mixed choir “a capella”, in 1992, and then there is silence).
The six Sonatas include a similar period to that of the rest of his pianistic output, for they extend from 1934, (the composer was only twenty-eight years old) until 1981, when Lopes-Graça had already attained the advanced age of seventy-five, and, therefore, of themselves, can serve as landmarks of the technical and stylistic evolution of their author. They reveal, besides, the musical landmark of excellence, in the waters in which Lopes-Graça moved; in order to prove this statement, let us take a look at the dedications: from an illustrious musicologist (Macário Santiago Kastner), and an enlightened guide, and equally illustrious (D. Elisa de Sousa Pedroso) to the foreign pianists of renown (Hélène Boschi and Georges Bernand) and the Portuguese artists of the finest calibre (Olga Prats and Nella Maissa). If we again consider the list of the first interpreters, some of which are actual persons to whom the works were dedicated, this is no less significant: Helena Moreira de Sá e Costa, Hélène Boschi, Georges Bernand, Olga Prats and Nella Maissa, demonstrating the growing habit of Lopes-Graça to dedicate specific works to specific interpreters, who will later make known the work at the first hearing and, at times, even in a discographic register.
It is important to note that, notwithstanding the long period of time that they span and the stylistic evolutions that they denote, the six Sonatas are indubitably, the work of the same artist, whose voice was always and immediately distinguishable. The diverse influences that he experienced during the course of his life, some of which are still to be studied and to be discovered (not only those of Bartók, Stravinsky or Falla, but also those of Ravel, Janácék and Szymanowsky and, in the classical field, those of Bach, Beethoven and Chopin), only contributed so that the “style” of Lopes-Graça became unmistakable and unique. All six Sonatas show, however, within their unity, a notable diversity of musical gestures and textures, of the number and style of the movements, and also the proteiform musical structures, that make them very interesting as the object of an intellectual study, although Lopes-Graça never used a specific technique unless behind it there came, as a cause and not as a consequence, a certain and imperative musical intention.
The already-mentioned diversity is accompanied by an evident stylistic and technical evolution, that is also reflected in the scope of the work. If the First and the Second Sonatas (composed in 1934 and 1939 respectively, to initiate a phase of preoccupation with traditional but constructivistic forms and genres: the symphony, the concerto and the sonata) reveal, here and there, a certain neoclassical facet (namely the Second, the only one to have a key signature that puts it unequivocally in D Major, being significant, the dedication to Macário Santiago Kastner, the musicologist specialized in ancient piano music) and Iberiam folk music, there already exists between them a clear difference in time, no doubt, justified by an increasing conceptual complexity. We pass from some scarce 10’ to 16’, although the neo-baroquian format in three movements, fast-slow-fast is maintained.
The turning point is attained, unequivocally, in the Third Sonata, written in a series of kaleidoscopic movements – played without interruption – and which last more than twenty minutes. With this Third Sonata, the most “Bartókian” of all, the full maturity of Lopes-Graça is affirmed from the very first measures through a primeval and implacable energy, that culminates in the jubilant fugue almost at the end and closes in 1952, the first glorious chapter in the series, being significantly, important, that with it, Lopes-Graça won, in the same year, the Composition Prize of the Círculo de Cultura Musical. The decade of the fifties and the beginning of the sixties is also the most productive epoch of the pianistic output of the composer: he wrote one hundred and fifty more works, single or in cycles.
The Fourth Sonata (1961) which is approximately the same length as the Second, represents, after a fashion, the doubts and consequent experiments which established in the composer a transition to the sixties, at the same time that a certain formal “decline” (namely when compared to the resounding Third) with its four “symphonic” movements: fast-slow-fast-fast, that, notwithstanding, will return to shape the last works of the cycle. It is well known that Lopes-Graça did not appreciate the Fourth Sonata, until he heard, at the end of his life, an interpretation at a concert given by Miguel Henriques. At that time, he appears to have altered  his opinion with regard to this work, which is, according to my point of view, considering its ambiguous and enigmatic history, one of the most interesting, already pointing to the final sonatas, as though he were rehearsing for them. His apogee will come only after the evanescent Fourth Sonata, although sixteen years still had to transpire before the next work of the cycle saw the light of day.
The Fifth and Sixth Sonatas (1977 and 1981) represent and culminate in yet another creative phase, characterized by the maturity and crystallization of the creative processes. The structure of the works becomes dramatically complex, the harmonic ambiguity is greater than ever and the pianistic writing tends toward a density approaching a Schoenberg or a Szymanowsky, with few or no evident signs of the neoclassicism of the first works, or of Iberian folklore, always present until the sixties. An important and stylistic influence is especially accentuated, which was already heard in the Third Sonata: that of the late music of Beethoven. This becomes evident in the Fifth Sonata by the extraordinary series of nineteen small movements played in succession (again the dizzy kaleidoscopic aspect of the form, already mentioned in the commentary of the Third Sonata, in a wide structure of two parts, that recollects the form of the last Quartets of the master of Bonn, and in the Sixth Sonata, the last (and the longest of all also, lasting 25’) in the form of a surprising citation of thematic material – and the respective tonal relation (alternating between the two polar notes, Do and Mi) – of the first movement of the Waldstein Sonata in the form of four movements, with two of them played “attacca” (all of a sudden), and again by the constant transferences of thematic material from one movement to another.
Such a clear allusion to another composer already happened before, at the end of the First Sonata, which copies, enhancing his harmonic avant gardism, the almost atonal “presto” of  Chopin’s Sonata in B minor (another of the elect). If, by this aspect, we analyse the cycle of the six Sonatas of Lopes-Graça, we can almost speak of a dialectical path, which starts with a sombre atmosphere (a tie to death in the already cited work of Chopin is evident) to culminate in the olympian humanism of the last Beethoven. Is it also a reaction based on the evolution of Portuguese politics of this century, from fascism beginning in 1926, to democracy in 1974? Knowing Graça, it seems very possible to me and even an hypothesis to consider in the interpretation of these odd and fascinating works. The general impression aims constantly at the future since the music of Lopes-Graça is never completely innocent or playful, and still less, frivolous. There lies its permanent restlessness, even in moments of greater jubilation.
Considering all that has been said, it becomes evident that the Sonatas demand an interpreter who approaches them in their totality with the utmost technique, musicality and maturity. Lopes-Graça, as Bartók before him, knew how to write music that is not difficult (primarily for children) when he so wished, but his attitude before art and life finds parallels in the attitudes of Bartók and Beethoven, perhaps the composers he most admired and emulated, being demanding of themselves and therefore also being demanding of others, and of a society which saw his music being born. In this particular and contrary to many other works of the composer, deliberately simple and direct (as in the harmonizations of popular songs or in the already cited didactic music), the six Sonatas and, in particular, the last two, represent the most evident facet of an art, at times austere and difficult, that does not reveal its secrets without a certain effort, inseparable from any humam demands in search of the Grail that is an ever elusive Beauty.
But, also, such as in the most contrary and enthusiastic dancing crowds, in the hopes of fleeting and immediate pleasure (and without improper comparisons that would make Graça himself apostrophize me vehemently!) many are the spiritual rewards that await those who attain, on the steep path, the Light.
© Sérgio Azevedo, 2004

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