Posts Tagged Música Contemporânea

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 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 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 1181

Title: Música Contemporanea Portuguesa para Piano (Três Compositores Algarvios)

Artist: João Rosa – piano

Composers: Joaquim Galvão, Cristóvão Silva, Tiago Cutileiro

Joaquim Galvão
This Piano Sonatina was written in 2000 and is dedicated to João Luis Rosa. In a certain way, its three movements describe João’s psychological attributes. The first movement, strikingly rhythmic, well suits the enthusiasm and determination of the interpreter. The second movement immediately shifts towards a more dream-like and lyrical side.  The third, a harmonized song in the form of a chorale, brings to the fore João’s technical qualities. The work ends with a coda that sums up all of these facets.
The first movement is divided in three sections: A (measure 1 to 47), B (measure 47 to 101) and C (measure 101 until the end). It is written in a sonata form. The A section exposes the first and second themes followed by a small re-exposition. A development of the previously presented themes is carried out in the B section. Immediately we find a bridge that leads us to the C section, where the themes are recapitulated. The movement concludes with a small coda.
The second movement was built in a way that might be termed free. In spite of this, we find three very well defined sections. In the A section (measure 1 to 17), a theme is followed by its own variation. The B section (measure 17 to 24), more rhythmic, provides the bridge between the first and third sections. In the C section (measure 24 until the end), we return to the ambience found in the A section but with a more varied melody.
The third movement is constituted by an original theme and four variations, ending with a coda that recalls the second movement and also the rhythmic pattern of the first movement, thus bringing the work to its close.
This work was premiered on October 4, 2000, by João Luis Rosa at the Lagos Music Academy Auditorium.
Cristóvão Silva
Variações is a piece from 2001. The composition is based on the numeric series of Fibonacci (Italian mathematician of the 12th century). The work’s formal structure, its durations, melodies, rhythms and harmony are defined according to it (the series). After a brief introduction and presentation of the thematic material, these variations (five, in all) happen over one or more notes of the full chromatic collection, were we find them serially distributed throughout the entire tonal gamut of the piano. The intentional exploration of certain technical resources/characteristics of the instrument is clearly present:  chords, arpeggios, ostinatos, contrapuntal sections, etc.
Momentos is a work from 1995. The energetic introduction immediately announces the intervals that will be explored in its several moments (movements). These intervals are: the major second (2, in integer notation), the minor sixth (8), and the major seventh (11). This intervallic material begins to be developed just after the introduction, both in very strict sections (with just one interval) and in more expansive moments (employing two or more intervals). Certain aspects are characterized by the same ambience, while others diverge through opposition, creating intervallic environments, at times whirling, at others, meditative. This work has a funereal tone. It was written as I learned of the news of the death of a great friend and benefactor, Mr. Celestino Baptista, to whom the piece is dedicated.
Estudo Poético nº 1 is my most recent piano work. Written in 2008, this piece aims to be the first of a future book of studies. It was written with my good friend and colleague João Rosa in mind. The intention of this first study was to start from a somewhat “chaotic and unstable” environment and progressively lead the musical discourse to a more harmonically stable state as well as toward an elegiac and passionate tone. The first section of this study is characterized above all by syncopated and energetically interlaced rhythms with a harmony based on the interval 5 (perfect fourth). The second section, predominantly lyrical and sentimental, employs exclusively chords in triplets, in both hands, which defines a melody intentionally loaded with a strong romantic and passionate emphasis.
Policromia was written in 1992. This small piece is based on three brief rhythmic/melodic cells rather distinct from one another. Each one of these cells is presented, first, in isolation, but little by little they meld into one larger form. The final result is a small palette of timbre.
Metamorfose was written in 1996.  Basically, this worked is formed around two intervals that are announced immediately at the outset: the interval 1 (the minor second) and the interval 2 (the major second); and a rhythmic ostinato that sustains the entire piece. Once this initial material has been introduced, the musical discourse metamorphoses, acquiring new and different identities. The initial two-voice writing ends a three-part texture.
Prelúdio Extático, from1992, is nearly a meditation. Evoking a highly contemplative state of spirit, very intimate, somewhat erotic, of an intense and profound character, it was written in a pantonal language of an expressionist variety.
Tiago Cutileiro
In my work I seek the exaltation of sound as a living organism that transforms itself and is transformed in time. This research (obsession) runs contrary to the propositions of the common conception of music. The joining of sounds in melodic or harmonic elements creates expressive and communicative codes that deviate the raw material (sound) from its primordial essence. The sound becomes a communicative vehicle of its composer – the sounds create something that is beyond them, such as the sounds of the language that are lost in the decoding of its message. In my music, I hope, on the contrary, only to hear the sound (being born, living and disappearing) and to let it be expressive in itself, living in the “bubble of time” were I allow everything to happen. An art that distances itself from music, or music that distances itself from art. This is not a new idea (nothing really is), we can find this thought clearly expressed in the texts of John Cage and of other American experimentalists in the second half of the 20th century. But the origin of all this can be found even earlier, in the noises created by the Italian futurists or, in the final analysis, in the progressive abstraction implicit in Schoenberg’s serialism. What I seek to maintain, although subtlety, is control over the way that the sound object reaches the listener. During the listening process, the sound, always slow and long, establishes a drawing in time, which, although abstract and without a clear sense, brings its unique atmosphere and its original emotional outline to those willing to embrace it.
Para Flauta e Piano (for flute and piano) is composed from a mechanical unfolding of rhythm and melody, established by the piano, the main instrument of this piece, which is punctuated by the flute’s progressively lengthening notes. Formally it presents itself to the listener as if through-composed, mono-structural. There are no elements of rupture throughout the duration of the work. Even so, the elaboration process, independent for both instruments, allows the perception of almost evolutionary cycles, like long waves that renew themselves, but without direction. The flute and the general dynamic demarcate these cycles. While the piano’s musical process is based on the overlapping of melodic lines derived from three previously determined chords in a game of progressive displacement and reunion, the flute, using the same notes, possesses a formal reality akin to what one might observe in a piece by minimal artist Donald Judd. The final global form is the result of the superimposition of these two processual mechanisms.
Para Piano e Electrónica is integrated in a set of five pieces/studies for solo instrument and electronics propagated by four channels where each solo instrument interacts with a pre-programmed electronics broadcast in real time (the remaining studies are for cello, recorder, guitar and voice). There is a strong interaction between the musician and the machine where the sum of these elements produces a sonority detached from the visible instrument on stage. The electronics do not produce sound, they reflect or reshape the sound, dividing it spatially and temporally. All of the five pieces have more or less the same formal structure adapted to the classical and alternative interpretative specificities of each instrument. Divided in three parts – a rising energetic flow (in intensity and pitch), clearly culminating midway through the piece; a downward curve both in terms of dispersion and dissipation; and a final, calming repose, now deprived of gestural sense – these studies, especially in their first sections, diverge from my usual aesthetic language, since an orienting sense of the sound flow is perceptible, although always abstract. Still, that directionality is, in essence, geometric and rather basic. Once again, it is not an expressive intention, in the strict sense. In the recorded version, the four- channel diffusion has to be compressed within the stereo limits. The essential part of the initial spatial idea is maintained, however:  the sonorous pathway that gives way to the fragmentation

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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 1161

Title: Vilancicos Do Século XVI (Iberian 16th Century Christmas Songs)

Artists: Il Dolcimelo, Isabel Monteiro,Ana Bela Covão, Margarida de Moura, Conceição Martinho, Carmo Burnay, Rui Aleixo, Pedro Costa, Tiago Mota, Carla Abreu, Sara Ponte, Sofia Barreira, Francisco Gonçalves, João Mateus, Diana Matos, Sofia Barreira, Manuela Oliveira, Hélder Rodrigues

Composers: Anonymous
The early music group IL DOLCIMELO consists of professionals, students, and solo and choral singers with a particular interest in the Renaissance and early Baroque.  The group’s mission is to recreate and disseminate the musical sonorities of the past with historical rigor – in terms of repertoire as well as interpretation – always aware that its work is destined for listeners of the 21st-century.
Recently IL DOLCIMELO has developed projects where small excerpts from Portuguese literature are associated with music of the same epoch. And whenever possible, the group has sought to include examples of the most beautiful iconography left to us from artists of the 16th and 17th centuries.
This concert format has been well received by the public, both in Portugal and abroad, especially in Spain, at the “VII Festival Internacional de Música de Galícia” (July/2005) with the program, Jardim das Delícias – música italiana de c.1600; and at the  “XXIII Festival Ibérico de Música em Badajoz” (May/2006) with the program Viagem na Nau do Tempo.

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