FERNANDO LOPES-GRAÇA
Complete works for Violin and Piano and Solo Violin

Sonatina No. 1 for violin and piano, Op. 10 (LG 96)
1. Moderato
2. Lento non troppo
3. Scherzando
4. Allegro non troppo

Sonatina No. 2 for violin and piano, Op. 11 (LG 97)
5. Moderato, senza rigore
6. Grave
7. Presto

Prelúdio, Capricho e Galope, Op. 33 (LG 98)
8. Prelúdio
9. Capricho
10. Galope

Trois Pièces for violin and piano, Op. 118 (LG 100)
11. Allegro molto
12. Berceuse
13. Danse

Pequeno Tríptico for violin and piano, Op. 124 (LG 101)
14. Larghetto
15. Vivo
16. Ditirambo

Prelúdio e Fuga for solo violin, Op. 137 (LG 137)
17. Prelúdio
18. Fuga

Quatro Miniaturas for violin and piano, Op. 218 (LG 103)
19. Prelúdio
20. Melodia
21. Mandolinata
22. Exercício

23. Esponsais for solo violin, Op. 230 (LG 116)

Adágio Doloroso e Fantasia, Op. 242 (LG 105)
24. Adagio Doloroso
25. Fantasia

 

Gramophone, Bryce Morrison, August 2014

“For two discs of music by Fernando Lopes Graça (1906-93) to arrive for review simultaneously is a demonstration of the richness of all that is available on record. Powerful and single-minded, Lopes-Graça will also appeal to those who enjoy winkling out a treasure- hunt of influences. The ghosts of major figures from the 20th century haunt pages that are nonetheless transformed by a dedication to Portuguese folksong and dance, and by the composer’s own distinctive character. Artur Pizarro’s brilliant and urgently committed recital ranges widely through memories of Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Bartók, Debussy and Ravel. Spain, too, is recalled in the fierce rhythms of Falla’s Fantasía bética (the Allegro giusto from the Second Sonata) and yet all these influences are transmuted into music of a pungent singularity. And whether you warm to the way the Second Sonata’s finale swerves from earlier economy into intricacy, or the widely varied aphorisms of Ao fio dos anos e das horas (‘About years and hours’), you are struck at every turn by the composer’s compulsive and insistent voice. Naxos gives us the complete works for violin and piano and solo violin, further evidence of both range and individuality. The Prelúdio e fuga and Esponsais for solo violin are cruelly exposed and demanding, their difficulties dispatched with unfailing assurance and eloquence by Bruno Monteiro. He is joined by João Paulo Santos elsewhere, a virtuoso partnership in the phantom chase of the Presto from the Second Sonata and in the Galop (Preludio, capricho e galope), where the composer comes close to relaxing into a jeu d’esprit, though not without a sardonic undertow. Both discs are well recorded (the Naxos very closely, though this adds to a sense of immediacy). Admittedly Lopes-Graça is an acquired taste but he is also a composer of a special integrity. Highly successful records, then, and not just for explorers of music off the beaten track".

 

BBC Music Magazine, Julian Haylock, August 2014

“Prolific Portuguese composer Fernando Lopes-Graça (his output runs to well over 200 opuses) seems to be enjoying something of a renaissance on disc at the moment. For many years cellist Mstislav Rostropovich’s recording of the 1965 Concerto da Camera was one of the few of his works generally available, yet recently we have had discs of the two Piano Concertos and Symphony (both Naxos), the first volume of his complete string quartets (Toccata) and a piano recital from Artur Pizarro (Capriccio). Now violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos have collected together for the first time all of Lopes-Graça’s accompanied and solo violin works, including three world premiere recordings. Both are experienced recording artists and they play this exuberantly inventive music with an intuitive feel for its playful unpredictability. The two early Sonatinas, composed during the early 1930s, are neo-classical in impulse (a bracing trip around 1920s Paris via Hindemith) while the Prelúdio, Capricho and Galope (1941) mixes Ravelian fastidiousness with (in the finale) Milhaud slapstick. The composer’s sophisticated sense of musical humour can also be savoured in the Prelúdio e Fuga for solo violin (1960), especially the Fugue which is ingeniously based on a repeated note. Most haunting of all is the Adágio doloroso e Fantasia of 1988, which reveals a creative facility of considerable depth".
PERFORMANCE *** RECORDING ****

 

Classical Candor, John Puccio, July 2014

“Fernando Lopes-Graça is not exactly a household name. At least not in America. But in his native Portugal, it is a little different, where people know the composer, conductor and musicologist a little better. Still, if violinist Bruno Monteiro has anything to say about it, and if the magic of sound recordings continues to spread Lopes-Graca's music throughout the world (I count sixteen albums of his material at Amazon), maybe he will someday indeed become a household name.
According to his biography, Lopes-Graca (1906-1994) "initiated his music career at the age of fourteen as a pianist at the Cine-Teatro, Tomar. He attended the Lisbon National Conservatory, where he studied with Adriano Meira and Vianna da Motta (piano) and Tomás Borba and Luís de Freitas Branco (composition and musical science). He concluded higher studies in music composition in 1931, with the highest possible score. As a result of opposing the regime (of Portugal's ultraconservative, dictatorial, and repressive Estada Novo), he was arrested, banished to Alpiarça and denied the right to use the scholarship he had been awarded to move to and study in Paris. Nonetheless, he departed at his own expense, furthering his knowledge with Koechlin. Being the author of a vast literary work on Portuguese music, he was a pioneer in the study and research of Portuguese folk music.
Much of Lopes-Graca's music is already on disc, and now fellow Portuguese musician Bruno Monteiro brings us the composer's complete works for violin and solo piano on this Naxos CD. Monteiro himself is one of Portugal's leading violinists, performing as a recitalist, concerto soloist, and chamber musician in all the major musical centers of the country and internationally, including the U.S. (Carnegie Hall). With a number of recordings to his credit, Monteiro brings his considerable talents to bear in these violin and piano pieces, which well illustrate the composer's dedication to traditional Portuguese folk music as well as his independent spirit and his desire to promote contemporary music.
There are nine works on the disc, spanning a significant amount of time in Lopes-Graca's life, from the early Sonatinos of the 1930's to the Adagio Doloroso e Fantasia of 1988. The program gives us a pretty good idea of what the composer was up to in his musical lifetime, and both violinist Monteiro and piano accompanist Joao Paulo Santos show the composer an appropriate degree of enthusiasm.
Let me just provide a few examples of my reactions to the disc's works, starting with the early music, to give you the idea of what it's all about.
Starting the agenda is the Sonatina No. 1, Op. 10, which Lopes-Graca wrote in 1931 but didn't premiere until 1947. Maybe its conciseness (four very brief movements) and unforgiving objectivity were a bit too much for many listeners to accept, or maybe the rigidity of the conservative government's restraints put a damper on things. In any case, the piece begins with a Moderato movement that presents two contrasting themes, both a touch melancholy. The Lento non troppo that follows carries on this mood, with the violin and piano embroidering the parts. The third-movement Scherzando displays a lyrical grace, with some attractively resilient rhythms. Then, the piece ends with a moderately paced Allegro non troppo, the piano and violin exchanging pleasantries in a final, clever dialogue. Although I had never heard it before, Monteiro and Santos play it so affectionately, so enchantingly, I look forward to hearing them play it again.
Another work I look forward to listening to again is the Preludio, Capricho e Galope, Op. 33, whose title also names its three movements. As the names suggest, the music comprises a number of lilting, folk-dance melodies, though filtered through a twentieth-century sensibility (Lopes-Graca composed it in 1941). The rhythmic thrust is everywhere evident, and Monteiro's technical skills on the violin sound impressive. The closing Galope will seem particularly familiar, yet the composer and soloist invest it with a freshness all their own.

Possibly the most openly beautiful and accessible musical works on the disc are the Trois Pieces for violin and piano, Op. 118, from 1959. These are the most songlike pieces we find on the program, especially the first movement, with the violin singing the primary role. By its conclusion the melodies have gone from fairly conventional to a bit more adventurous, but the risks are worth the listen. Monteiro and Santos take us on a sensuous yet heady expedition into a kind of Romantic modernism.
The last item on the program is Lopes-Graca's Adagio doloroso e Fantasia, Op. 242, from 1988. As its title implies, it's a work expressive of great sorrow, with Monteiro's violin crying out in mournful lamentation, the piano giving support and consolation. The concluding Fantasia section is more complex, more thrusting, more contrasting, yet unexpectedly comforting, too.
Music entirely new to me doesn't always hold great appeal for me, and I often understand after hearing it just why I had never heard it or wanted to hear it before. Yet with Lopes-Graca in the capable hands of Monteiro and Santos, I found myself captivated throughout most of the album. Even if I thought some of the music a bit too repetitive or static for my taste, the exploration was well worth the trip.
Bruno Monteiro produced and Jose Fortes engineered and edited the album, recording it at Igreja da Cartuxa, Caxias, Portugal in November 2012. The instruments ring out loud and clear, the two soloists in good balance, if a tad close. The sound is always smooth and natural, never hard or edgy, thanks not only to the miking but to the very slight, warm resonant bloom imparted no doubt by the recording venue".

 

Fanfare Magazine, Lynn René Bayley, July/August 2014

“These works for violin and piano span a large portion of Fernando Lopes-Graça’s career, the sonatinas dating from 1931 and the Adágio doloroso e Fantasia written in 1988. This disc also includes the world premiere recordings of not only the Adágio dolorosa but also the Three Pieces of 1959 and the Four Miniatures of 1980.
Lopes-Graça’s studies with Charles Koechlin in the 1930s left a profound impression on him in terms of both composition and orchestration. The early sonatinas are concise, objective works, densely constructed and using simplicity and directness as means to an end, whereas the Prelúdio, Capricho e Galope of a decade later utilizes popular dance rhythms.
What impressed me about Lopes-Graça’s music was its interplay of fluid harmony with an overriding feeling of loneliness or perhaps sadness. I won’t go so far as to describe the music as having a tragic cast, but it is deeply affecting in its own way and has a strange, almost other-worldly feel to it. In the last movement of the Sonatina No. 2, there is a brief snippet (two bars) that resembles the Vincent Youmans hit tune Tea For Two, and this snippet returns at the movement’s finale an octave higher, but even here the overriding feeling is one of isolation and of feeling alienated from others.
The Preludio, Capricho e Galope, though based more on popular dance rhythms, similarly retains a feeling of strong individualism, avoiding any semblance of a populist touch, at least until the final movement, and even here there is that feeling of isolation. The liner notes indicate that the Trois Pieces were composed in a year in which Lopes-Graça wrote a great deal of vocal music, and allude to their vocal style of writing, but even here the strange character of his music overcomes any lyricism one might feel in it.
One could go on regarding each piece in this interesting set of works, but you get the idea. Perhaps the extreme sensitivity and feeling of loneliness in the music is conditioned by the fact that these are all violin-piano works. I recommend that, if you are sensitive to such things, you take these works one at a time rather than trying to absorb them all at one sitting. Monteiro sounds splendid here, his use of subtle nuance adding to the quality of the scores, and pianist Santos does a fine job supporting him although he is not a strong-willed partner in the musical exploration. An interesting disc".

 

Fanfare Magazine, Maria Nockin, July/August 2014

“The musical activities of Portuguese composer, conductor, and musicologist Fernando Lopes-Graça (1906-1994) were sometimes curtailed because of his political activity. A member of the Communist Party, he strongly opposed the Estado Novo. Despite limitations on his activity, he composed and wrote articles about music. At one point he was able to study in Paris, but World War II drove him back to Portugal. His music unites Portuguese folk songs with the kind of Neoclassicism similar to that heard in the music of Stravinsky, de Falla, and Bartók. On this recording violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos present Lopes-Graça’s compositions in the order in which they were composed. His bright and rhythmic First Sonatina of 1931 begins by allowing the violin and piano to go on individual journeys. However, their lines always retain a harmonic relationship. Each movement shows the individuality of this composer, whose music for violin and piano is probably new to many readers. His Second Sonatina is as dark as the First is bright, and it is somewhat reminiscent of the music of Alban Berg. Lopes-Graça was influenced by the popular music of his day. The Prelúdio, Capricho e Galope has its roots in the songs of the 1940s. In the first movement, the violin first plays a slow tune, and in the second its melodic line hovers above the piano’s habanera rhythm. The toe-tapping final Galope requires the utmost in technical precision from both violin and piano. The Three Pieces have rolling piano motives over which the violin plays melodic material recycled from other compositions.
Little Triptych starts with an elegiac piano base topped by an exotic 20th-century violin melody that Bruno Monteiro plays with a smooth legato. The 1960 Prelude and Fugue is for solo violin as is the Medieval-sounding 1984 Esponsais (Betrothal). The time sequence shows the continued musical growth of the composer in his later years. In the earlier piece he began to show a freedom of rhythmic organization that would eventually become more complex and make many of his later compositions musical gems. Written in 1980, his Four Miniatures opens with jaunty violin arpeggios played over piano chords. The lyrical second movement, written in a minor key, leads to the catchy rhythms of the third. All of it is summed up at the go-for-broke finale, in which both performers demonstrate stamina as well as precision. Adágio Doloroso e Fantasia has the same Medieval sound as Esponsais and leads the listener into meditation. It’s not a rousing ending, but it follows the chronology of this program. This recording has some new and interesting compositions that have needed a wider hearing for some time. Thanks to Monteiro and Santos we now know more of Portugal’s 20th-century musical history and can enjoy their exquisite renditions of the music on a very well made recording with clear sound".

 

Fanfare Magazine, Phillip Scott, July/August 2014

“Having enjoyed a previous Naxos release of two piano concertos by the long-lived Portuguese composer Fernando Lopes-Graça (1906-1994), I was interested to hear this disc, which covers his complete output for violin, with and without piano accompaniment. The sonatinas date from 1931, while the late Adágio doloroso e Fantasia was composed 57 years later in 1988 (and dedicated to Tibor Varga). The pieces are presented on this disc in chronological order.
It is worth quoting Naxos’s blurb. Their copywriter states: “Passion, virtuosity and distinctive lyrical expression resonate through all these works.” While undeniably true, this description gives something of a false impression of the music. In each of these compositions, Lopes-Graça creates thematic material out of the repetition of motifs based around the natural tuning of the violin, particularly the intervals of the 5th and, to a lesser extent, the 4th. Double- and even triple-stopping gets a major workout (a specific area of virtuosity), and the passion comes mostly from the performer as opposed to being an intrinsic aspect of the music itself, which can be somewhat stark. The piano parts rely on repetitive accompanying figures, block chords (usually astringent in their harmony), and arpeggios. Within these restrictive means Lopes-Graça finds a good deal of variety. Certain moments stand out for musical clarity: the sultry, smoky theme of the Capriccio in the Prelúdio, Capricho e Galope, and the bumpy little gallop that follows; the haunting first movement of the Pequeno Trìptico; the increased emotional stakes of the Adágio Doloroso.
The early sonatinas set the template. Both are impressively succinct, due to the structural rigor with which the composer puts his limited palette to work. In Sonatina No. 1, the interval of a 5th is transformed into a lyrical statement in the slow movement, and informs the succeeding scherzo (which also boasts a standout lyrical central section). The Second Sonatina is more unusual in form. In three movements (unlike the First, which is in four), it begins with a fragmentary violin solo, followed by a somewhat monumental movement marked Grave and characterized by stabbing chords from the piano, then closes with a Presto of rapid arpeggiated runs for both instruments. Either of these brief but strong mini-sonatas would add piquancy to a mixed recital.
Of course, a lifetime’s worth of music in one genre was never intended to be listened to in a block––which a reviewer is required to do. Playing this program straight through, by the time you reach the first of the Four Miniatures (1980), which consists of fairly straightforward variations on the violin’s open 5ths, you yearn for something different––so this is definitely a disc for dipping into. Fortunately, the performers could not be more fully committed. Monteiro maintains an attractive tone through all the double-stopping––never for a moment does it get scratchy¬¬––and his playing of harmonics is purity itself. He delineates the counterpoint in the solo fugue with considerable skill. Santos’s contribution is excellent also, and the two clearly have a close rapport.
I recommend this disc for the performances and the undoubted integrity of the composer’s work, but if you are unsure about Lopes-Graça an easier place to start is with the piano concertos".

 

Expresso, João Santos, April 2014

Inferno

“Fernando Lopes-Graça (1906-1994) is often treated as an agent involved in obscure historical processes. But, same as to many others, all that happened to him was the Estado Novo *, which granted him with an arrest and seizure order, censored his writings and sayings, criminalised the profession, mobilised the spirit, rendered life illegal and, to some extent, endangered posterity. Therefore, some see him through the light of Manicheism. He who knows it well is Bruno Monteiro, who, in declarations to Expresso**, thus synthetizes the question: “The duality does undoubtedly exist. But it is that what renders [this] music so interesting. Lopes-Graça, with his political, social, musical and aesthetical convictions is, in the end, human. That was our main concern: to highlight [his] human side.”
*Translator Note: Estado Novo, or the Second Republic, was the corporatist authoritarian regime installed in Portugal in 1933. It was greatly inspired by conservative and authoritarian ideologies, developed by António de Oliveira Salazar, ruler of Portugal from 1932 to 1968.
**Translator Note: Expresso is the flagship publication of the Group Impresa, and was founded by Francisco Pinto Balsemão in 1973. A weekly newspaper, it incorporates various supplements, covering general news, business, sports, international news, entertainment, society, a magazine, recruitment and real estate classified supplements.
Collecting this important integral which pervades decades of creation – starting from a pair of expressive Sonatinas, op. 10 and 11 which date back to the 30s and finishing in the somewhat morbid “Adágio Doloroso e Fantasia”, Op. 242, of the late 80s -, Monteiro and João Paulo Santos understood that the strongest of compromises by the composer soon strutted in the definition of intellectual responsibility.
For example, in 1948 (the year of the official entry of Lopes-Graça in the PCP***), in Portugal, being a communist would surely be an opportunity of sharing a common dignity, but Lopes-Graça never did ignore that, in music, ideology is like those presences in our lives whose company in wrong doses poisons, whereas in the inverse ones, intoxicates. Specifically in his chamber music dimension, here, although you may identify the impotence of shape, there is never the glimpse of vulgarity in content. With yet another feature – perhaps more vain or rancorous or exaggeratedly underlining miasmas and asymmetries – that which is within this CD would absolutely slide on to a
***Translator Note: The Partido Comunista Português is the Portuguese Communist Party
prison from which one might not return. The violinist would say that the material itself does forbid linear readings: “All works are relatively short, but all [are] completely contrasting. Even within the same work, all movements are different among themselves. There is no continuity. We are forced to permanently change our emotions and stay alert, for the character, the speed, the interior structure are constantly changing.” This statement suffices to understand that this patrimony is not captivated by just any system. In fact, in no time will it definitely fixate, which presupposes a cultural identity so volatile, a virtuosity which does not only depend on the whims of invention, sounds provocatively hanging on the corners of tone. Monteiro and João Paulo are aware that democracy may follow dictatorship, freedom repression and there will always be someone who will believe that one hell was traded by another. A recording such as this deviates the thought from such a dark idea".

 

MusicWeb International, Byzantion, April 2014

“Portugal has not given the world a huge quantity of composers of renown, especially if its mini-golden age before 1700 is discounted. It was not really until the twentieth century that the country's reputation properly picked up, chiefly thanks to the trinity made up of Luís de Freitas Branco, Joly Braga Santos and Fernando Lopes-Graça. This disc of chamber music from the latter follows on from two orchestral volumes released by Naxos in 2012 and 2013, both of which were met with widespread plaudits (8.572892, 8.572817).
This latest discographic entry is welcome in more ways than one: though hardly a stranger to recordings, much of Lopes-Graça's music, like that of Freitas Branco and Braga Santos, still remains unrecorded - and thus unappreciated. Of the programme on offer here, opp. 105, 188 and 218 are, according to the booklet, premiere recordings - nearly a third in terms of minutes. All the other works except Esponsais actually appeared first on CD on a double disc (only 88 minutes in total however) from the Portuguese multi-genre CNM label, re-released in 2006 to mark the centenary of the composer's birth. However, the engineering quality of brother and sister team Vasco and Grazi Barbosa's remastered 1972 recordings remind the listener what Portuguese audiophiles have had to put up with over the years.
In musical terms, Lopes-Graça (pronounced roughly 'lopzh-grahssa') may profitably be thought of as a Portuguese Bartók: he does a similar line in rhythmic spikiness, ethereal lyricism and folk-inflected chromaticism. Probably most striking is the way he experiments ceaselessly with rhythms, textures and timbres, but never in an avant-gardist way - his canvases always have background washes coloured by the music of his Iberian and European forebears. Bartók was not known for his sense of humour, and to judge by the cover photo, Lopes-Graça might be thought to 'follow' him in this regard too. Yet, though much of his music is the product of hard times - he was no stranger to imprisonment or the threat of it for his political dissent - and consequently relatively dark-edged, he is less sardonic than he might have been. There are many dance-like rhythms and at times, as in the final Galope of op.33, there is a kind of wry wit in evidence.
Ranging from five to ten minutes in length, none of these works, it should be said, is of first-rank significance as such, yet the fact that each bears an opus number reflects the importance that Lopes-Graça himself attached to them. They are definitely not fripperies or fillers. Every piece has its own distinctive character, twisting, driving, chasséing, distilling and soaring in a multitude of arresting ways.
Each work also makes almost relentless virtuosic demands of both pianist and especially violinist. These roles are excellently filled by Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos, two of Portugal's leading chamber musicians, presenting the first item from a three-disc Naxos deal. They have recorded together a number of times recently: Robert and Clara Schumann for Centaur (review), Saint-Saìns/Strauss for CNM (review) and, with the Lopes-Graça Quartet, Chausson, again for Centaur (review). All have rightly been well received. Their teamwork is virtually telepathic, but individually too they bring maximal intelligence to these works, blending gravitas and lightness, passion and discipline, the Lusitanian and the cosmopolitan.
Sound quality is first-rate - one of the better recordings to have come out of Portugal. The church at Cartuxa gives the notes plenty of air, but not too much of it. The booklet contains detailed notes by Ana Carvalho, informative and cogent, and well translated into English by Monteiro himself.
A sign of the times, in a sense, this recording is only available from Naxos as a download or streamed, but the physical CD can still be ordered from a number of online Portuguese sources, including Fnac and Monteiro's own website. However obtained, it is hard to imagine anyone being anything but delighted with their purchase".

 

Classical.net, Brian Wigman, April 2014

“There is a great deal of passion in this music; it is deeply rooted in the oldest melodies at the composers' disposal. It dances, it smiles, it cries. It has an intensity and range of emotion that will appeal to some and tax others. Easy listening this is not, but it is rewarding music, too. As for Monteiro and Santos, they take to the music of their late countryman as if they were born to play it – and perhaps they were. There's a really appealing sense of humanity here that comes from struggle. But it's not a struggle that draws attention to itself or ever turns pretentious. Rather, the music's human qualities simply make it that much more worth listening to.
Monteiro has a unique sound. Naxos gives him the warmest and fullest sound he's ever had. As for Santos, he's as steady and intelligent a partner one could ask for. The solo selections are equally distinguished. With three world premières and two excellent artists on board, this is essential listening for anyone willing to try something different. Fernando Lopes-Graça had a genuine musical voice, and it is one that I'm glad to have heard. I also hope that this is the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership on Naxos for Monteiro and Santos. They deserve it".

 

Jornal de Letras, Maria Augusta Gonçalves, April 2014

The extraordinary

“The violinist Bruno Monteiro (see page 21) admits this is his best recording. Such a statement is bold. On the one hand, there is the richness of his discography built throughout the last few years, marked by uncommon diversity and quality. On the other hand, there is the demanding universe of Fernando Lopes-Graça, to whom the new record is dedicated. But maybe Bruno Monteiro is not far from the truth.
For the first time, the complete work of the composer for violin and piano is gathered, hence collecting three works never recorded before – Trois Pièces (Three Pieces), op. 118, Quatro Miniaturas (Four Miniatures), op. 218 and Adagio doloroso e Fantasia, op. 242 – alongside the Sonatinas, the Tríptico, Esponsais, the Prelúdio, Capricho e Galope and the Prelúdio e Fuga, already gathered in other editions.
The set comprises a significant work, from different periods of the life of the composer, and distinctive creative stages. They are mainly small pieces, very expressive and of great virtuosity, which require the best by their interpreters. And the premise has the due reply.
The Sonatinas, op. 10 and 11 date from 1931. These are works of youth, very close to the neo-classical wave which set the time and the preferences of Lopes-Graça. They open the recording and since then allow us to understand the excellent level of interpretation: the presentation of the motives in the first Sonatina, in turns, by the violin and the piano, the dialogue between them, in the Scherzo, or the demanded complicity in the second Sonatina, which culminates in one of the most demanding passages for both players, allow little doubts on what will follow. That which happens is magnificent.
Prelúdio, Capricho e Galope, op. 33, dates from 1941, ten years after the Sonatinas and it would be revised in 1964. The work witnesses the interest of Lopes-Graça in traditional rhythms, whereas the following piece, dated from the end of the decade of 1950 – Trois Pièces, op. 118, unpublished in record - , confirms the importance of this research in the path of the composer, alongside the vocal music.
Pequeno Tríptico, op. 124 and Prelúdio e Fuga, op. 137, for violin solo, were concluded in 1960 and allow us to perceive the concern ever more intense with the new composing parameters at a rhythmic and harmonic level, particularly in op. 137. This piece, typical from its time, which simultaneously refers for the grand “bachian” inspiration, does not allow the violin to show anything else rather than its truth, its essence. And Bruno Monteiro does not disappoint. The expressiveness so characteristic of the interpreter matches the virtuosity demanded.
The following works come from the later period. They date from 1980. Of the three remaining, only the Esponsais, op. 230, had already appeared in record and are probably those which demand for more reflexion. The Quatro Miniaturas, as an exercise which particularly explores the violin, requires vigour during its interpretation. The Adágio doloroso e Fantasia, op. 242, is a work which describes itself. Dedicated to the Hungarian violinist Tibor Varga, it is touching, involving the violin and the piano in strong contrasts, until a confrontation which only dissonance seems able to resolve.
Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos took the programme to different concert halls throughout the last years, thus confirming the complicity of their work and the history of almost a decade of records in partnership. Nothing is left to chance; everything is stringently fulfilled.
This CD, recorded at Igreja da Cartuxa, in Caxias, by the end of 2012, is published by Naxos, an independent editor, the larger in the area of classical tradition music, which also attests for the importance of the repertoire and the musicians, ever more referenced by the specialised international press. “Santos and Monteiro are two extraordinary artists”, stated Classical.net. The composer, also".

 

Jornal de Notícias, Rui Branco, March 2014

“The violin and piano duo by Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos is one of the most productive ensembles in the classical music recording industry in Portugal. This time, they approch exclusively music by one of the most important Portuguese composers of the 20th Century, Fernando Lopes-Graça. The virtuoso playing of these two artists helps us to understand the greatness of the creator".

 

Classical Music Sentinel, Jean-Yves Duperron, October 2014

"What immediately captured my attention when I started listening to this new Naxos recording of chamber works by Portuguese composer Fernando Lopes-Graça, is the highly expressive playing by violinist Bruno Monteiro. The fact that most of the pieces on this CD are miniatures in scope, does not prevent Bruno Monteiro from applying some dramatic weight to each and everyone of them. He and pianist Joao Paulo Santos have previously released recordings on the Centaur label of music by Chausson and Schumann, both of which came highly recommended for their highly commited and expressive playing. They seem to be able to discern each note's emotive value and shape it accordingly in relation to its phrase. Something too many musicians these days have lost the capacity to feel, when it actually accounts for 90% of great musicianship.
The music of Fernando Lopes-Graça (1906-1994) is difficult to pigeonhole or compare to anyone else, and probably for the same reason. Despite the fact that it employs folk elements and may, on the surface, seem simple and slightly unwieldy, its dramatic and expressive qualities far outweigh its lack of finesse. On the other hand, I believe its harmonic structure also sets it apart. I like the fact that the pieces on this recording are laid out in chronological order, as it allows the listener do detect the constantly evolving harmonic sophistication the composer strived for. In his own way, but somewhat like Alexander Scriabin, the harmonic creativity of this composer grew from pre-established elements in his Sonatina No. 1, Op. 10 to a highly unique and forward looking language in the Adagio doloroso e Fantasia, Op. 242.
As always, the Naxos label has played a crucial role in dusting off this composer's music for everyone to discover, and have already released two important and very well received recordings of his Piano Concertos 1 and 2 (8.572817) and his Symphony for Orchestra (8.572892). This new recording presents rarely recorded material and even includes a handful of world premières. Music well worth investigating!"

 

Diário de Notícias, Bernardo Mariano, October 2014

"... The attention to the structure, the formal clarity that one detaches from the interpretations of this duo, becomes patent vocabulary of the organization" gracianos "- and here it should be emphasized the role of director João Paulo Santos. Bruno Monteiro has here perhaps his greatest challenge: the difficulty inherent in the works and being a language that escapes a bit to what we have realized to be his "comfort zone". But the courage to aproach should be highlighted and the violinist demonstrates it profusely to the point that sometimes we seem to be listening a fight, a duel, which the essence of each work of music comes out to gaining".

 

Strings Magazine, Greg Cahill, October 2014

"... Monteiro imbues these evocative works with unbridled intensity, and his rich, dark tone envelops the sonatinas. It is a bravura performance from an up-and-coming young artist steeped in the 20th-century music of his native country and extends a powerful invitation to the music world to appreciate a woefully overlooked composer who should stand with the other greats of his time".

 

Musical Opinion, James Palmer

*****
"…certainly highly expressive, as is the playing by the excellent artist Bruno Monteiro and his gifted pianist partner.

This collection is thoughtfully played in chronological order, thereby enabling us to follow the composer’s evolution. The very first work here, the Sonatina No 1, is a truly original gem, and every one of these pieces, whether they be for violin and piano or for solo violin, is well worth the time and attention of the enquiring music lover.

The recording is admirably bright and vivid and the whole presentation is another feather in the crowded international Naxos cap".