Freitas Branco, Ravel and Villa-Lobos Violin Sonatas

Luís de Freitas Branco (1890-1955)

Sonata nº1 for Violin and Piano
1. Andantino
2. Allegretto giocoso
3. Adagio molto
4. Allegro con fuoco

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Sonata nº2 for Violin and Piano in G Major
5. Allegretto
6. Blues (Moderato)
7. Perpetuum mobile (Allegro)

Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959)

Sonata nº2 for Violin and Piano Fantasia
8. Allegro vivace scherzando
9. Adagio non troppo
10. Molto animato e final

 

Fanfare Magazine, Colin Clarke

Five stars: An explosion of joy, infectious, and frothy; a jazz-based imagination of the highest order

“Fascinating to have the opportunity to hear a chamber piece by Portuguese composer Luís de Freitas Branco (1890-1955) after the warm welcome Fanfare gave to his symphonies on Naxos (Fanfare 32:4, 33:1 and 34:2). The composer studied with Englebert Humperdinck in Berlin and Grovlez in Paris. In 1916, he became a Professor at Lisbon Conservatory, heading the composition masterclass from 1930. He was a composer who was involved in politics, opposing the persecution of musicians in France and Germany, a stance that led to his removal from teaching posts from 1939 to 1947. Brother of the conductor Pedro de Freitas Branco, recordings of Luís' music also exist on the Portugalsom Strauss label featuring a variety of Hungarian orchestras.

Interestingly, this recording coincides with a recording of the complete violin sonatas plus piano trio by Freitas Branco on Sony featuring Alessio Bidoli on violin, Bruno Canino on piano and with Alain Meunier on cello: release due March 25, so sadly not available for comparison purposes here, but if you find you like the first sonata that would surely be the logical next stop. There is however a Naxos recording of the first two violin sonatas released 2011 by Carlos Damas and Anna Tomasilk. The Violin Sonata No. 1 was written in 1908 (making the composer a mere 17 years old at that point, and a student in Lisbon’s National Conservatory). It is a work that has, with some justification, been compared to Franck’s Violin Sonata in that it not only shares a use of cyclic form but also a fragrant chromatisicm, certainly in the opening Andantino.

It is good to welcome back Bruno Monteiro and João Paolo Santos, who impressed so much in a disc of Lekeu (Brilliant Classics). Santos fully relishes the romantic gestures of the first movement, while not overwhelming his violinist, both players revelling in the sense of space Freitas Branco creates. The second movement, Allegretto giocoso, is as giocoso as one could want. This is a Scherzo (albeit in duple meter) with a simply wonderful bridge passage back into the A1 section. There is something almost Gallic in the music’s carefree nature; and all credit to Monteiro and Santos for maintaining that gait to ensure maximal contrast to the long, high cantabile lines of the Adagio molto (a lyricism echoed in contrasting passages in the finale). The work is superbly constructed and succeeds all the more thanks to Monteiro and Santos’ powerful and considered performance. The Naxos performance by Dumas and Tomasik is just as fine: affectionate in the first movement (a fine recording, capturing Damas’ lovely tone), but perhaps not quite capturing the liveliness of the Scherzo. Honours are evenly spread in the finale, although Monteiro and Santos capture the veiled lyricism of the Adagio molto considerable better. On balance, the present release wins out, but bear in mind the Naxos also contains the Second Violin Sonata and the Prelude for violin and piano.

The Ravel obviously enters a far more crowded field, nut Monteiro and Santos offer a performance of much light and shade, Monteiro and Santos present the bare textures of the opening Allegretto well, with some markedly characterful piano contributions later on in the movement. Rarely have the pizzicato chords of the opening of the “Blues” come across so well, and it is here that, in spinning his bluesy line, Monteiro comes into his own before the “Perpetuum mobile” begins its inexorable course. A fine performance.

Finally, Villa-Lobos' Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano, “Fantasia”. Was composed in 1914 but not published until 1933. It immediately bears the composer’s imprint, not only of Brazilian rhythms but in its harmonic sophistication also. The central Adagio non troppo is a dream of a song without words for violin; the finale, “Molto animato e final,” unfolds naturally and beautifully.

If a disc of the three Villa-Lobos Violin Sonatas is required, probably better to pick the Naxos (Emmanuele Baldini and Pablo Rossi) over the Gega (Njagul Tumangelov and Bojdar Noev), but even there I find the Naxos recording somewhat muted on re-acquaintance. But, after all, it is the programming of this Etcetera disc is what makes it.

A most enjoyable programme, well delivered and recorded: all composers receive performances of much merit.”

 

Planet Hugill, Robert Hugill

Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro brings together three major early 20th century violin sonatas, each late-Romantic, each different in style but creating a highly satisfying

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“This disc from two Portuguese musicians, violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos on the Etcetera label features three major violin sonatas from the first half of the 20th century, by the Portuguese composer Luís de Freitas Branco, the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos and the French composer Maurice Ravel. One sonata almost unknown, one not as well known as it should be and one quite familiar, yet the three make a highly satisfying programme and bring out interesting elements in each other.

Born in Portugal of an aristocratic family, Luís de Freitas Branco was one of the major Portuguese composers of the early part of the 20th century and his output includes four symphonies and a violin concerto. His Sonata no 1 for Violin and Piano was written in 1908 when he was just 17 and still a student at the National Conservatory. It went on to win a competition in Lisbon, but also to generate some controversy partly because of the composer's harmonic language. Whilst it sounds typically late-Romantic to us, it was significantly different to the relatively conservative musical style prevalent in Portugal at the time.
The work also generated comparisons to Franck's sonata partly because Freitas Branco's work uses the same ideas of cyclical form as the Franck. And listening to the work you can hear distant thematic links. Yet, the opening Andantino also brings out hints of the slow blues in the Ravel sonata. Monteiro plays with a lovely sweet-toned line and with a fascinating use of portamento in this movement. The perky scherzo has a folkish cast to its material, whilst in the slow and thoughtful Adagio molto Freitas Branco gives us some superbly rich harmonies. The long finale begins vigorously with a highly chromatic violin line, yet as this movement develops we get suggestions of the earlier material giving us a complex movement with a clear summation of the cyclical form.

Maurice Ravel's Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano was his final chamber work. It took some achieving, Ravel was writing it sporadically from 1922 to 1927. It was written for his friend, Hélène Jourdan-Morhange but illness prevented her from playing it and the premiere was given by Georges Enescu with the composer at the piano.
The first movement Allegretto is the largest and most complex of the three movements. There is an elegant spareness to Ravel's writing which the two performers bring out and for all the overall pastoral feeling there are some interestingly spiky moments to the music as well. The second movement is perhaps the most well known, marked Blues (Moderato); for all the bluesy harmonies and banjo effects, this is still very much Ravel and Monteiro's performance keeps the music firmly in the classical concert hall. In the concluding Perpetuum mobile finale, the two performers dazzle but also bring out the feeling that Ravel was somewhat channeling Stravinsky, yet we can also hear typically Ravelian turns of phrase.

Heitor Villa-Lobos wrote four violin sonatas, though the final one has disappeared. His Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano dates from 1914 (though it would not be published until 1933). Villa-Lobos called it a Fantasia though its three movement structure is quite classical. At the time, Villa-Lobos had not yet visited Paris, had not discovered Stravinsky and was making his living mainly as a cellist in orchestras and cafes. As such, his handling of the structure of the sonata is enormously confident.
The opening movement begins with a long piano exposition, before the violin comes in. There is a certain folk-influence in the melodic material and in the rhythms that Villa-Lobos uses but all contained in a highly structured context. This is complex movement with tension developing towards the end and surprisingly sudden ending. The slow movement is more purely lyrical with Monteiro reveling in the series of lovely melodies that Villa-Lobos produces. For the finale the piano again takes the lead, and for all the showpiece nature of some of the writing it is clear that his is very much a duo sonata, and the two bring out highly varied moods of this movement.

There is perhaps a slight sharp edge to the recorded sound, that takes the ear a little time to get used to, but that my only gripe. This is challenging repertoire, Monteiro plays throughout with a lovely sweet toned line, but with no lack of virtuosity when required. He and Paulo Santos clearly love this repertoire and the two make this into a highly satisfying recital.”

 

Musicalifeiten, Jan de Kruijff

“Luís Maria da Costa de Freitas Branco (1890 – 1955) was one of the most skilful and influential Portuguese composers of the 20th century. In his Violin Sonata nº 2 from 1928 he shows strong neoclassical influences, but also very cadenced and it is not for in vein that his current countryman makes a warm appeal for him here and shows that we are dealing with a very lively music that is best moments are in the Andante. Midnight will be announced in the final. There is also no lack of melancholy.

Ravel's 1928 Sonata for Violin in G is given the necessary intensity in this energetic sound, but the parodic effects of the slow movement do not escape their attention, and the same applies to the pizzicati. It gives the music some emotion.
Villa-Lobos's Sonata Fantasy nº 2 is a very original and personal work, but relatively unknown by the Brazilian from 1914.

This turned out to be an interesting recital with those sonatas that are rarely or never heard on stage here, but which we can now fully enjoy on CD thanks to the very well-finished and spontaneous interpretations of Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos.”

 

The Rehearsal Studio, Stephen Smoliar

Monteiro Ventures into Less Familiar Repertoire

“According to my records, I have been following recordings made by violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos since I wrote about their Brilliant Classics album of the complete music for violin and piano composed by Karol Szymanowski in April of 2015. Since that time Monteiro has led me into domains of repertoire about which I knew little, if anything. His latest album, released by Etcetera Records, amounts to a “sandwich” of “familiar meat” enclosed by two “slices” of the unfamiliar.

This is the second album he has recorded after moving from Brilliant Classics to Etcetera Records. As I had observed when I wrote about his first Etcetera release of music for violin and piano by Igor Stravinsky, this is a bit disadvantageous for those interested in Monteiro’s recordings. According to Google, these albums are available on the Web only through the Etcetera Web site. Fortunately, an Etcetera Web page for purchasing Monteiro’s latest album shows up on a Google search. However, Etcetera is based in Belgium, meaning that payment is in euros; and, given that pandemic conditions still prevail, it is unclear how efficient delivery will be.
This is unfortunate, since the album is a delightful journey of discovery. The “familiar meat” of the “sandwich” is Maurice Ravel’s second violin sonata in the key of G major, a composition that continues to receive far less attention than it deserves. It is followed by another “second sonata,” this one composed by Heitor Villa-Lobos in 1914. (The composer actually called this composition a “sonate-fantaisie.”) The Brazilian Villa-Lobos is complemented by the opening selection by the Portuguese composer Luís de Freitas Branco, the first of his two violin sonatas, composed in 1907.

The Villa-Lobos sonata is likely to be as much of a journey of discovery as is the Freitas Branco sonata. He had recently married the pianist Lucília Guimarães; and, since he had not learned to play piano himself, he was probably influenced by both her technique and her style. That said, the music is unlikely to remind most listeners of the more familiar works in the Villa-Lobos catalog, making the composition an engaging journey of discovery.

The Freitas Branco sonata, on the other hand, is more difficult to classify. He studied music in both Berlin and Paris; and his best-known teacher (at least according to his Wikipedia page) was Engelbert Humperdinck. My own first encounter with the first measures of this music left me wondering if he had been familiar with César Frank’s A major violin sonata. Nevertheless, Freitas Branco definitely forges his own path while respecting the overall framework of a four-movement sonata; and Monteiro’s performance left me curious about what other pieces are lurking in this Portuguese composer’s catalog.”

 

Pizzicato Magazine, Remy Franck

Emotional images from Bruno Monteiro

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“Luis de Freitas Branco (1890-1955) studied in Berlin and Paris, among others with Paqué and Humperdinck. He is best known for the orchestral recordings that Alvaro Cassuto conducted for Naxos.

As in his symphonies, the Portuguese composer also shows an affinity with French music in his chamber music. Like the Scherzo Fantastique, his first sonata, both composed at the age of seventeen, is reminiscent of César Franck, whom he admired. But violinist Bruno Monteiro emphasizes Freitas Branco’s independence. He finds a lot of passion in the sonata, more dance-like as well (for example in the strongly accented 2nd movement), and he plays the whole composition with very lyrical intensity.

In Ravel’s violin sonata, too, Monteiro and his highly reliable partner show themselves to be imaginative performers.

Villa-Lobos composed his Violin Sonata No. 2 in 1914, and it features a very elaborate piano part that Joao Paulo Santos plays with excellent rhetoric. Bruno Monteiro plays with great refinement and fine eloquence. His technique is up to the many demands and his playing sounds free and spontaneous.”



 

Cultuurpakt,Veerle Deknopper

ROMANTIC WITH STRINGS, TESTED FOR LATINS, PASSIONATELY MATCHED

“Each musician has its favorite pieces, pieces that should not be missing from any concert and with which h or she is inextricably linked. This is the case with violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos. It would therefore be a shame not to capture this personal story in a beautiful recording. Their roots are central to this concept. It is the music with which you anchor yourself to the ground to conquer the world simultaneously.
More famous composers such as Luis de Freitas Branco and Heitor Villa-Lobos are linked to Maurice Ravel, who was often inspired by the Latin sound of his generation.

Sharp
Freitas Branco (1890-1955) was only seventeen years old and studying at the Lisbon Conservatory when he wrote his first sonata for piano and violin. The new musical language that the work spread immediately attracted the general public, it even quickly won awards. It is a cyclical work in four parts, as introduced by César Franck. He probably came into contact with Franck's music thanks to the Belgian composer Désiré Pâque, who taught him in Lisbon. It is a work with rough edges, sharp scherzo nooks and crannies and passionate melodic passages.

The expressive
Ravel (1875-1937) took much longer to compose his second sonata for violin and piano. The first outlines were drawn in 1922, it was not considered completed by the composer until 1927. He dedicated it to his good friend Hélène Jourdan-Morhange, who did not attend the premiere due to health problems. The artists were Ravel himself on piano and George Enescu on violin. It is said that for this sonata in G major, Ravel found the mosteds with Bartók, for their typical expressive character. It is a piece that has a constructive effect. Small nuances and staccatos ensure its moves more and more into a pronounced third movement. Then follows a beautiful conciliatory movement, sweet and warm.

The passionate
Villa-Lobos, Brazilian composer par excellence, wrote no less than four sonatas for the two favorite instruments of our interpreters. However, the last sonata was lost. The second, Fantasia, would be the richest of the four – consisting of three parts. That's why she fits the spirit of this album better. The work was written in early 1914 and was supposed to premiere in the same autumn. The reception from the general public was not immediately convincing, but neither was it disapproving. Villa-Lobos made some adjustments and republished the work in 1933, together with his third sonata. The result is full of life and traditions. Latin rhythms and lyricism will immediately impress you, along with some references to French romanticism. The language of passion with touches of the language of love. The apotheosis speaks for itself, with a great stretto.

This album is perfect for the time of year. The first rays of sun fill our hearts, we want to move and feel butterflies. We would like to share that sentiment as well. And what could be better than the right music at the right time.”

 

Opus Klassiek, Aart van der Wal

“Can it be inferred from the performances on this CD that the two musicians have performed these three sonatas for violin and piano on the concert stage many times before? I dare not say it like that, but what I know for sure after listening to it is that both are completely in tune with each other and that – in addition to the fabulous technique – the interpretive freedom they demonstrate sets this music on fire. And understanding that neither the content nor the form of these sonatas, each a masterpiece in itself, will be affected by this. This can be called a first-rate achievement.

Interestingly, these three wonderful pieces receive little or no attention in the world of everyday music, because only Ravel's Violin Sonata is regularly on the schedule of many duos. As far as I'm concerned, this dark image can be extended unreservedly to discography, because in this domain too the harvest is decidedly scarce. Is the saying 'unknown makes unloved' true? What is unknown is not to be loved in any case, but the fact that the violin sonatas by the Portuguese Luís de Freitas Branco (190-1955) and the Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) are pieces from the 'normal' repertoire ' is out of the question for me, so take the chance with this new album!

Violinist Bruno Monteiro excels in passionate and richly varied tones, in a speech in which strictly clear lines dominate, which he alternately unfolds with energy, softness and lyricism. His technical mastery is perfect, the panorama extremely evocative. The phrases sound spontaneous, the intuitive nature of their execution brings an enchanting multicolor as well as adventure. In short, we are dealing here with a top violinist.

But there is much more to enjoy, because Monteiro's extremely sensitive playing can also be found in his musical partner, the pianist João Paulo Santos, who combines poetics, temperament and finesse with the same naturalness and fluidity and, like Monteiro, guarantees a true personal stamp on this music. He does not associate the cantabile playing with fondant, the tone also maintains its concise character in the lyrical passages, while in the forti the sound remains noble, full of many nuances and particularly well-crafted color combinations. Thus, his approach to these scores is as idiomatic as Monteiro's, and his sense of structure also guarantees direction and purpose.

The fact that the two Portuguese musicians dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to the music of their compatriot Luís de Freitas Branco is, in itself, very commendable. In this sense, we can learn a lot from such engagement, which is musically so convincing that it puts this composer's work in the most beautiful and warm imaginable sun. Dutch musicians even fail hopelessly when it comes to their connection to Dutch composers; and certainly not since yesterday. And so I don't even think initially of composers from a fairly recent 'year', like Peter Schat, Jan van Vlijmen, Kees van Baaren, Rudolf Escher or Hans Henkemans, but even a little further back in time, Matthijs Vermeulen, Willem Pijper and Hendrik Andriessen. Not only she, narrow escape - except that. Fortunately - completely unexpected - there is also good news to share: the release of piano works by Louis Andriessen, Leo Smit, Willem Pijper, Jan Wisse, Hans Henkemans, Theo Loevendie and Joey Roukens by the piano duo Lucas and Arthur is scheduled for later this month.

Monteiro also gave an excellent explanation and José Fortes signed a recording that does not reveal any details, but also excels in sound. As far as I'm concerned, piano technician Fernando Rosado can also fully share in that absolute joy of sound.”

 

Classical Candor, John J. Puccio

“Let us begin with a refresher on the participants, Bruno Monteiro, violin, and Joao Paulo Santos, piano. According to his biography, Mr. Monteiro is "heralded by the daily Publico as one of Portugal’s premier violinists” and by the weekly Expresso as “one of today's most renowned Portuguese musicians.” He is internationally recognized as an eminent violinist, whom Fanfare describes as having a “burnished golden tone” and Strad says has “a generous vibrato” producing radiant colors. Music Web International refers to his interpretations as having a “vitality and an imagination that are looking unequivocally to the future” and that reach an “almost ideal balance between the expressive and the intellectual.” Gramophone lauds his “unfailing assurance and eloquence” and Strings Magazine notes that he is “a young chamber musician of extraordinary sensitivity."

Monteiro’s accompanist, the Spanish pianist Joao Paulo Santos, is a graduate of the Lisbon National Conservatory, completing his piano studies in Paris with Aldo Ciccolini. For the past forty years he has worked with the Lisbon Opera House, first as Chief Chorus Conductor and more recently as Director of Musical and Stage Studies. He has also distinguished himself as an opera conductor, a concert pianist, and a researcher. Together, Monteiro and Santos make an outstanding team and make outstanding music.

On the present album, they offer three sonatas for violin and piano. The first, by Luis De Freitas Branco (1890-1955), perhaps the least well known of the composers represented on the program. De Freitas was a Portuguese composer, professor, and musicologist who played an important role in the evolution of Portuguese music in the first half of the twentieth century. Among his most-important works are four symphonies, a violin concerto, and any number of shorter pieces, including the selection we have here, the Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano, written in 1908 when the composer was only seventeen years old and a conservatory student in Lisbon. It created a bit of stir in the musical world because of its somewhat revolutionary (i.e., modern) tendencies. Let’s say, its cyclical form and occasional dissonances were not as easy on the ears as most of its Romantic predecessors.

The opening movement is an Andantino, a little faster than an Andante, which itself can be fairly slow. Whatever, the Andantino is the closest thing in the sonata to being in the purely Romantic vein, at least the way Monteiro and Santos play it. It is sweet and lyrical and amply demonstrates both musicians’ sensitive style. The second movement brightens things up considerably: a light, playful romp. The composer marks the third movement Adagio molto, very slow, and the two players give it an extra degree of delicacy. It’s quite beautiful, rapturous, actually. By the finale, an Allegro con fuoco, things take a decidedly modern turn, although Monteiro and Santos modulate the conflicts to keep it in line with the honeyed flavor of the earlier movements.

Next up, we get the Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano in G major, completed in 1927 by French composer Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). Monteiro and Santos consider it important because two of Bela Bartok’s sonatas influenced it and because it was the final chamber work Ravel would write. When it premiered, it featured George Enescu on violin and Ravel himself on piano. It sounds typical of Ravel, full of dreamy impressionism, which Monteiro is especially keen on communicating. Yet the violinist never lets it become swoony or sentimental. The second movement is titled “Blues,” obviously patterned after the American jazz idioms becoming so popular in the day. Monteiro and Santos pull it off with an easy assurance. There seems little beyond their range. The third and final movement is a “Perpetuum mobile,” an allegro that wraps up the proceedings in a kind of whirlwind fashion. Again the players are letter perfect in their handling of the mood and flavor of the piece.

The final selection is the Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano Fantasia by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959). It apparently got a lukewarm reception in its first performances but picked up enthusiastic support a few years later after some revision and its publication in 1933. Like much of Villa-Lobos’s music, it is rich, vibrant, and charmng throughout, and Monteiro and Santos give it its due. Their playing is spirited yet refined, vivacious yet sensitive, and always colorful. This piece wraps up another enchanting album by a pair of gifted musicians.

Producers Bruno Monteiro and Dirk De Greef and engineer Jose Fortes recorded the music at ISEG Concert Hall, Lisbon, Portugal in December 2021. You couldn’t ask for better sound. Both the violin and the piano are about as realistic as being in the room with them. Crisp definition, exceptional clarity, yet smooth and natural, the sound is first-class in every respect.”

 

Revista Musical Catalana, Lluís Trullén

Monteiro and Santos, two Portuguese artists at the servisse of Ravel, Villa-Lobos and De Freitas Branco

“Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos are the interpreters of this recording made in Lisbon at the end of December 2021 and which features a repertoire with music by Luis Freitas Branco, Maurice Ravel and the Brazilian composer par excellence Heitor Villa-Lobos.
Luís de Freitas Branco (1890-1955), a full-time contemporary of Villa-Lobos, wrote his first violin sonata at the age of seventeen, when he was a student at the Lisbon National Conservatory. A young artist who presents a work in which the seventh and ninth intervals, dissonances and free modulations accompany melodies rich in lyrical nuances. Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos are two extraordinary interlocutors of this score written in four movements and that responds in the “Initial Andantino” to a bitematic sonata structure with a second theme of modulating character and that offers a wide range of colors from the performers. A very colorful "Scherzo" gives way to a passionate melody of the third movement - very rich in chromatics that Monteiro captures perfectly - to open the doors to the last movement, agitated, vigorous, passionate and virtuoso.

If interpretively there is only one work that can rarely be heard in our latitudes, in Sonata n. 2 by Ravel, the version stands out for its suggestive character, as well as for the way in which they express the pastoral theme as the character that Monteiro imprints on the staccati of the second theme. The second movement takes us to the blues, with a piano that successfully fulfills its role as a rhythm and percussion instrument, and the third movement virtuosity, a perpetuum mobile with great arpeggios, tests the virtuosity of both instrumentalists.

As the program's conclusion, Sonata no. 2 by Villa-Lobos, a true fantasy structured in three movements full of imagination and writing skills. The radiant first movement, with syncopations and opposing rhythms, confronts a second lyrical theme beautifully exposed by Monteiro. In slow motion, rich in harmonies that deliciously emerge from the piano, they caress extremely lyrical and expressive melodies. The color reappears with all its character in the final dance, a movement in which both performers display all the rhythm and musical cohesion already evident in all the works.”

 

Sonograma Magazine, Núria Serra

“Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro introduces us to Lisbon composer and music critic Luís de Freitas Branco (1890-1955), a leading figure in Portuguese culture in the 20th century. In no way does its eclectic, tonal, polytonal and atonal style make it any less interesting. Some of his works shows both the inspiration of late Romanticism and Impressionism.

The virtuoso pianist João Paulo Santos accompanies Monteiro in a repertoire that includes three masterful sonatas for violin and piano, a repertoire that the two musicians have presented in several concerts.
Born into an aristocratic family, Freitas Branco composed Sonata no. 1 for violin and piano in 1908, when he was just seventeen. The piece is written in four cyclic movements, with dissonant themes coming and going between the four movements.

On the other hand, Maurice Ravel debuted Sonata no. 2 for violin and piano in G major in 1927 - with him on piano and George Enescu as soloist - and dedicated it to his close friend, violinist Hélène Jourdan-Morhange, who unfortunately was unable to premiere the piece due to health problems. In this sonata, the piano part is the center of attention - Ravel wanted to individualize the two instruments - and Santos expresses himself with very sifted sounds. Monteiro's language is captivating, respecting the evocations of the French composer.

By the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, the two Portuguese artists interpret Sonata no. 2 for violin and piano, called Fantasia, composed in 1914. It is worth mentioning its expressive range, Brazilian syncopated rhythms and technical construction, which preserves the structural freedom of fantasy. Harmonic sophistication accompanies the incomparable melodies with which Monteiro moves us through a pure voice of clear tones; a smooth aesthetic that contrasts with the impressive stretto of the last movement.”

 

Klassik Heute, Martin Blaumeiser

7/10

Bruno Monteiro (b. 1977) is today one of the main Portuguese violinists. He was a Gulbenkian Foundation scholar at the Manhattan School of Music, later with Shmuel Ashkenasi in Chicago, and had masterclasses with Yehudi Menuhin, among others. For a long time he has performed alongside the pianist and conductor João Paulo Santos, a student of Aldo Ciccolini. In particular, his complete recording of Stravinsky's music for violin and piano has recently received the highest international acclaim.

When we talk about the Ravel violin sonata, we always refer to his second one, which was written between 1923 and 1927 and quickly became world famous and popular because of the blues in the middle movement. The Portuguese manage to give a technically and musically solid performance. (…) the blues is absolutely fascinating; and here, too, Monteiro is allowed to taste his portamenti in a stylistically appropriate way (…).

The Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) wrote four violin sonatas, the last of which is probably lost. The second, Sonata Fantasia (1914), consists of three complete movements and is one of the first compositions in which Villa-Lobos incorporated elements of indigenous folk music (?). The highlight is the varied and heartfelt second movement, which picks up on impressionistic moods. Monteiro and Santos' interpretation of the work, particularly elaborate and rewarding in terms of the piano setting, proves to be highly emotionally involved; the great bow remains full of tension. (…)

Comparative recordings: [Freitas Branco]: Alessio Bidoli, Bruno Canino (Sony, UPC: 194399959923, 2021); [Villa Lobos]: Emmanuele Baldini, Pablo Rossi (Naxos 8.574310, 2020).

 

CD Hot List, Rick Andreson

“This program by violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos brings together two little-known works of turn-of-the-century Romanticism by a Portuguese and a Brazilian composer, along with a more familiar work from the same period by Ravel. The Branco sonata created some controversy when it was published in 1908; the composer was only 17 at the time, but the piece won first prize in a national competition despite discomfiting many in the Portuguese musical establishment with its forward-thinking harmonic vision and odd structure. The second violin sonata of Villa-Lobos is less challenging stylistically but certainly a virtuosic piece, while Ravel’s second sonata serves as something of a soothing palate cleanser between them. Monteiro and Santos play with empathy and passion.”

 

MusicWeb International, Philip R Buttal

Passionately-entertaining and original music, lovingly presented in a powerfully-successful reading from both performers.

“Back in June 2016, I reviewed an attractive CD of Portuguese Piano Trios, featuring works by Costa, Carneyro, and Azevedo. Since then, I have had no further dealings with the popular holiday destination situated on the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula – well, save for the occasional glass of its world-famous fortified wine.

This new release on the Dutch/Belgian ETCETERA label of three Violin Sonatas, has now introduced me to another fellow-countryman, composer Luís de Freitas Branco, as well as the two Portuguese instrumentalists who perform on the CD. Violinist Bruno Monteiro has been heralded as one of his country’s premier violinists, and his extensive repertoire includes the vast majority of Violin Sonatas from the Baroque to the twentieth century. Frequently he is accompanied by pianist João Paulo Santos, and it is this partnership we hear on the present CD.

With all the artistic skill of a new-born, I rarely, if ever, comment on a CD’s artwork, except where text appears difficult to read because there’s insufficient contrast with the background colour. However, that is certainly not the case here, where the cover image, by German painter August Macke (1887-1914), really stands out from the crowd, with its predominance of eye-catching green. The only slight incongruity here, however, would seem to be that, while Macke was an Expressionist, the music on the CD leans decidedly more in the direction of Impressionism.

Monteiro has written the sleeve-notes himself, and they provide an interesting and informative insight into the composers recorded here, and their music. He begins by saying that he and Paulo Santos have performed the three Violin Sonatas on this CD many times in concert, and ranks all three very highly, despite the fact that the two by Branco and Villa-Lobos respectively, are still little known by music lovers generally. Although clearly having a vested interest in these two composers – the former Portugal-born, and the latter Brazilian – Monteiro expresses the hope that the ‘interpretations presented here will contribute to greater appreciation for these works’.

Luis de Freitas Branco was born in Lisbon into an aristocratic family who for centuries had had close ties to the Portuguese royal family. He had a cosmopolitan education, learning the piano and violin as a child, and began to compose at a precocious age. His studies took him to Berlin and Paris, where he worked with Engelbert Humperdinck among other composers. He later returned to Portugal and became professor of composition at the Lisbon Conservatory of Music in 1916, and where he became a leading force in restructuring musical education in the country. During the 1930s he increasingly encountered political difficulties with the authorities and was finally forced into retirement from his official duties in 1939. He continued to compose, however, and to pursue his research into Portuguese early music.

He composed his Sonata No 1 for Violin and Piano in 1908, when, at the age of seventeen, he was a student at the National Conservatory in Lisbon. Not only did it win first prize in a composition competition held in the city, but it also generated a fair degree of criticism since its content was considered almost revolutionary at the time, when compared with the more conservative-sounding works by his contemporaries. As Monteiro informs us, this reception was further exacerbated by comparisons made between Branco’s first sonata, and César Franck’s work for the same combination, which appeared some years earlier, in 1886. Franck’s sonata made significant use of cyclic form – where a theme or motif occurs in more than one movement as a unifying device, with, or without any kind of thematic metamorphosis. But again there was nothing sinister intended in sharing the same compositional technique, since Branco, at the time, was very close to Désiré Pâque, a Belgian composer, organist, and academic who lived in Lisbon for some years, and from whom Branco received lessons and advice.

The sonata is in four movements, and there is certainly more than a passing resemblance between its opening Andantino and the corresponding movement from Franck’s sonata. I did find that the violin seemed especially close-miked, though this hardly had any detrimental effect on the sound overall, and, of course, did physically amplify Monteiro’s take on the already-passionate nature of the writing. The ending is quite magical, as the movement comes to its hushed close on a D major chord from the piano supporting a delicately-sustained top A on the violin.

The second movement certainly lives up to its Allegretto giocoso marking, as it is so full of fun and good humour throughout. Monteiro and Santos’s invigorating reading definitely goes for the jugular, so to speak, and, even if there were slight blemishes along the way, it’s the spirited performance that carries everything along with it, rather like a fast-flowing river – a highly-enjoyable two-in-a-bar scherzo-equivalent in ternary form, that ends with real panache.

Harmonically-speaking, there is almost something ‘Tristanesque’ about the piano chords at the start of the Adagio molto, but this is short lived, and leads into a warmly-romantic melody heard first on the violin, over an arpeggio-type accompaniment from the piano, who later has its own quasi-Impressionistic moment to shine somewhat, before allowing the violin to conclude the movement in calm reflection. Again I feel that while the apparent close-miking of the violin has, of course, captured every nuance and subtlety in the playing, sometimes being too ‘up close and personal’ is not always the best vantage point. Indeed, I have since listened to other examples of Senhor Monteiro’s duo-recordings, where the playing has sounded somewhat balmier in the higher register. Nevertheless, it’s still a lovely movement, and the emotional heart of the sonata as a whole.

Bruno Monteiro describes the finale as ‘the most complex and varied in terms of thematic material’. Marked Allegro con fuoco there is more than sufficient ‘fire’ in the performance here, from its resolute, yet eminently restless opening. Branco makes greater demands on his players, as the writing is noticeably more virtuosic for both protagonists, but equally more impassioned, as he revisits themes from the preceding movements. He returns to the finale’s opening, from which he fashions a most impressive finish, virtually guaranteed to get the audience on their feet, straight after the final flourish.

The middle sonata on the CD – Ravel’s Sonata No 2 in G major – will, no doubt, be the best-known, even among non-violinists, and the composer’s biographical details are already well documented elsewhere. Suffice it to say, however, its gestation period was quite long, since it was first sketched in 1922, but only began to be put together the following year, until its completion in 1927. Its first performance was given by fellow-composer George Enescu on the violin, and Maurice Ravel at the piano.

As Monteiro says in the commentary, the first movement (Allegretto) does have quite a pastoral feel to it, especially the melismatic single-line from the piano with which it opens. Unlike the lush textures of the Branco, Ravel’s writing is much sparser, but this does allow the composer to compare and contrast the individual timbres of the two instruments to somewhat greater effect. Bizarrely, though, while Branco and Monteiro are fellow-countrymen, even if the former’s writing-style is not overtly Portuguese as such, for me Monteiro does come across more convincingly in the tessitura of the Ravel thus far.

The following movement – Blues (Moderato) – attempts to mimic the distinctive sounds of the banjo, and saxophone, and there is also a tad more dissonance in the writing, though this does succeed in spicing up this essentially ‘cake-walk’ type of movement. Needless to say, both players rise to the challenge here most effectively.

The finale – Perpetuum mobile (Allegro) – is the shortest movement, but a real tour de force which Monteiro and Santos clearly relish playing, and which is very much communicated in the performance. Both instruments share greater virtuosity here, and it’s conceived as a ‘duo’, not ‘duel’, it would still be fair to say that the violin does tend to emerge the overall ‘winner’.

Heitor Villa-Lobos started his musical training with his father, and quickly learned to play the guitar, cello, and clarinet. After his father’s death Villa-Lobos earned a living for himself and his family by playing in cinemas and theatres in Rio de Janeiro. Although he wanted to study medicine, his love for music and for education were unevenly matched, preferring to spend time with local street musicians, where he could familiarize himself with, and get to play as many different musical instruments as possible. Between the age of eighteen to twenty-five, he travelled around Brazil, and various African Caribbean nations, assimilating every indigenous musical styles he came across, all of which helped him to produce his first-ever composition, his Piano Trio No 1 in 1911.

After he returned to Rio in 1912, Villa-Lobos tried briefly to restart his erstwhile studies, but his love and passion for music soon changed his thoughts about resuming any kind of formal education. For the next ten years or so, he spent most of his time as a freelance cellist and composer, until he eventually gained international acceptance in 1919, when he composed his Third Symphony (A Guerra), which was mostly government-supported.

Between 1923 and 1930, Villa-Lobos found himself as the centre of attraction in the musical world of Paris, where, with generous funding and numerous commissions, he indulged his passion for composing, despite his failing health. Ultimately he returned to Brazil and in the 1930s totally involved himself in expanding public music education, travelling throughout the country, offering his services as a mentor/adviser. In 1944 he visited the United States to orchestrate many of his works, before returning to Rio the following year, where he co-founded the Brazilian Academy of Music, and where he remained until his death in 1959.

The CD concludes with Villa-Lobos’s Sonata No 2, also called Fantasia, the manuscript of which dates from September 1914. It is believed that the premiere actually took place later in November, and it was certainly played during the composer’s first Parisian sojourn in October, 1923, and where it was received with some indifference. The Courrier Musical et Théâtral described it at the time as ‘neither brilliant, nor bad’, which no doubt prompted the composer to make some alterations, and add material to the finale, the amended version eventually being published in 1933, along with the Third Sonata.

The work opens with an exciting, and energetic Allegro vivace scherzando, though you might well be forgiven for thinking that there’s something wrong with the disc, when all you can hear is the piano. In fact Villa-Lobos assigns the first theme to the piano alone, and the violin doesn’t make its appearance until just after a minute has elapsed. The syncopated rhythms and harmonic language at the opening very much confirm the composer’s Brazilian roots, and, according to Monteiro, the work is one of the most nationalistic in Villa-Lobos’s output. Lyricism is certainly not ignored, though, and combines with a good deal of virtuosity from both players, to make this one of the most engaging movements on the CD thus far, and nowhere more so than here in its major-key Coda.

The ensuing slow movement – Adagio non troppo, later Moderato – is the second longest track on the CD, and, as with Branco’s earlier example, again provides the emotional centrepiece of Villa-Lobos’s Sonata. As Monteiro puts it so aptly, it consists of an endless succession of melodies, save for a short, agitated episode in the middle section. He goes on to say that, without a doubt, it is very ‘French’ in its harmony and structure, which is a clear reference to its frequent nods in the direction of musical Impressionism, whose two leading figures – Debussy and Ravel – both hailed from La France. Here Monteiro is very much in his ‘sweet-spot’, where his warm, full-bodied tone at times almost suggests a cello-like richness, and where his use of portamento is particularly apposite.

The finale opens with a short, somewhat-rather-trite melody from the piano, but the violin soon takes it over, and, together both players work it up to a temporary climax before arriving at a calmer section towards the middle of the movement. Virtuosity and passion then return, as melodies are busily passed between the two instruments, in such abundance that the listener can scarcely keep up. Once the runway is in sight, so-to-speak, the music builds, with the help of the composer’s well-timed stretto, (acceleration), which culminates in a stunning finish, the approach to which both players have measured out with absolute precision, and definitely given their absolute all in the process.

Not including this new release from the Monteiro/Santos Duo, I counted only two CDs that offer the Branco Sonata. Somewhat predictably, Ravel’s Sonata fares considerably better, with more than thirty-five different recordings available, while recordings of the Villa-Lobos are some four times more plentiful than the Branco. Given that the other two versions of Branco’s Sonata No 2 are on CDs exclusively devoted to the composer’s chamber music, which is also the case with Villa-Lobos’s Sonata No2, this new release label could certainly provide a viable alternative for listeners specifically on the lookout either for the Branco or the Villa-Lobos, or perhaps even for both – and you’ll still get the Ravel as a bonus.

In summing up, the works on the CD seemed to divide conveniently into three. Based on the music itself – and I am a self-confessed Romantic – I have to say I enjoyed the Branco most of all. In terms of the actual performance per se, I’m more drawn to the Ravel. As for the Villa-Lobos, I strongly feel that this embraces the best of both worlds, so to speak - passionately-entertaining and original musical, lovingly presented in a powerfully-successful reading from both performers. Apart from my slight concern over miking, at the start of my review, the recording overall has captured the music’s attractiveness as well as the quality and verve of the playing, and is a good-looking product aesthetically.

Violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos emerge as an empathetic and skilled ‘duo’ throughout – two artists, but more importantly, two good friends simply making music together – surely what chamber music should all be about.”

 

Nieuwe Noten, Ben Taffijn

“Violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos have already passed through here, with a CD dedicated to works for violin and piano by Igor Strawinsky. They recently released a new album with the simple but effective title 'Violin Sonatas'. The duo recorded the first sonata by De Freitas Branco, the second by Ravel and Villa-Lobos.

In the booklet that accompanies the CD, Monteiro is surprised by the obscurity of the sonatas by De Freitas Branco, one of the most important Portuguese composers, and by the Brazilian Villa-Lobos, better known, but not thanks to these sonatas. That sonata by Freitas Branco, for example, not only won an important prize, but also caused a great stir in 1908, when he was only seventeen years old. And indeed, it is a cross piece that goes against the conventions of a violin sonata and sounds remarkably modern, certainly before 1908. Particularly special are parts two and four, clearly inspired by folk music, the pleasantly upbeat 'Allegretto gosso. ' and the lively but atmospheric 'Allegro con fuoco'.

Villa-Lobos wrote four violin sonatas, of which only the first three are available. The second that the duo plays here and that the composer wrote in 1914 is considered the most colorful. That beginning alone, the 'Allegro vivace scherzando', in which we clearly hear Brazilian rhythms, makes this sonata worthwhile. The third movement, 'Molto animato e final', is also special, especially for the violin part. The use of musical movements other than artistic music became more than usual in those years and we can also find it in Ravel's second violin sonata completed in 1927, a much more famous piece than the other two on this album. The second part is not called 'Blues (Moderato)' for nothing and the two musicians play it with the necessary sadness and a good dose of melancholy.

Monteiro and Santos clearly have an affinity with these three pieces, they play them regularly in recitals and you hear that clearly. In addition, the two have already accumulated many flight hours together. The passionate and smooth interaction makes a beautiful album.”



 

Expresso, Ana Rocha

*****

“With a vast repertoire from Bach to Corigliano and more than a dozen recordings, violinist Bruno Monteiro (Porto, 1977) has just released a new album, where he explores a trio of sonatas by Luís de Freitas Branco, Ravel and Heitor Villa-Lobos. Accompanied by the pianist João Paulo Santos in a program performed in a torrential way and with a lot of panache, Monteiro starts the enterprise with the first Sonata composed by Freitas Branco when he was 17 years of age. In recitals and recordings, Monteiro and Santos are longtime accomplices and their understanding has gained wings, the concertation work between the two soloists is notorious. Very early and during a fruitful adolescence company in terms of creation, Freitas Branco had written songs, the dramatic symphony "Manfred" and the symphonic poem "Antero de Quental". For freeing himself from traditional patterns, his first sonata was not appreciated by the ears of the more conservatives and academics of the time, it is tempting to think how his innovative spirit pestered a very lethargic environment that could almost be the one covered by the expression later created by Fernando Pessoa to feature an "Oligarchy of the Beasts". The scholars and attentive listeners hear in this admirable work of youth "a constant addition of new elements that contribute to endless, non-repeating music active, in perpetual becoming." Many maties and expressive depth in interpretation of the second sonatas by Ravel and Villa-Lobos, the Brazilian musician who also faced the indifference, in 1914, of his piece considered in Paris as devoid of explosive news. "Woman with a Vase of Flowers" is the production of a painting by August Macke chosen for the cover of this beautiful recording, able to satisfy the most demanding chamber music ‘gourmets’.”

 

Jornal de Letras, Maria Augusta Gonçalves

“ (…) It is therefore not surprising that he (Bruno Monteiro) chose for the album, which coincides with the 20-year partnership of the two musicians, one of the most successful and accomplished in this period, in an excellent ensemble work that has already given rise to countless recitals and close to ten and a half magnificent albums, all of them risking works that are less present in the repertoire, by composers more and less interpreted (…)

Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos honor, from the first to the last moment, each of the chosen works. And after so many and different approached universes over 20 years, there can be no doubt that both, together, are interpreters of choice in the repertoire for violin and piano.

The text by Bruno Monteiro that accompanies the disc edition is a precious support for listener.

In the recording of this album, the work of sound engineer José Fortes stands out.

The edition is by Etcetera, founded in the 1970s and, since the beginning, one of the most demanding record companies, in the construction of its catalogue.”

 

Radio Cultura FM of São Paulo, João Marcos Coelho

CD OF THE WEEK

Discovering Freitas Branco's sonata

Alongside the violin and piano sonatas by Ravel and Villa-Lobos

“At the age of 45, Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro has been developing an intense career in the chamber music scene. Alongside the pianist João Paulo Santos, he forms a fully matured duo over 20 years of existence and many recordings

What characterizes them is their restlessness, always looking for new repertoires or works that have remained hidden by time and today rarely or never attend concert halls or recording studios. So, for example, they dedicated an album to the Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff, who died in 1942 in a concentration camp during the Second World War. Another was dedicated to pieces for this lineup by Igor Stravinsky. In “20th century expressions”, they perform pieces by Szymanowski, Bloch and Korngold.

The duo has just released an album on the Etcetera label with three sonatas for violin and piano, the best known of which is that of Maurice Ravel. But attention naturally shifts to the sonatas signed by Villa-Lobos (his sonata Fantasia, no. 2) and that of the Portuguese composer Luis de Freitas Branco.

Branco was born in 1890 and died in 1955, so he was a contemporary of Villa and Ravel. In the text that he signs in the booklet of this week's CD, Monteiro considers it "strange" that the sonatas by Villa and Freitas Branco are "still little known to music lovers, as they reflect the undeniable talent of two major composers, one Portuguese and the other Brazilian, who were, in their time, masters of their art”.

In the tastings, therefore, I will concentrate on the sonata by Freitas Branco. He composed it at the age of 17, in 1908 and was still studying at the National Conservatory of Lisbon. The sonata won first prize for composition in a competition in the Portuguese capital and caused, according to Monteiro, “controversy”. And he explains: “The sonata itself, in relation to what was being done in Portugal at the time, constituted a true revolution, as it presents unusual constructive tendencies and formal language”.

Monteiro goes into the details: the originality is reflected in the use of “modulatory freedoms, dissonances that were far from peaceful in the ears of the most conservative intellectuals of the time”.

 

Luister Magazine, Frank Hougee

BRANCO, RAVEL, VILLA-LOBOS Violin Sonatas Bruno Monteiro (violin), João Paulo Santos (piano) Et'cetera Records. 70'

RATING: 10/10

“The expressionist painting Frau, eine Blumenschale tragend by the German painter August Nlacke (1887-1914) on the cover is an excellent illustration of the colourful, fresh, powerful and surprising content of this CD. Subposed violin sonatas by the Portuguese Luís de Freitas Branco (1890-1955) and the Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) flank the famous Violin Sonata by the Frenchman Maurice Ravel (1875-1937).
Freitas Branco's first violin sonata depends a lot on the French school, its opening measures and cyclical form even recall that of César Franck. However, the work soon unfolds into an original piece full of optimism, passion, poetic lyricism and temperament. These characteristics also apply to Villa-Lobos's Second Violin Sonata, which of its four violin sonatas probably fits best into this balanced program. Bruno Monteiro's confident violin is charged with energy, shifting a tight, fierce sound with a smooth cadence. Sometimes he boldly articulates something against the notes, which sounds absolutely sick to my ears, but is an expression of absolute freedom, spontaneity and surrender to the music. João Paulo Santos accompanies him with an equally personal, completely equal, refined and technically sublime signature. It is clear that both Portuguese music and other works work – as the booklet says “they have performed many times in concerts”: it is a way of playing perfectly balanced at the highest level. The recording technique keeps violin and piano in exemplary balance across a wide dynamic spectrum. This masterful Portuguese-French-Brazilian mix is too good.”

 

Classica FR, Jacques Bounnaure

*** (*)

"(...) The quality of the violin's timbre, the vibrant intensity of the lyricism and the quality of the dialogue with João Paulo Santos highlight the sonatas."

 

Revista Ritmo, María del Ser

"The violinist Bruno Monteiro and the pianist João Paulo Santos show their commitment to the music of their country through the Sonata for violin and piano nº. 1 (1908) by Luís de Freitas Branco, who was also Portuguese, trained in Berlin and Paris and in whose catalog we also find four Symphonies and a Violin Concerto. Of clear French affinity, it was written at the age of seventeen, during his student phase, and provoked mixed reactions for being considered modern, in addition to being compared to that of his admired Cesar Franck. The elegant sobriety of Sonata no. 2 by Maurice Ravel (1927), his last chamber work, dedicated to Hélène Jourdan-Morhange and premiered by George Enescu and the composer himself on piano. In line with a continuous poetic evocation, this recording ends with Sonata n. 2 “Fantasia”, by the Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos (1914), published in 1993. As the violinist points out in the introductory text that accompanies this record and in which he addresses the listeners, it is the richest work of the four he composed (the last one disappeared). As a whole, it represents a pleasant listening experience made up of a choice of works and an approach that can be assumed as a program for a violin and piano recital, in which the great variety of nuances and colors and the wide melodic contours allow the performers to convey their taste for the chosen repertoire."

 

Musical Opinion, Robert Matthew-Walker

*****

"A most interesting and worthwhile release. The main work is the Ravel Sonata (the only known one until some years ago), which is, however, not truly one of his better works, although it could hardly have been composed by anyone else. Yet it does not entirely overshadow the remaining works, in particular the Sonata by de Freitas Branco (1890-1955). The work itself dates from 1907, when the composer was still a very promising teenager. It is remarkably advanced for the period – a kind of mixture of Ives and early Bartók, leavened with Iberian sensuality – and a very worthwhile ‘find; for those looking for out-of-the-way repertoire which does not insult the listener. It certainly is not wholly outshone by the works of the two famous composers with which it is coupled on this very well played and recorded disc. Bruno Monteiro is an admirable artist, a truly fine violinist, and he is superbly partnered here by João Paulo Santos. The booklet notes and presentation are immaculate: this disc is strongly recommended."

 

Stringendo Magazine (Australia), Andrew Lorenz

“The Sonata No.1 for Violin and Piano was written by Luís de Freitas Branco (1890-1955) in 1908 when the composer was only 17 years old and studying at the National Conservatory in Lisbon. He was to become one of the great Portuguese composers of the Romantic era. The work won first prize in a composition competition in the Portuguese capital and does not deserve the neglect that it has received. This very fine sonata is in four movements and rather forward looking in its melodic and harmonic content. Monteiro and Santos’s ensemble work is excellent and the violin tone is attractive. Ravel’s (1875-1937) Sonata No.2 (1927) fares better in performance, especially the Blues movement. Occasionally the violin tone reminds one of Mischa Elman and this can be heard in the Sonata No.2 for Violin and Piano Fantasia by Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887- 1959). He composed four violin sonatas and this second one, consisting of three movements, was composed in 1914 and exhibits a fantasy like style as suggested in the title.”