Press

| Robert Hugill
https://www.planethugill.com/2024/06/new-colours-in-old-sound-worlds.html

New colours in old sound worlds: the Portuguese duo, Bruno Monteiro & João Paulo Santos in Elgar, Debussy, Ravel & more

Four early 20th-century works for violin and piano alongside a more recent one in a wonderfully wide-ranging recital from the Portuguese duo who find all sorts of new colours in Elgar and give a certain style to Ravel

“The latest disc from Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos on Etcetera, brings together four works for violin and piano, all written in the first twenty-five years of the century, the violin sonatas by Elgar and Debussy, the Romance for Violin and Piano by Luíz Barbosa and Ravel's Tzigane, alongside these Monteiro has included Ascent for Violin and Piano by contemporary composer Ivan Moody.

Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos have a fondness for both the highways and byways of the romantic repertoire. I last reviewed their recording of the piano trios of Ernest Chausson and Eugene Ysaÿe and they have also given us a disc of violin sonatas by Luís de Freitas Branco, Maurice Ravel, and Heitor Villa-Lobos [see my review].

On this disc we begin with Elgar's Violin Sonata, one of the group of late chamber works he wrote in 1918, all remarkably different in their approach to music. Listening to Monteiro and Paulo Santos, you are reminded that Elgar had a significant reputation amongst his European contemporaries, his music was seen as European. The opening movement seems, at times, almost by a different composer as Monteiro and Paulo Santos bring out other resonances. This is tempestuous passionate music, with Monteiro playing with richly vibrant tone and a use of portamento which brings a new quality to the music. This continues in the lovely slow movement, where Monteiro's tone is richly dark and the two give the opening an, at times, gypsy-ish quality. There is nobilmente and passion, but this is Elgar seen from abroad, and wonderful it is too. The finale, poised and beautifully phrased, is perhaps the most conventionally English-sounding of the three. 

Debussy's Violin Sonata has a similar place to Elgar's in that it is from a group of late chamber works by a composer who was dying and would write little more (Elgar simply retreated into silence). The tone and approach is the same but Monteiro also gives a somewhat veiled quality to the opening, and phrases with beautiful poise. The slow movement begins with an intense, rhapsodic section, developing into something vivid and highly coloured. Perhaps not quite as léger as might have been imagined yet definitely fantasque. It was in this movement that I noticed the recording's acoustic the most, as there is lots of space around the musicians, Monteiro's violin is heard distinctly in a place with an acoustic, rather than being closely miked with almost no sense of background. We're back in rhapsody land with the opening of the final movement, yet also the piano hints at exotic elements, and then the two allow the movement's vivid busyness to build little by little until a fine climax.

Luíz Barbosa was a great violinist, born and died in Lisbon. His only known composition is his Romance. Actually rather a salon-ish piece, Monteiro and Santos give it such a committed, richly passionate performance full of vibrant tone and characterful playing, that they knock it into a different world and the three and half minute work definitely makes a good bridge to the Ravel.

Ascent for violin and piano is one of Ivan Moody's final works, written in 2020 during the pandemic and dedicated to a colleague who passed away at the time. An unusual polymath, according to his obituary in the Gramophone, "Moody held various academic posts, including Professor of Church Music at the University of Eastern Finland from 2012 to 2014, and worked extensively as a conductor. A onetime member of the choir of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in London, he subsequently served as cantor in both Greek and Bulgarian parishes in Lisbon. In 2007 he was ordained to the priesthood, becoming rector of the Serbian Orthodox Parish of the Transfiguration in Estoril, Portugal. "

Monteiro and Santos worked with Moody on the piece, giving its public premiere in 2021. It is rather freely rhapsodic yet ethereal. The piano part, largely supportive, does not really go anywhere, it simply anchors things, allowing Monteiro's violin to float free in a wonderful way. Moody died, prematurely after a long illness, in Lisbon just twelve days after this recording was made.

Ravel wrote Tzigane for the Hungarian violinist, Jelly d'Aranyi. She had terrific technique, allied to her exotic (at the time) ancestry and whilst Hungarian music is far far more than just gypsy violins, it was these that Ravel channelled for Tzigane. D'Aranyi was quite a performer, Bartok's two violin sonatas were dedicated to her and the two performed them in London in the early 1920s, RVW dedicated his violin concerto to her and Holst wrote his double concerto for her and her sister! And that's not to mention the seances and rediscovery of the Schumann Violin Concerto.

Full disclosure, I do think that Tzigane really needs the orchestra (including the all important harp) to work best. But Monteiro is glorious in the long unaccompanied rhapsodic introduction, he really leans into dark gypsy-ish tones, managing to make something almost mysterious and threatening, and the main section has that real folk-ish feel. There is nothing light and airy here, all is dark and heavy. As with the Barbosa, the full-blooded approach here moves the work well out of the salon.

I enjoyed this recital immensely, and it surprised me in that Monteiro and Santos managed to bring either a new range of colour and timbre to the pieces, or played familiar music with such intensity that it ceased to be familiar.”

| Ron Schepper
https://www.textura.org/archives/m/monteirosantos_musicforviolinandpiano.htm

“Having given his attention to Erich Wolfgang Korngold on his previous release, violinist Bruno Monteiro now presents works by five different composers. Ably accompanied by pianist Joao Paulo Santos, with whom Monteiro has partnered for two decades, the violinist couples treatments of sonatas by Edward Elgar and Claude Debussy with world premiere recordings of pieces by Luiz Barbosa and Ivan Moody before ending the set with Maurice Ravel's Tzigane. A graduate of the Lisbon National Conservatory and currently Director of Musical and Stage Studies at Teatro Nacional de Sao Carlos (the Lisbon Opera House), the Portuguese violinist has partnered with Santos on many recordings, including ones featuring material by Stravinsky, Chausson, and Villa-Lobos, and shows once more his command of a broad repertoire.

Monteiro and Santos have delivered concert performances of the five works many times, and it shows in the fluidity of their treatments and the authority with which they're executed. While all are dramatically different in character, four of the pieces emerged during the same era, the first quarter of the twentieth century; composed in 2020, Moody's Ascent is the outlier in that regard. Even though the Ravel work follows Moody's in the album sequence, a through-line from the previous century to the current one is established by the selections.

One of three chamber pieces written towards the end of his career, Elgar's1918 Sonata for Violin and Piano in E minor, Op. 82 begins with a zestful “Allegro risoluto” that the duo attacks tenaciously. A romantic theme quickly emerges that's articulated with precision and followed by lyrical others that arrest the tempo with dreamy languor. The recital partners adapt to the work's rapid shifts in tempo and mood with authority, their execution confident and transitions seamlessly effected. Naturally slower, the aromatic, ABA-structured “Romance” follows a sweetly melodic dialogue with a central episode highlighted by a tender and beautifully paced violin expression. The closing “Allegro non troppo” caps the work with material that initially exudes serenity before surrendering to a more passionate impulse and an intense, declamatory re-voicing of the initial theme.

Debussy was in ill health during the writing of his Sonata for Violin and Piano in G minor but mustered the energy to complete it in 1917, a year before his death. He premiered it in Paris on May 5th, 1917 with violinist Gaston Poulet in the last public appearance by the composer. A sombre tone informs the opening movement, yet enough atmospheric sparkle surfaces to identify it as the handiwork of the French composer. Departing dramatically from the first part, the lively second, “Intermede,” mixes Spanish- and jazz-tinged elements into an intoxicating blend, after which the exuberant “Finale” advances through radiant field of playful gestures, with Monteiro's darting violin leading the charge. Barbosa, who was born in Lisbon in 1887 and died there sixty-five years later, was celebrated as a great violinist and teacher. Monteiro honours him as a composer, however, in presenting his only known work, a lovely if short salon-styled piece titled Romance for Violin and Piano. Open-hearted and uplifting, the work would seem to be an ideal encore choice, especially when it's only three-and-a-half minutes long.

Born in 1964, Moody studied with, among others, John Tavener, and is known for works that, at least by title, show some kinship with his late teacher, ones such as Passion and Resurrection (1992) and Akathistos Hymn (1998). One of his final works—Moody died in 2024 twelve days after Monteiro and Santos's recording was made—Ascent for Violin and Piano was written during the pandemic and dedicated to the duo in memory of composer Isadora Zebaljan, who passed away during that time. Moody wanted the material to exude an ethereal and meditative character and asked the two to imagine Isadora's spirit rising to heaven as they performed this delicate, hushed elegy. During the twelve-minute piece, long violin tones are sustained in the instrument's upper register as sparse sprinkles of piano ascend upwards to convey ascent.

Ravel's Tzigane ends the disc on a tour de force note with a series of variations that, in incorporating double-stops, glissandos, harmonics, pizzicatos, and so on, accentuate the vast range of which the violin's possible. After opening with an extended, explorative cadenza that's by turns exotic and haunting, Monteiro ventures into playful, irreverent, and even rustic zones, Santos his gleeful sidekick every step of the way. Throughout the release, the renditions by the two are engrossing and their interpretations sound. (…) the release is a fine addition to an impressive discography these recital partners are building.”

| Alexandre Pham
https://www.classiquenews.com/critique-cd-20th-cetury-and-forward-elgar-debussy-ravel-barbosa-moody-bruno-monteiro-violon-joao-paolo-santos-piano-1-cd-etcetera/

Review CD. 20th CETURY AND FORWARD : Elgar, Debussy, Ravel, Barbosa, Moody… Bruno Monteiro, violin ; João Paulo Santos, piano (1 cd Et’cetera) – CLIC from CLASSIQUENEWS Spring 2024.

Never lacking a new challenge, the violinist Bruno Monteiro always knows how to surprise us, knowing how to combine, as in here, temperaments that make his instrument vibrate. The playing is all the more expressive and rich as the instrumentalist finds in João Paulo Santos, the ideal pianist, a subtle and very committed partner.

“The ELGAR Sonata is the least known of this first 20th century, highlighted by the violinist Bruno Monteiro; alongside Debussy, it composes an excellent introduction, which in 1918, affirmed the mature style of the very official British composer, best known for his symphonic dimension and his oratorios; the Sonata is a delicious, even captivating work, always balancing between vigor and nobility; the two performers know how to play with a sharp dialogue (with singular frictions) which knows how to be intoxicating (the central romance, here particularly singing, suspended, caressing and with a suggestive climate...). The two artists especially emphasize in the 3rd movement the magnitude of the Allegro, very assertive and even imperious in its final major key.

A year earlier (March 1917), DEBUSSY completed his own Sonata for violin and piano: a testamentary score which also embodies the last performance, the final breath of a sick composer who knows he is doomed (the premiere in May sees the composer at the piano for his last public appearance); the depth, the intimacy, the secret introspection of an affirmed self (and which always slips away), are inscribed here with a rare pathetic delicacy, which the violin and the piano express in a series of floating sequences, constantly allusive, of authentic poetic force (Allegro vivo); Debussy's invention is further affirmed in the central movement, free and fanciful (noted "whimsical and light"), which stretches and unfolds as if improvised on the famous Iberian ostinato; Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos electrify each other in this series that is both facetious and subtly nostalgic, with moving, frank, troubled outpourings. It is its whirling and empty movement which diffuses a climate of hallucination which the performers capture with finesse.

The RAVEL of 1924 takes the technical challenges even further: “Tzigane” demands foolproof dexterity from the violinist: Glisndi, pizzicati, double strings, harmonic jumps… Bruno Monteiro without failing approaches the succession of variations as freely improvised, but in a unitary breath despite the required rhapsodic volubility; the very inspired violinist underlines each contrasting effect of the ample opening cadenza, each projection between parody and frankness, in turn playing references to Liszt, to Paganini, there between seduction and sonic vertigo. The dancing, furtive theme, on an interval of a fifth, affirms an ideally nervous Bartokian vigor; little by little, the violin line will amplify, daring all the deliriums, in virtuoso extravagance, fantastical, furiously gypsy overbidding... to the point of trance, like Ravel (regarding his last movements), in has the secret (and astonishing expressive mastery).

In addition to this very ambitious program (which in its mastery proves all the more deserving), Bruno Monteiro adds the world premiere of “Romance” by Luíz Barbosa, a spacious and dreamy piece, with a captivating scent. Same totally suspended, even hypnotic and ascending atmosphere for “Ascent” by Ivan Moody, who died in 2024. In each piece, so contrasting and distinct, the complicity of the two instrumentalists is affirmed.”

| Mark J. Estren
https://transcentury.blogspot.com/2024/06/two-at-time.html

****

“The pleasant, often intricate dualities of music invite particularly trenchant exploration in the form of duets – sometimes pieces composed specifically for two performers, sometimes ones arranged so two players can delve into them together. When works are well-presented for their complementarity and contrast, both approaches can be highly successful. A new Et’cetera Records release featuring a balanced, thoughtful collaboration between violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos explores pieces written for their instruments – including two world première recordings, one of them of a piece dedicated to Monteiro. Elgar’s 1918 Violin Sonata in E Minor, which opens the recital, is an introspective, crepuscular work, its pervasive melancholy likely explaining why it is not among the composer’s more-popular compositions. The strangely hesitant central movement, although labeled Romance, is particularly uncertain in approach, although Monteiro and Santos plumb its underlying lyricism to good effect once they uncover it. The elegance of the concluding Allegro non troppo is the most-attractive element here, even though the movement’s flow is repeatedly interrupted, as if Elgar pulls his thoughts up short from time to time. Debussy’s Sonata for Violin and Piano is from the same time period (1917) and was the composer’s last major composition. It shares some of the atmosphere of Elgar’s work (Debussy’s piece is in G minor, Elgar’s in E minor) but is more compressed, atmospheric and intermittently passionate. Monteiro and Santos take an expansive view of the sonata: the opening Allegro vivo, in particular, is paced quite moderately, generating considerable expressiveness. The dissonant, cadenza-like portions of the central movement, quite aptly labeled fantasque et léger, make a particularly strong impression in this performance, and the passionate elements of the finale come through quite well. The remaining works on this interestingly multifaceted CD are single-movement ones. Romance for Violin and Piano by Luíz Barbosa (1887-1952) is one of the disc’s world premières. A pleasant three-and-a-half-minute bit of salon-like expressiveness, it is enjoyable but not particularly memorable. Ascent for Violin and Piano by Ivan Moody (1963-2024), the other première and the work dedicated to Monteiro, is considerably more extended (12 minutes) and strongly contrasting in sensibility: while Barbosa is concerned mainly with how the violin and piano combine, Moody is much more interested in how they contrast – at times they seem to play independently of each other, coming together almost as if by coincidence. Moody’s contemporary harmonic language also contrasts strongly with the Romantic one of Barbosa. Moody’s piece does not really sustain throughout: it repeatedly sounds as if it is evaporating, only to have a phrase re-emerge from the quiet or near-quiet. It is, however, interesting for the many ways in which its approach to violin-and-piano music contrasts differs from that of Barbosa – and, for that matter, from the approaches of the other composers on this disc. The CD concludes with a work that is about the length of Moody’s but is very different in almost every way: Ravel’s Tzigane. Better known in its violin-and-orchestra form, Tzigane was originally written for violin and piano – the latter with a now-obsolete attachment called the luthéal that changed the instrument’s tone color. The music is “Gypsy-ish” in that it does not use any actual Gypsy melodies, and it gives the violinist considerable scope for expressiveness and technical display – indeed, the first half is an extended violin solo, which Monteiro plays with considerable panache. The work’s second half comes across equally well, the two performers’ melodies interwoven into a pleasant sonic tapestry that brings this very well-played disc to a highly effective conclusion.”

| Aart van der Wal
https://www.opusklassiek.nl/cd-recensies/cd-aw/moody01.htm

“I have had them in my musical heart for a long time: these two Portuguese musicians, the violinist Bruno Monteiro and the pianist João Paulo Santos. Because they move so easily and idiomatically through the most diverse repertoires, national and cultural borders apparently do not matter to them and, therefore, they manage to create an exquisite kaleidoscopic image that arouses surprise and emotion.

Monteiro's sound formation is passionate and richly varied, the voice strictly clear, the violin playing passionatly and lyrical, the art of interpretation full of evocation and intuition. Santos proves to be Monteiro's ideal partner thanks to his no less colorful and empathetic way of playing, which leaves room for both his and the violinist's imagination. In short, the interpretative and technical refinement in this interaction guarantees the great artistic prestige it expresses. 

This album proves once again the musical-chameleon-like nature of their music making, be it Elgar, Debussy, Barbosa, Moody or Ravel: each composer, each work is attributed its completely individual sound and its world of experience in a unique, rare way.

The CD booklet also features, of course, my good friend, the British composer, musicologist, theologian and priest Ivan Moody (his Ascent, also a 'world premiere recording'). Moody died eleven days after the completion of these recordings, on January 18, 2024, at the age of 59. You can read an obituary about him here.

But back to this album, which not only paints an exceptionally beautiful picture of the two musicians, but also of these five works. The beautiful recording also contributes to this.”

| Riccardo Viagrande
https://www.gbopera.it/2024/06/bruno-monteiro-joao-paulo-santos-santos-20th-century-and-forward/

“Some authentic masterpieces for violin and piano from the 20th and 21st centuries make up the programme of this interesting recording proposal from the Etcetera Records label. In this CD, in fact, it is possible to listen to classics such as Elgar’s Sonata in E minor Op. 82, composed between August and September 1918, notable for the intense lyricism of some of its parts, Debussy’s Sonata for violin and piano, completed by the composer in March 1917, not without some difficulty linked to his precarious state of health, and, finally, Ravel’s Tzigane, an improvisational piece, composed in April 1924. Alongside these classics, the programme includes two pieces, the Romance for Violin and Piano, which had never been recorded before, despite being the most famous piece by Luíz Barbosa, a Portuguese composer who, in addition to being one of the greatest violinists of his time, was the first to perform Brahms’ Double Concerto in Portugal, and Ascent for Violin and Piano by Ivan Moody, composed in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic and dedicated to his colleague, the composer Isadora Zebalijan who died precisely because of Covid. It is a meditative page that, in this CD, is presented in an absolute first recording. Excellent execution of these pieces, performed several times in concert by the duo Bruno Monteiro (Violin) and João Paulo Santos (piano) who show a great harmony due to the long work together and which manifests itself in a perfect integration between the two instruments. Also on this occasion, as in other CD’s reviewed by us, it is possible to appreciate, finally, the splendid performance of Monteiro and also his virtuoso and technical skills that allow him to provide us with interpretations of undoubted value.”
| Remy Franck
https://www.pizzicato.lu/inspiration-und-atem/

*****

“Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos begin their album with Edward Elgar’s Violin Sonata, whose alternation of passionate and peaceful moods make this composition so appealing. The two prove to be an inspired duo, with the necessary breath to perform Elgar’s work effectively.       

The performance of the Debussy Sonata is also a highlight. With a palpable sympathy for this composer’s music, Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos play with a very personal rhythmic feel and great sensitivity to bring the many facets of the sonata to life in a very individual, free and originally gestural interpretation.

The lyrical and emotional Romance by Luiz Barbosa and the beautiful, mysterious and meditative Ascent by Ivan Moody (1963-2024) lead to Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane, which Bruno Monteiro plays very thoughtfully and with a sad undertone in the solo, almost as a continuation of the piece by Moody, who died only this year.

We may have heard the Tzigane more racy and passionate, but this sensitive performance, in which the piano plays an exciting role, is extremely appealing. Particularly pleasing are the many colors that give the piece its very own character. Sometimes Satos even manages to make his piano sound like a cymbal.

With this album, the Portuguese duo once again proves that, on the basis of a solid technique, they are capable of interpretations that are highly musical and, above all, inspired and very personal.”

| Jerry Dubins
Five stars: Exceptional artistry in some exceptional music

“It’s always a pleasure to hear from Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos, even if the pleasure isn’t necessarily always mine.

When last we met, figuratively speaking, it was in Fanfare 47:4, in which issue I reviewed Monteiro and Santos’s album of chamber works by Korngold. They were joined on that recording by cellist Miguel Rocha, and as always, execution and artistic integrity were of the highest standards. (…)

Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos deliver a dramatically intense, powerful performance of the Elgar, not shying away from the music’s contentious moments. They don’t try to make of it something it’s not—i.e., a chamber music version of the Cello Concerto. They play it for what it is, warts and all, and in so doing, they reveal a strength of character in the score—a determination to persevere—that I don’t think I’ve heard projected before quite as vividly.

Debussy was on his way out—and not to the café around the corner—when he composed his very last work in 1917, the Violin Sonata in G Minor. It’s a modest piece in every way—modest of means, of proportion, and of expression. The Violin Sonata was but the third in a projected cycle of six sonatas for various combinations of instruments, which remained an unfulfilled promise when the composer died in 1918.

Monteiro and Santos’s performance is the art of understatement and intimation. While they don’t shy away from projecting the commedia dellarte-like character of the second movement, marked, Intermède fantasque et léger, they do so in ways both sly and subtle that bring out the stealth and scheming in this snarky scherzo. Very nicely done.

Monteiro’s Tzigane is not the feral Gypsy we so often hear. His approach to the piece is different and I, for one, love it. Because Ravel’s writing brutalizes the violin with vicious assaults—excoriating dissonant double stops, left-hand pizzicato, artificial harmonics, a runaway perpetuum mobile, wide leaps across strings and in positions, and notes practically off the end of the fingerboard on the G string (!)—it is virtually impossible to play the piece without sounding raw, raucous, and abrading. That’s probably what Ravel intended. This, after all, is a portrait—a grotesque one at that—of the Gypsy in the wild, not the Gypsy civilized. The work is a brilliant caricature and masterful mockery of all the Hungaro-Roma pieces that preceded it, such as Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies, Brahms’s Hungarian Dances, and its nearest target, Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen.

Monteiro may be only the second violinist I’ve heard in Tzigane that civilizes the Gypsy, the other violinist being Arthur Grumiaux in his orchestral version account of the work with Jean Fournet and Lamoureux Orchestra. How it’s possible to play so high on the G string without it sounding like the life being choked out of a chicken, or to bow some of those broken chords and double stops without grating, grinding, and rasping, I don’t know, but Grumiaux and now Monteiro both managed it and still left no doubt that this was the swaggering, leering Gypsy Ravel had in mind. This is an amazing accomplishment for Monteiro, technically as well as musically.

In retrospect, however, I shouldn’t really be surprised because I’ve heard enough of the violinist’s playing in previous recordings to know how talented and accomplished a player he is. I have no choice but to give Monteiro and Santos’s latest album my strongest recommendation for compelling performances in Elgar, Debussy, Barbosa, and most of all Ravel.”  

| Núria Serra
http://sonograma.org/suplement-de-discos/20th-century-and-forward/

“This new recording by Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos brings together four works from the twentieth century and one work from the twenty-first. Four of these works, the Elgar and Debussy sonatas, Luiz Barbosa's Romance and Ravel's Tzigane, were written during the first twenty-five years of the twentieth century; Ascent, for violin and piano, by Ivan Moody, was composed in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. With this work a bridge is created from the last century to the present.

 

Although an eclectic repertoire, Monteiro and Santos have been able to put a personal stamp on these works, which stand out for their unquestionable classical spirit, both in the clear and precise melodies and in the transparent rhythms and harmonic structures, perfectly woven. We can say that Bruno Monteiro, in his recordings (see reviews I, II and III), has been able to harmonize the path traced by the great names of violin literature, always looking for the most notorious currents of twentieth century music.

Within the world of the violin, Elgar left three important scores in the field of chamber music, of which the least known is the Sonata for violin and piano in E minor, op. 82. Elgar's lyrical sense emerges from the calm ocean that is this sonata. On the other hand, Debussy's health was extremely compromised during the composition of the Sonata for violin and piano in G minor, a work of chromaticisms that create an evanescent atmosphere.

The composer Luiz Barbosa, who was born in Lisbon in 1887 and died in the same city in 1952, was one of the great Portuguese violinists of the past. His only known work, the Romance for violin and piano, a delightful piece, remains very famous in Portugal.

Ivan Moody was born in London in 1964. Moody studied musicology and theology at the universities of London, Joensuu and York. Ascent, for violin and piano, is a sentimental and very beautiful work, which in this version has its world premiere.

Ravel composed the concert rhapsody Tzigane, for violin and piano, in April 1924. It is a piece of great virtuosity in which many instrumental possibilities are developed. The finale, in perpetuum mobile, allows the violin to reach a virtuoso fury of a gypsy character.”

| Susan Pierotti
“‘How can a child write with so much talent and competence?’ This was written after the premiere of Korngold’s Op. 1 piano trio. Dedicated to his father, a well-known music critic, he composed it at just 13 years of age, yet it shows mature skill. Portuguese virtuosi Bruno Monteiro (violin) and Miguel Rocha (cello) demonstrate a fine sense of colour and agile techniques to encapsulate the exotic tonalities and angular string writing. Korngold’s violin sonata was written merely three years later, with guidance from Carl Flesch and Artur Schnabel, to whom it is dedicated. It is a huge piece, over forty minutes long; Monteiro sustains a warm cantabile and enjoys playful passages with his superb partner, João Paulo Santos. The final work on this recording is an arrangement from his opera, Die Tote Stadt, played with delicate tenderness by Rocha.”
| Violin and Piano Concert at the Municipal Theater of Matosinhos
"The Municipal Theater of Matosinhos Constantino Nery hosted a violin and piano concert with Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos. The featured composers were Henri Vieuxtemps, Claude Debussy, Camille Saint-Saëns and Eugène Ysaÿe.

Last Saturday, the Municipal Theater of Matosinhos Constantino Nery was the stage for an exciting violin and piano concert, starring Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos. The musicians performed works by Henri Vieuxtemps, Claude Debussy, Camille Saint-Saëns and Eugène Ysaÿe, taking the audience on a musical journey full of emotion and virtuosity. Bruno Monteiro, internationally recognized as one of the main Portuguese violinists today, has led an intense concert activity, performing in the most prestigious concert halls in Portugal and across borders. For more than two decades, he has captivated audiences with his masterful interpretations and unparalleled talent."

Link: https://breves.pt/noticia/matosinhos-concerto-de-violino-e-piano-no-teatro-municipal-de-matosinhos

| Blas Matamoro
“Works by the child prodigy Korngold: a trio, a sonata for violin and piano and a Dance-song by Pierrot. They are precocious works that already reveal wise writing and a complete knowledge of the violin virtuosity. They have a documentary value that surpasses his aesthetic achievement. This version is great for the mastery of the style and, in particular, for the stately brilliance of the instrumentalists, especially the violin.”
| Ana Rocha

Korngold´s glory by a Portuguese ensemble



****

 

“The trio of Portuguese instrumentalists responds with bravura to the challenge (…). Santos and Monteiro recreate here a beautiful version of the work (Sonata) and the recording ends with a recommended instrumental reading of a charming dance taken from “The Dead City”.”

| Maria Augusta Gonçalves
Complement to Erich Korngold

“Bruno Monteiro, João Paulo Santos and Miguel Rocha do justice to the composer’s writing.” Link: https://www.pressreader.com/portugal/jornal-de-letras-9Y9B/20240110/282170770996329 
| Josep Bosch
“The intense career of the Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro stands out not only for his obvious artistic potential, but also for the repertoire he selects for his concerts and for his highly praised discography.

This new album, Music for Violin, Cello and Piano, includes pieces written at the ages of thirteen and sixteen by the prodigious Austrian composer and conductor Erich Wolfgang Korngold, whose musical career was stifled by the rise of Nazism. Born in Moravia, he taught composition in Austria, and from there he was exiled to the United States of America, where he achieved great fame as a film composer. He received two Academy Awards for his soundtracks to The Adventures of Robin Hood (M. Curtiz and W. Keighley, 1938) and The Seahawk (M. Curtiz, 1940).

Bruno Monteiro, Miguel Rocha and João Paulo Santos, with whom he has been performing for over twenty years, remark on Korngold's style, with romantic reminiscences.

They begin with the Trio for piano, violin and cello in D major, op. 1, dedicated to his father, the famous music critic Julius Korngold. The composer's poetic vein is reflected in this work. The second movement, the Scherzo, revolves around rhythmic and harmonic variations, including a waltz-like section, probably influenced by Austrian dance.

The second work is the Sonata for violin and piano in G major, op. 6, by Korngold, a piece full of lyricism, great technical difficulties and some surprising syncopated ninths. The virtuosity of the two musicians becomes very evident when interpreting the shrill piano chords and violin pizzicato´s.

Monteiro and Santos perform the disc's final work, the enchanting Tanzlied des Pierrot ('Pierrot's Dance Song'), a piece transcribed from the opera Die Tote Stadt ('The Dead City'), op. 12. Korngold and his father collaborated on the libretto; we remember that Julius Korngold signed with the pseudonym Paul Schott.

Bruno Monteiro, Miguel Rocha and João Paulo Santos are musicians with a refined sensibility who, rather than innovating, rediscover Korngold's restless language, with a high-flying musical demand.”

| João Marcos Coelho
Korngold's genius precocity

Classical CD of the Week

"Viennese composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, born in 1897, was a precocious talent prodigy spotted by his father, the important Vienna music critic Julius. Until then, happy coincidence. It turns out that the then all-powerful critic of the Neue Freie Presse newspaper used all tricks and lobbies to build his son's success. The boy, who was once baptized as a new Mozart by his father, who added a “Wolfgang” to his name, has dealt with suspicion his entire life. And for several reasons.

The first was this, the father's influence peddling. This week's CD, by the excellent duo of Portuguese musicians Bruno Monteiro, on violin, and João Paulo Santos on piano, has as its most important piece the youthful trio no. 1 for violin, piano and cello, performed here by Miguel Rocha.

The boy still studied with Zemlinsky, and the trio was so consistent that it was suggested in Viennese gossip that the teacher and his father had helped him. None of this appears to have happened. But the rumor remained. Especially when Julius used his prestige to debut the 13-year-old boy's trio in Vienna at the anniversary of The Merke newspaper.

But the music is the most important thing. And in fact this trio surpasses, by far, in terms of quality, a similar chamber work composed by Richard Strauss at the same age. Until he took refuge in the United States in the 1930s, Wolfgang established himself as the second most performed composer in Europe – right behind Richard Strauss, who, imagine, made waves first with his symphonic poems and then with his operas.

Once in Los Angeles, he quickly became Hollywood's soundtrack king. In short: he didn't need any push."

| Stephen Barber
“They play with a will, giving full-blooded and enthusiastic performances of what are technically very taxing works. The recording is good, and the booklet note, by the violinist here, Bruno Monteiro, helpful.”
| Stephen Wright
****

“Written at 13, Korngold’s vivacious, harmonically adventurous Op. 1 Trio needs no special ‘juvenilia’ pleading. The Violin Sonata, from the grand old age of 16, captivates from its ambitious, symphonic opening onwards. ”

| Ron Scheper
"These days, Austrian composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) is better known for his film scores than concert works, but that could change, if musicians like the three featured on this recent set, violinist Bruno Monteiro, cellist Miguel Rocha, and pianist João Paulo Santos, have their say in the matter. Prodigiously gifted as a child, Korngold matured early, primarily as a symphonic composer. He, like many an artist of Jewish heritage, escaped Europe for America in the wake of Nazism's rise. In one respect, the move worked in his favour, as he achieved great renown as a soundtrack composer for films such as Captain Blood (1935), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Kings Row (1942), and many others. Post-WWII, Korngold attempted to revive his musical career in Europe but to little avail. Even so, his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, premiered by Jascha Heifetz, is today considered a staple of the violin repertoire, and in recent years other works have received newfound attention.

Something of a prodigy himself, Monteiro, one of Portugal's leading classical music exports, performed his first public recitals at thirteen and fourteen, thereafter studied in New York and Chicago, and in the decades since has appeared on concert stages throughout the world. For more than twenty years he has performed with his recital partner Santos, who accompanies the violinist on this latest recording. Monteiro has issued more than a dozen albums, which have featured works by Stravinsky, Ravel, Chausson, Szymanowski, Schulhoff, and others. Despite the marquee-level status of some of the composers whose works he's performed, Monteiro often gravitates to ones less familiar to a general audience and has helped direct attention to their often underappreciated efforts.

Consistent with the programming design of previous releases, the Korngold set presents a trio work alongside duo pieces, one for violin and piano and the other cello and piano. Initiating the album is his Piano Trio in D major, Op. 1, written when he was a mere thirteen years old. What makes it even more impressive, however, are the maturity and sophistication shown by the writing throughout the half-hour work. The allegro with which it begins endears for its romantic expressiveness and the arresting entwining of the strings' patterns. With Santos providing able and attentive support, Monteiro and Rocha engage in a passionate pas de deux that's wholly engaging. The scherzo that follows is playful and flirts with waltz rhythms, but its eight-minute duration allows for many another stylistic direction too. That aforesaid maturity is perhaps most noticeably evident in the “Larghetto,” its music remarkably poignant considering that it was written by someone so young. The finale is, true to form, marked by vitality and a generally radiant, uplifting tone though a wry gesture emerges as it nears its end.

Three years separate the writing of the opening selection and the Violin Sonata in G major, Op. 6, which premiered in Berlin in October 1913. Coupling Monteiro and Santos, the work reflects, as expected, further development in the refinement of Korngold's writing. That's dramatically shown in the harmonic adventurousness of the opening two movements and the modulations they progress through over the course of their combined twenty-four minutes. Monteiro shines throughout the scherzo in the rapid scale leaps he's called upon to execute, but his expressive voicings in the atmospheric trio section are as memorable. The violinist himself proposes that the adagio movement, the work's third, is “clearly influenced” by Richard Strauss and Mahler, and certainly its chromatic harmonies and lyrical coda indicate such an argument could credibly be made.

Based on a baritone solo aria from the opera Die Tote Stadt, Op. 12 (The Dead City), Tanzlied des Pierrot concludes the release strongly with a hushed, salon-styled setting that crowns a Debussy-esque intro with a lovely, heartfelt performance by Rocha. In terms of production quality, the recording captures the performances effectively, the strings in particular. An audible degree of echo shadows the piano, however, suggesting that the microphone might have been positioned closer to prevent the instrument from sounding so distant. That disconcerting detail aside, the recording earns its recommendation, with Monteiro and company doing their part to remind us that Korngold, as formidable a soundtrack composer as he was, was much else besides."

| Richard Bratby
Awards Issue 2023

“These performances by the violinist Bruno Monteiro, cellist Miguel Rocha and pianist João Paulo Santos are anything other than musicianly and sincere. There’s something to be said for the unshowy, old-school tone of these two Portuguese string players, with their tastefully applied portamentos and the crushed-velvet throatiness with which they dig into their lower strings. This is Korngold played with determination.”
| Veerle Deknopper
YOUNG KORNGOLD – MATURE, POWERFUL, BEAUTIFUL

"The Austrian composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold (Moravia 1897-USA 1957) showed great promise as a child and was, as is often the case, described as a kind of little Mozart. He matured musically from a very early age, especially as a symphonic composer. His Jewish roots naturally hampered his development as a musician due to the rise of Nazism. As a result, he, like many other musicians, left for the United States. There he achieved the career and fame he deserved and especially recognition for his film music. None other than the famous violinist Jascha Heifetz premiered his famous concerto for violin and orchestra.

Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro, together with cellist Miguel Rocha and his regular pianist João Paulo Santos, paid tribute to the composer in a recording with the Belgian label Et'cetera, today his trusted house. Rightly so, because the recording is once again a gem. Never change a winning team.

The album begins with the trio for piano, violin and cello in D major, opus 1. This is therefore one of the youngest works by the then promising composer. An immediate blow. In fact, it was dedicated to his father Julius Korngold, who was a well-known music critic. You can hear the determination with which the work was written, but also performed. A job that knows what it wants. Beautiful contrasting themes guarantee an explosive result. The richness behind Korngold's work can be seen from the first note. The transitions to the Scherzo, followed by the almost danceable intermezzo and the calmer larghetto, proceed very naturally, as if this music had always existed and infiltrated Korngold's brain from a higher level. With this rich fantasy, you have to start loving this composer if you didn't already know him.

So the Violin Sonata in G Major opus 6 once again meets expectations. Another great gem, written by Korngold, just sixteen years old. A demanding piece, but everything sounds so logical, so natural, evident in all its complexity. An intense piece where you can barely contain yourself with all the emotion and feel your heart rate increasing. The influences of Strauss and Mahler are clearly audible.

The CD ends with a charming piece of salon music, Tanzlied des Pierrot from the opera Die Tote Stadt, whose libretto Korngold wrote together with his father under the pseudonym Paul Schott. A beautiful deep encore on cello and piano, on this highly enjoyable CD."

| Uwe Krusch
Chamber music by Korngold with a Portuguese flair

****

"After the previous CD with works by Chausson and Ysaÿe, the musicians playing as a trio or duo now present their view on Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

It remains that already in the trio the musicians show passion and present a vital interpretation of the first movement. And this invested energy is certainly a plus. In the following Scherzo the vitality and with the waltz part the closeness to the music of Austria becomes clear. The three musicians offer rather a robust picture of this type of dance. In the Trio – Larghetto it is particularly noticeable that the technique has captured the musicians all with equal weight. Thus everyone becomes audible and no one sits in the acoustic shadow. In the finale, there is again no stinginess with energy, sometimes a bit over-pointed.

The opening movement of the violin sonata sounds round and pleasing. The Scherzo in second place offers the violin part distinct chains of notes, while later more lyrical passages are heard. In the Adagio, influenced by Strauss and Mahler but written with Korngold’s unique musical language, rows of chromatic harmonies are explored. Bruno Monteiro succeeds in this in a carefully crafted manner. The final movement again closes the work with intensely distinctive shaping by the performers.

In the dance song of Pierrot from the opera « The Dead City », cellist Miguel Rocha lets his skills be heard. With sonorous fine sound he offers an engaging interpretation of this salon piece and can therefore leave a very good impression.

The secure, well-organized and sensitive playing of pianist João Paulo Santos, which is attuned to the partners, may be mentioned as a further positive aspect."

| Riccardo Viagrande
“The performance of these pieces by Bruno Monteiro (Violin), Miguel Rocha (Cello) and João Paulo Santos (Piano) is excellent. No Trio, actually, the artists present such an excellent harmony that gives the impression of hearing a single instrument with different voices. Equipped with a perfect technique and aided by João Paulo Santos who, with his piano, knows how to stick to the second plan when it comes to accompanying him to conquer his space in the moments in which he is the protagonist, Bruno Monteiro and Miguel Rocha dont only perform with great ease the passages of virtuosic nature, but exhibit a particularly expressive performance in the lyrical episodes. It is, in short, a very interesting CD proposal that allows the public to delve deeper into the understanding of a unique author, whose art is now just beginning to be discovered.”
| Carter Chris-Humphray
Le Clic de la Classique News

"Voluble, with astonishing plasticity, the Trio, KORNGOLD's youthful work, clearly indicates the brilliant imagination of the young Viennese composer [13 years old in 1910] visibly marked by the happy and even fanciful eclecticism of his prodigious elder, Richard Strauss...From the start, the 3 musicians understand and express its capricious swing, with quiet carelessness. To its facetious and even dancing spirit, the 3 musicians add a whimsical, intoxicated scent.

The Larghetto [3] has great subtlety of intonation, expressed as in a dream (violin supple and suave at the same time). And the flexibility as well as the voluptuousness of the final sequence - notes scattered from the airy piano - are close to the vaporous dreamlike atmosphere of the opera Die Tote Stadt.

Concerned with contrasts, Korngold architectures his Finale (allegro molto e energico / 4) with an asperity, a sort of more characterized hoarseness less seductive than beforehand, with accents of pure dreamy fantasy: volubility mirrored with the fanciful lightness and capriciousness of the first Allegro con espressione, as evidenced by the beginnings of waltzes interspersed in an over-expressive, even parodic sequence, in the spirit ideally assimilated here again of the Straussian caprice (the fanciful and brilliant neo-baroque Richard Strauss of Ariane auf Naxos and the French neo-baroque Suite from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme after Lully). The assertive Viennese musicians play and delight in this labyrinth of rhythms and crossed influences.

 

Virtuoso, intoxicated eclecticism of the young Erich Wolfgang Korngold

 

Bruno Monteiro adds to the richness of this exciting program a mature work [composed at 16!] which still bears the attachment to this Viennese ideal, both carefree and stylistically eclectic: the sublime Sonata for violin and piano.

The “Ben moderato” [5] highlights the lunar volubility of the violin, so close to singing, but a song modeled on speech and free, fanciful thought, which rocks and dreams… and ends very high in the sky enchanted and intoxicated high notes as the enchanter KORNGOLD knows how to distill them. Piano and violin acutely express its great suggestive and emotional force.

The Adagio [7] is wild tenderness, softness, measured abandon, play on modulations and vaporous harmonic passages, ecstatic inebriation at the confines of tonality, playing between dream and nightmare but in accuracy without softness (as it is noted “mit tiefer empfindung” / with deep sensitivity).

In the Finale: Allegretto [8] – the character of happy carefreeness runs through the entire last movement (con grazia), but also a feeling of happy plenitude, as if intoxicated here again, combining the whimsical and the capricious as in the spirit of a movement constructed like a fantasy – the violin part is close to the voice, a continuous and diaphanous song, while the piano nestles in the folds and folds of preserved, secret resentments, never really expressed. This dreamlike mist, this floating as if bewitched, make up the charm of a piece which seems at first listen, diffuse and uncertain, ultimately revealing an extremely well constructed emotional charge of which it is the violin line which holds the control and the flow from one end to the other.

In addition, the performers play Pierrot's Tanzlied, an extract from the opera Die Tote Stadt for cello and piano: the two performers express its suave fragility, like the delicate outpouring of a dream that evaporates.

This program aptly underlines the precocious genius and virtuoso complexity of a Viennese composer of infinite seduction."

| Jerry Dubins
*****

““He (Monteiro) is a superb violinist, exhibiting flawless technique, beautiful tone, and musicianship of the highest order. Bruno Monteiro, Miguel Rocha, and João Paulo Santos perform miracles in the playing of them. I doubt that you’ll find them better presented than they are here. ”

| Stephen Smoliar
“Both provide convincing accounts of Korngold’s richly expressive rhetoric.”
| Mark J. Estren
****

“Although the classical music of Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) has undergone something of a revival in recent years, it remains comparatively obscure, possibly because he is known primarily for the film scores he created in the United States after fleeing Europe during the Nazi era. Interestingly, Korngold in his early career was something of a prodigy, and even his first few compositions have a great deal to recommend them – as is made abundantly clear in a very well-played new CD from Et’cetera Records. The disc opens with Korngold’s first published work and his only piano trio – a work that is something of a marvel, considering the fact that he completed it when he was only 13. The trio was written when Korngold was studying with Alexander Zemlinsky, and it contains both late-Romantic intensity and high levels of lyricism. It also has some clever compositional elements, notably an almost circular structure, with the work’s opening theme repeated and reworked at the conclusion of the finale. Although it is easy to hear echoes of Brahms and Richard Strauss in the music, there is nothing overtly imitative in it, and its harmonic language is right in line with what would be expected for its time period (1909-10). As a whole, this is a strongly accented, atmospheric work created with compositional skill far beyond its composer’s chronological age. And although the style is scarcely distinctive, the stretching of tonality and expressive intensity of the music place it squarely at the end of the Romantic era and show that even in his earliest music, Korngold had a knack for mixing emotive sensitivity with a high degree of drama – a combination that would stand him in good stead in his much later film works. The performance by João Paulo Santos, Bruno Monteiro and Miguel Rocha is first-rate, allowing the music to flow naturally throughout and explore the full emotional range that Korngold put into it, which is considerable even when it sounds somewhat formulaic in the Larghetto third movement. And Korngold matured quite rapidly from a compositional point of view, as is clear from his Sonata for Violin and Piano, written when he was all of 16. Larger-scale than the Piano Trio, this 40-minute sonata strives constantly to burst the bounds within which Korngold created it. Monteiro and Santos tackle the work’s very considerable technical demands with consummate skill, allowing its frequent contrasts of lyricism and intensity to produce the clear and sometimes jarring effects for which Korngold strove – precursors in a way to the quick mood shifts he was later so adept at producing for films. The free-range emotional elements here flow more naturally than in the Piano Trio, although the musical language itself is somewhat more acerbic. The sonata’s second movement, an insistent Scherzo, contains an unusually beautiful central Trio, and the third-movement Adagio is also packed with sincerity despite a high level of chromaticism reminiscent of Mahler and, again, Richard Strauss. The variation-form finale provides the only leavening in a work that is foundationally highly serious: there are tidbits of lightness here and there that help relieve the otherwise persistent weightiness of the sonata, and the gentle conclusion brings with it a sense of calm that is otherwise largely absent from a work of considerable power. The disc concludes, as an encore, with an excerpt from Korngold’s third and best-known opera, Die tote Stadt, a dark psychological work whose rather lurid plot is nowhere reflected in the sweet and warm cello-and-piano version of Tanzlied des Pierrot, played by Rocha and Santos with considerable delicacy and charm. As a whole, this CD stands as testimony to Korngold’s earlier music (which includes Die tote Stadt, at whose première the composer was 23) and an excellent introduction, for listeners who know Korngold only as a film composer, to some of his substantial contributions to 20th-century chamber music.”

| Aart van der Wal
“Whether or not it is an occasional trio, in any case the interaction of these three Portuguese musicians is of such a caliber that I actually accept at face value that they have been working together for years. It's also clear that they feel strongly related to these three pieces. 'Wow', as our eastern neighbors like to say, captured in a generous color palette. This gives wings to this song, which has many rambunctious moments. It is difficult to imagine that Korngold was only 13 years old when he composed the Piano Trio, but there can be no doubt from the historical sources. The same can be said of the Violin Sonata, composed three years later, with Korngold's thanks to violinist Carl Flesch and pianist Artur Rubinstein (to whom Korngold also dedicated the piece), who provided him with valuable technical advice. This does not change the fact that we are dealing with decidedly ‘adult’ works that were also approached in the same way by the three Portuguese musicians. Which could hardly be otherwise, because the Violin Sonata is undoubtedly one of the most difficult of its kind, both technically and interpretively. The pulsating Piano Trio also impresses with its endless restlessness, exorbitant harmonic leaps and the creative boldness it expresses. Characteristics that we also find in part in the Violin Sonata and which are neither softened nor emphasized by these musicians, so in the right measure. Balance is an important component in each performance, both purely technical (interaction) and in terms of dynamics and expression. If there is any highlight in Late Romanticism, these two works are certainly among them. The interpretations themselves, one flowing from the other, leave no room for any other vision. The final piece is the arrangement for cello and piano of the Tanzlied des Pierrot from the opera Die tote Stadt, which contrasts particularly beautifully with the two previous works: no In this transcription alone it is a true salon piece par excellence, for which Fritz Kreisler would not have to be ashamed. There are more adaptations of the opera, all by Korngold himself. He also mastered this profession down to his fingertips. In short, there is every reason (the beautiful recording is also one of them) to experience this music in this way.”
| Robert Ekselman
“Ernest Chausson’s unlikely music career – he had already commenced the study of law – has left us with several masterworks for chamber music during his tragically short life, of which the Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello Op.3 is considered to be one. While posterity may have granted him reputational immortality and a place amongst the greats, we may not have been so fortunate had fate taken him further along the road following his initial ambitions in law. The work is in four movements and displays throughout the influence of his Paris Conservatoire teacher César Franck. The outer two movements are in sonata form, either side of the scherzo and slow movement. Belgian violinist/composer Eugène Ysaÿe is remembered as one of the outstanding soloists of the 19th/early 20th centuries. The connection with Chausson appears through his Poème Elegaique for Violin and Piano Op.12 featured in this review, the work being the inspiration behind Chausson’s own Poème for solo violin which was premiered by the violinist in 1886. It is a work of sombre intensity; no surprises there, given that it is inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Both composers pushed the boundaries of late romanticism, and found inspiration in composers such as Wagner and Franck, the latter to whom it was dedicated. The rhapsodic Méditation-Poème for Cello and Piano Op.16 is written in changing meter. It is in equal measure sombre and introspective. Both composers inhabit an impressionist’s landscape of turbulent soaring phrase lines, supported by rapidly shifting kaleidoscopic harmonies. The Portuguese trio ensemble consisting of Bruno Monteiro (violin), João Paulo Santos (piano) and Miguel Rocha (cello) perform impressively in this challenging and dynamic program.”
| Hugo Papbst
Le Clic da la Classique News

"The violinist Bruno Monteiro reveals in this new French romantic program, obvious affinities with the fin de siècle aesthetic, both Franckist and post-Wagnerian, specific to Chausson and Ysaÿe. In addition, the filiation between the two composers is captivating thanks to a lighting as fine as it is committed. The Trio de Chausson Opus 3 is a major work written in the summer of 1881 by a young 26-year-old composer who thus wished to avert his failure at the Prix de Rome; the cyclic principle is very skilfully used (tribute to his master César Franck who validated the final form of his pupil); the deep unity of the piece (sonata form of movements I and IV) and its complex flavor between melancholy and ecstasy (harmonic ambiguity) are clarified, made explicit, with a remarkably articulated three-way vibration.

Between delicacy and aplomb, Bruno Monteiro produces and cultivates a tone that is both enchanting and determined thanks to his violin in perfect complicity with the cello of Miguel Rocha, while the pianist João Paulo Santos chisels each note with the same spirit of precision, nuance, of troubled depth (volubility of the keyboard in “Vite” which acts as a scherzo). Each sequence is ideally contrasted, pointing to the characteristic elements of the Très lent until the final Animé, both nervous and scathing (conclusion of the repeated final notes).

The same captivating risk and successful challenge as then programming two pieces by Ysaÿe, relatively less played/ less known than his 6 pieces for solo violin. In both cases, the performers explore formal freedom as well as the extreme virtuosity required to express its emotional depth. They sculpt with elegance and in a legitimate Fauréan spirit (the score is dedicated to Fauré) the feeling of plenitude chiseled in the Poème Élégiaque d'Ysaÿe, Opus 12, for violin / piano; Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos seem to understand in the smallest folds and folds, the suggestive manifestations of an ingrained amorous melancholy, both intoxicating and toxic (the serious and very involved timbre of the violin). The free and superbly nuanced song of the two instruments expresses impulses, desires, resentment, bitterness, hope of an affected but combative soul.

Particularly characteristic, hoarse and supple, as if round and rough, Bruno Monteiro's violin captivates all the more because it is clearly distinguished by its supple and precise phrasing, a sound above all which oscillates between complaint and prayer, biting and caressing, double face of a moving introspection, – and determined, and yet in renunciation. The color is bronze, continuously suggestive, in introspection and intensity; so much chiseled nuance which in no way prevents a breath renewed by its freedom and its flexible gesture.

Particularly exposed, the violin of Bruno Monteiro knows how to weave a particularly supple sonic silk, thanks to the subtle and bewitching piano of João Paulo Santos; in taut lines, with stretched, infinite breaths, the violin as if suspended, weaves perspectives that expand time and space by chiselling a song at the limit of harmony, more and more saturated, with a fiery intoxication whose he articulates the incandescent blaze, without dismissing either harshness or difficulties; the purity of the program, the 1001 nuances inscribed in the bass, from lugubrious to desperate, do justice to the genius of Ysaÿe, himself a superlative violinist, in a virtuoso piece conducted in a filigree tension, right down to the treble whispered at the end, stretched in the breath and more and more appeased, towards the full mystery. Mastered technique and expressive hypersensitivity, Ysaÿe proves to be as ambivalent and introspective as Chausson. Which, moreover, after listening to this work, composed his own Poem for violin. Bringing Ysaÿe and Chausson into dialogue in this way proves to be relevant and obviously very inspiring for the performers.

The same active and mysterious sensibility, in the Meditation-poem of 1910 where the cello enchants, intoxicates, murmurs, is also exasperated like a pure dreamy wandering; the playing of the cello respects a precise, clear, tense rhetoric. The playing is brilliant, always suggestive, perfectly expressive, without excess, in nuance and with a flexibility of tempo(s), voluble. French romantic program, in its assumed risks, and its great finesse, totally convincing."
| María del Ser
“Considered one of the most outstanding violinists in his country, the Portuguese Bruno Monteiro has an extensive international career as a soloist, both with orchestra and in chamber ensembles. He presents here a new recording together with the cellist Miguel Rocha and the pianist João Paulo Santos, with whom he has already recorded for this same recording label Sonatas for violin and piano by the also Portuguese Luís de Freitas Branco, by Maurice Ravel and by the Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos, review already presented in these pages. This recording opens with the Trio for piano, violin and cello in G minor Op. 3 by Ernest Chausson, premiered in 1882. Its four movements revolve around the delicacy and subtlety of French music of the time, but with a dramatic overtone, in part because of the composer´s interest in opera to which he added the harmonic ambiguity typical of Cesar Franck and Gabriel Fauré. Following, in part, this Belgian connection, they complete it with the Poème Élégiaque for violin and piano Op. 12 by Eugène Ysaÿe, inspired by Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and of great novelty and originality in form, as Monteiro himself points out in the accompanying text. With a very personal language that is also found in his Meditation-Poem for cello and piano Op. 16 (page for which the composer did not have much esteem), stands out for its fantasy, almost improvised character. A listening turned into a whole itinerary due to the warmth and elegant exuberance of the colors and atmospheres created by the performers.”
| Jacques Bonnaure
****

"Chausson's Trio in G minor is not a work of easy access, but its assiduous frequentation brings great satisfaction: one can only be sensitive to the dramatic tension which runs through it, to its varied climates and to the solidity of its construction. There were already beautiful versions, two old ones by the Beaux Arts Trio (Philips) and by the Trio Pennetier, Pasquier and Pidoux (Harmonia Mundi), two more recent but of high level by the Trio Wanderer (HM) and by the Trio Slipper (Mirare). Here, it is a Portuguese team that assumes this ample score in which Chausson transcends the cute sins of the Franckist school to reveal a powerful personality. Dedicated to Fauré, the Poème Élégiaque by Eugene Ysaÿe (1858-1931) impressed Chausson so well that it inspired his famous Poème pour Violo net Orchester. It is a piece of serious and lyrical character, romantic, but of a more classical writing than the Trio de Chausson, already magnificently recorded by Alina Ibragimova and by Cédric Tiberghien (Hyperion). The Meditation Poème for cello and piano is of the same water, with a more advanced language. These are two great discoveries offered by concerned and competent interpreters."
| Ray Picot
“This is a very well contrasted and unusual collection of violin sonatas which brings together music from the pens of Luis de Freitas Branco, Maurice Ravel and Heitor Villa-Lobos. I know of no other recordings featuring this combination, which I found quite refreshing, as I did the interpretations of violinist and producer, Bruno Monteiro, and pianist João Paulos Santos. As Monteiro explains in his informative notes, the duo have played this music in concerts many times and they share an easy familiarity and understanding which they clearly communicate through exceptional readings of this repertoire. They also refresh this music through a dynamic and flexible approach.

Framing the better known Ravel Sonata is Freitas Branco’s youthful 1st Sonata, which has a real charm with a weightier finale, and the better known 2nd Sonata of Villa-Lobos. The latter piece was the composer’s calling-card in Paris, and created a positive impression amongst fellow musicians and audiences alike. Typical of the composer, there are several editions of this piece with different tempo markings which hardly matters when it is so well performed. Ravel’s masterpiece needs no introduction, and it’s played with a real sparkle by the duo. (…) the acoustic is very natural and gives plenty of space to these excellent musicians. Warmly recommended.”
| Ana Rocha
****
“The most recent album by the violinist Bruno Monteiro (Porto, 1977) is to be welcomed, divided into two “chapters”, the first dedicated to a piece by Ernest Chausson and the second with two works by the Belgian composer and violinist Eugene Ysaÿe. There are 66 minutes filled with three powerful pieces due to the originality of the construction, the vigor, breadth and richness of the themes, on this occasion explored by the violinist along with the pianist João Paulo Santos and the cellist Miguel Rocha. These are works by composers who are largely absent from the soundscape and who now reappear on recordings, three nuggets deserving of leaving the shelves where they accumulated dust. From a 19th-century painting signed by the Dutch artist Frits Jansen and entitled “Summer Afternoon”, an image was taken to illustrate the cover with an elegant woman with a dreamy gaze languidly reclining on a lawn, in a refreshing summer landscape that serves as a metaphor for the luminous and refined music of the score by Chausson and the duets performed in the “Poeme Élégiaque” dedicated by Ysaÿe to Fauré and in the “Meditation-Poeme”, from 1910, signed by the Belgian violinist who dedicated it to the French composer and cellist Fernand Polain. In 1899, a head injury caused by a massive fall from a bicycle brought Chausson's creative career to a sudden halt at the age of 44. The Trio in G Minor (Opus 3) that opens the program is a work of youth, presenting itself in an atmosphere of great joy with romantic élans and strokes of symbolism. At times, the sense of contrasts between the three soloists is emphatic, driven by the rhythmic vivacity and the paroxysmal tension with many nuances of the composition. The architecture and sound density of Ysaÿe's poems are served with panache.”
| John J. Puccio
JJP’s Favorite Classical Recordings of 2022

Violin Sonatas
Music by Freitas Branco, Ravel, Villa-Lobos. Bruno Monteiro, violin; Joao Paulo Santos, Piano. Et’cetera Records KTC 1750.
To read the review, click here:
https://classicalcandor.blogspot.com/2022/04/violin-sonatas-cd-review.html
 
| CD do dia
CD of the Day at Radio France

https://www.radiofrance.fr/francemusique/podcasts/en-pistes/joyeux-anniversaire-daniel-barenboim-3396620
| João Marcos Coelho
CD OF THE WEEK Trio and duos of Ysaÿe and Chausson. By three notable Portuguese musicians, on the recently released album by Etcetera label

"The vitality of violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos is impressive. Both Portuguese, their duo has been recording for almost two decades a substantial part of the most expressive chamber music repertoire of the last century and a half. Bruno Monteiro was born in the city of Porto. He studied in New York with Patinka Kopec, Isidore Cohen (of the Beaux Arts Trio) and members of the American String Quartet at the Manhattan School of Music. He completed his training with Shmuel Ashkenazi of the Vermeer Quartet. Experienced pianist João Paulo Santos, 57 years old from Lisbon, studied with the great Aldo Ciccolini in Paris in the 1980s.

In the last ten years alone, Bruno and João Paulo have made more than a dozen recordings. A consistent discography, evidencing a particular taste for the music of the 20th century. They recorded, for example, the complete music for violin and piano by the Portuguese composer Fernando Lopes-Graça (who died in 1994 at the age of 86, after a life of resistance to the salazarista regime and an enviable quality of musical creation); a double CD containing the complete music for violin and piano by the Polish composer Karol Szymanowski (died in 1937, aged 55). And also Stravinsky, among many others.

The duo has just released the album “Ysaÿe: music for violin, cello and piano” on Etcetera label. The guest cellist is Miguel Rocha. He was born in Porto, and began his musical studies at the city's Conservatory with Isabel Delerue. In 1983 he studied in Paris, Prague, Masstricht and in Basel with Boris Pergamenchikov. He was a soloist with the Sinfonietta de Lausanne, Switzerland. In 2001 he returned to Portugal. He teaches at the Escola Superior de Castelo Branco, near Belgais, where Maria João Pires conceived and carried out her utopian musical project for a few years and had the Brazilian Caio Pagano as an assistant. He has recorded for various labels, from baroque to contemporary music, with an emphasis on Portuguese music.

On this week's CD, this trio plays the ambitious Trio in G minor, opus 3 by Ernest Chausson (1855-1899), who studied with Massenet and also with César Franck – the latter was a determining influence on his work. Chausson exercised a fierce self-criticism of his works, which are few. But they are all very expressive. Perhaps even more decisive was the influence of Wagner, whose music he got to know and enjoyed a lot between 1880 and 1889. In that decade he went to Bayreuth practically every year. And in the following decade, the last of his life, he composed the opera “King Arthur”.

The other half of the album is filled with two pieces by Eugene Ysaÿe, one of the greatest violin virtuosos of the late 19th century: the “Poème Élègiaque” for violin and piano; and the “Meditation-Poème”, for cello and piano."
| James Palmer
*****

 “This is a very fine issue of superb chamber music from the Belle Epoque period, and one cannot imagine it being better played or recorded. If I begin with the sound quality, it is only because obtaining a correct, genuinely musical, record ed balance between all three instruments is not easily achieved, but the result here border on demonstration standard. (…) Bruno Monteiro and his companions have the style of this period literally at their fingertips, and the whole presentation is admirable.”

 

| Maria Augusta Gonçalves
“ (…) Beautiful interpretations, which have established themselves as top choices for this repertoire. (…) Memorable exhibition by Bruno Monteiro, perfect piano by João Paulo Santos, extraordinary cello by Miguel Rocha, until the final sequence, reaching the supreme refinement at the end of the work.

Recorded a year ago at Igreja da Cartuxa, in Caxias, with the sound engineer José Fortes, this album constitutes a treasure in the discography of Chausson and Ysaÿe, as well as of the music in France, at the turn of the 20th century, at the dawn of modernity that would follow. All because of the musicians' broad vision of each of the works and their context, and the exceptional technical mastery they demonstrate at every moment."
| Dominy Clements
If you fancy a heart-on-sleeve, (…) performance of an ‘unsung’ piano trio then this is one to put on and just turn up the volume.”

“Ernest Chausson's Trio in G minor Op. 3 can be heard as an act of defiance by a composer who had just been rejected by the Prix de Rome. Composed in the summer of 1881, it was premiered on the 8th of April 1882 at the Société Nationale de Musique of Paris, but after a lukewarm reception it lay unpublished until 1919, something that might seem remarkable to us now given the quality of the music.

That sense of creative defiance is most apparent in the romantic sweep of the substantial first movement. The influence of Franck is apparent throughout the piece, and while this grand opening is more or less based on classical sonata form its themes have those cyclic tendencies associated with Franck. This is followed by a Vivace that serves as a scherzo movement, leading up to a gorgeous Assez lent. The balance of proportion is held in the final Animé, which answers the opening with a comparable sonata form structure and even greater thematic compactness and intensity, with daring harmonies and the building of considerable climaxes despite the quite jaunty 'journey home’ through-line in its momentum.

Eugène Ysaÿe was better known as a violinist as he was composer in his lifetime, having studied with Wieniawski in Brussels, and later in Paris with Vieuxtemps. The Poème élégiaque was dedicated to Fauré and has a breathless song-like drama that impressed Chausson enough to write his own famous Poème. The Meditation- Poème for cello and piano was written for the cellist Fernand Pollain, and is a piece to confound the air-conductors of us trying to follow the beat at home. Its uneven meter creates an effect of restlessness, the continuous lyrical effect carrying its own dramatic arc.

This is a nice recording. There aren't that many recordings of the Chausson Trio Op. 3 around but there are some alternatives. The Vienna Piano Trio on MDG is worth considering, though I certainly prefer the present recording to the Meadowmount Trio on Naxos which is nice enough but quite soft-edged by comparison.

If you fancy a heart-on-sleeve, (…) performance of an ‘unsung’ piano trio then this is one to put on and just turn up the volume.
| Riccardo Viagrande
“This CD released by the Etcetera Records label opens a small, but delicate window on French chamber music of the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The program opens with the Trio for piano, violin and cello op. 3 which, composed by Ernest Chausson in 1881 and performed for the first time on 8 April 1882 at the Société Nationale de Musique in Paris, is a work in four movements with a cyclical structure in which the composer shows an excellent mastery of the techniques and of the compositional forms despite in some passages there is a lyricism, perhaps a little rhetorical, although intense. Two works by Eugène Ysaÿe complete the program: the Poème Élégiaque for violin and piano Op.12, inspired by the tragedy Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, and the Méditation-Poème for cello and piano Op.16 which, composed in 1910, is one page rhapsodic in character.

These pieces are excellently performed by Bruno Monteiro (violin), Miguel Rocha (cello), João Paulo Santos (piano). In the Chausson Trio the three artists find a perfect harmony that allows them to give the impression of listening to a single instrument with different timbres. In particular, João Paulo Santos, on the piano, accompanies without ever overwhelming them, Bruno Monteiro and Miguel Rocha, who, both endowed with a solid technique, but also with an expressive way, perform these pieces with great attention to phrasing and dynamics. Particularly beautiful is the performance of the Poème by Monteiro, as is the performance of the Méditation-Poème by Miguel Rocha of absolute value.”
| Josep Bosch
“On the Belgian label Etcetera Records, founded by David Rossiter and Michel Arcizet, every detail is revealing. In Bruno Monteiro's new album, the interpreter, accompanied by two musicians of excellent musical qualities – cellist Miguel Rocha and pianist João Paulo Santos – interprets the Trio for piano, violin and cello in G minor, op. 3, by the French composer Ernest Chausson (1855-1899), the Poéme Elégiaque for violin and piano, op. 12, and the wonderful Meditation-Poème for cello and piano, op. 16, by the Belgian composer and conductor Eugène Ysaÿe.

Monteiro, with Rocha and Santos, puts the listener in front of a multiplicity of sounds, in which it is possible to recognize, for a better understanding of the historical moment, the music of two composers with a poetic sensibility and a very rigorous idiomatic pattern.

The Trio for piano, violin and cello in G minor, coldly received at the premiere, is a work in four movements (in fact, the result of the advice of César Franck) and we find the cyclical themes of the violin - Monteiro's lyricism is a dazzling journey - in addition to a deep harmonic ambiguity and rhythmic force, which sustains the four movements.

Ysaÿe's sound poetry, reflected in the Poéme Elégiaque - dedicated to Fauré - and in the Meditation Poème, is inherent to these two purely romantic chamber pieces. The author seeks darkness through scordatura; he seems to have been inspired by Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and by Chausson's music.

Rhapsodic in nature, Ysaÿe, who formed his own quartet in 1894, composed the Meditation-Poème with a singular (rather than conventional) notation to indicate changes in meter. Rocha and Santos, cello and piano, display an energy of dramatic intensity, dark and sober.

A recording of a high artistic and musical level.”
| 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.”
| Veerle Deknopper
CHAUSSON – AN INTIMATE PAINTED PORTRAIT

"Bruno Monteiro knows how to handle things. Whenever the Portuguese violinist releases a new album, the dynamics in his performance speak volumes. Energetic, proud and sincere, something you want to wake up to and that positively influences your mood during the day. This time he managed to surprise us with music by Ernest Chausson and Eugène Ysaÿe. A permanent companion of music is the pianist João Paulo Santos and this time also the cellist Miguel Rocha. A Belgian label – Et'cetera – and also a Belgian composer. Beautiful!

Ernst Chausson (1855-1899) grew up in a loving Parisian family, where music did not play the main role. Still, a teacher gave him a love for the Fine Arts and he soon couldn't choose between music or literature. Ultimately, it was music that gained when he began studying piano at fifteen, despite being also very talented as a painter. He may have started out in law school, but he ended up at the Paris Conservatoire. He composed works for piano and chamber music, orchestral works and opera. The connection with the virtuoso Belgian violinist Ysaÿe? Ysaÿe premiered her Poème for violin and orchestra in 1896.

Chausson was known as a shy personality who had a great love for beauty and nature. He liked to be surrounded by artists from all kinds of fields, such as Monet and Duparc.
His trio for piano, violin and cello in G minor opus 3 opens this CD and can surely be considered one of the most beautiful pieces of the late 19th century period, despite the work being received coldly by the Société Nationale de Musique. It was not published posthumously until 1919.

The nice thing is that you can hear all these dynamics, as if you were diving into a painting. Tone colors are heard and even a little pointillism is allowed on a dreamy background. As if feeling the energy of that cultural period.

Ysaÿe started her career at a very young age. He made his public debut at the age of seven and studied at the Brussels Conservatory with Wieniawski and later in Paris with Henri Vieuxtemps. He was known for his beautiful vibrato, romantic tics and warm sounds. In addition to his most famous works, he also wrote two musical poems that you can hear here. The rather somber Poème Élégiaque was dedicated to Gabriel Fauré. This is exactly what challenged Chausson to write his own Poème. The Méditaton-Poème was written in 1910 but not published until 1921. The violinist-composer always wanted to make sure that only the best would be published. The work was dedicated to the cellist Fernand Pollain and has a rhapsodic character.

This album addresses music that may not be known to the masses, but that is very much worth putting on the map and being tasted and appreciated.”
| Jonathan Woolf
A hothouse Franco-Belgian programme astutely programmed and beautifully performed

“This is an astutely programmed disc that draws on connections and nuances between Chausson and his slightly younger contemporary Ysaÿe – who famously premièred the Poème - both of them devotees of Franck. It was Franck who tutored the young Chausson, and certainly there are strong imprints of the older man’s cyclical procedure and hothouse atmospherics in Chausson’s 33-minute Trio.

This is a work, long ignored for decades, that has increasingly received recordings. Bruno Monteiro (violin), Miguel Rocha (cello) and pianist João Paulo Santos form a formidable trio and marry long-term structural goals with moments of expressive piquancy to generate the necessary dramatic light and shade in a work as youthfully intense as this. It’s noticeable that they avoid excessive tempi, such as one can find in the Trio Solisti’s effort on Bridge or in elements of the Fidelio Trio’s recording on Resonus, where both the opening movement and slow movement are pressed quite hard – at least in relation to the Etcetera team’s performance. By contrast the Portuguese trio convey the fluidity of the first movement’s dramatic peaks and troughs through wistful and assured exchanges and a sculptural firmness that repays repeated listening. The slow movement’s Scherzo gains through fine control of momentum and mood, Bruno Monteiro floating his tone with admirable refinement, Miguel Rocha matching him in sophistication of tone production, anchored by the consistent excellence of pianist João Paulo Santos. The fluctuation in expressive density of the slow movement is beautifully realised, and the elasticity of the finale’s melody lines are conveyed at a fine tempo, with playing of power and ardour, not least from the hard-working pianist.

The two selected works by Ysaÿe act as fine commentaries in themselves on the bigger and more emotively outgoing Chausson Trio. Both, in fact, were later to be orchestrated for string soloist and orchestra in which form they have often been encountered on disc. In the Poème Élégiaque, the violinist’s G string is tuned to F, which vests it with a dusky, melancholic quality. Not only does it emphasise the mournful qualities of the music but it also sounds positively viola-like in places. It was his first tone poem and evokes the Lekeu-like, Wagnerian plangency of the fin-de-siecle Belgian school to which Monteiro responds with fulsome instrumental address. Both he and Santos prove adroit in the expressive potential of the music, lightening the mood when required or darkening and deepening the twilit atmosphere in a notably balanced reading. A competing version, though very differently coupled – Vierne, Franck and Lili Boulanger - is on Hyperion, finely played by Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien (review). For the orchestrated version, you have the Fuga Libera box (FUG758), where it’s played by Tedi Papavrami (review) or the CPO 777 051-2 (review), to cite just two examples.

Méditation-Poème can also be found in that Fuga Libera box, where it’s played by Gary Hoffman. It shows Ysaÿe’s command of the rhapsodic but also his employment of the chromatic, ripely coloured, that enriches the music rather than stifling or throttling it. Too astute and shrewd an executant-composer for that, Ysaÿe gives the cellist some eloquent lines to spin, to which Miguel Rocha responds with ardour, splendidly matched by João Paulo Santos.

This programme gives numerous opportunities for individual and collective strengths and comes with notes from the violinist and an excellent recording supervised by José Fortes. The hothouse is in good hands in this release.”
| Steven Kennedy
Recording: ****/****
Performance: ****/****

“(…) All of that is made more so with the performance here. The opening movement is given its due well, but the central movements bring out the ensemble´s interation well in the scherzo. There is much lyrical writing here as well which is beautifully performed both by Monteiro and Rocha. The phrase and articulation are matched equally well. The piano impassioned harmonic interjections add the proper energy and forward momentum.
(…) Monteiro provides a quite impassioned performance (Ysaye) with rich tone, especially in the lower registal sections. The technical demands of the piece also make this attractive. The arc of the work is also well captured here.
(…) The Meditation-Poeme for cello and piano, Op.16 will be another delightful discovery for people unifamiliar with Ysaye´s music and makes for an interesting comparison to his other earlier work. Again, the harmonic palette is most striking here with its flirtations with a sort of impressionist-romantic blend of sound.

For those you enjoy exploring rare chamber music, this release will be well worth seeking out especially for the rarer Ysaye. An interesting pairing that works well to introduce listeners to two important composers from this era of French/Belgian music.”
| (Alemanha)
“The composer Ernest Chausson studied with Massenet and Franck and is considered an important link between the late romantic tradition of Wagnerian character and Impressionism. Composed in 1881 in Montbovon, Switzerland, his Piano Trio reveals Chausson's lyrical qualities as a composer. It is influenced by César Franck's tonal language; Franck's Piano Quintet of 1878/79 may have been a concrete model. Even then, Chausson was independent enough to create a work that can be considered one of the most elegant and beautiful piano trios of the late 19th century. The musicians Bruno Monteiro (violin), João Paulo Santos (piano) and Miguel Rocha (cello) are among the leading chamber musicians of Portugal. They interpret Chausson's work with brilliance and passion without sentimentalizing it. The two Poèmes by Ysaÿe for violin or cello and piano are a nice bonus.”
| John Puccio
“Some of you may know the work of violinist Bruno Monteiro from his record albums, others from his many personal appearances, and yet a few more from my several reviews of his previous CD’s. For those who aren’t quite familiar with him yet, let me remind you. The weekly Expresso describes him as “one of today's most renowned Portuguese musicians.” He is internationally recognized as an eminent violinist.” Fanfare says he has a “burnished golden tone” and Strad comments on his having “a generous vibrato” producing radiant colors. Music Web International refers to his interpretations as producing 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 praises his “unfailing assurance and eloquence,” and Strings Magazine notes that he is “a young chamber musician of extraordinary sensitivity." So, yes, he is very, very good.

Joining Mr. Monteiro on the present album is pianist Joao Paulo Santos and cellist Miguel Rocha. Together, they make some very, very good music.

The program begins with the Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello in G minor, Op. 3 by French composer Ernest Chausson (1855-1899). He wrote the piece early in his short career, while still in his mid twenties and just after studying music with Jules Massenet and Cesar Franck. Chausson did not produce an abundance of music during his brief lifetime--thirty-nine published works in all--but they were all imaginative, original, and enchanting. While he is probably best known for the Symphony in B-flat, the symphonic poem Viviane, and the Poème for violin and orchestra, his Trio is certainly another piece to be reckoned with. Indeed, it is considered by many listeners as one of Chausson’s best small-scale chamber works.

The Trio opens with a lyrical, gently rhythmic introduction before turning to a more-animated theme. The three players here maintain a strong chemistry, the violin taking the lead, with the accompanying piano and cello alternating and intertwining in cyclic variations or patterns of spirals. The performers are uniformly vibrant in their interpretation, with Monteiro’s violin an impressively solid mainstay throughout. The second movement also starts gently, then picks up a head of lighthearted steam as the instruments pursue one another around the score. It’s all quite delightful, actually, and leads into the third, slow movement. Here, it’s the piano that takes the forestage, with the violin and cello then joining in a plaintive call. It’s a lovely, poetic interlude that recalls the music of some of Chausson’s acquaintances--Massenet, Franck, and Faure in its graceful, flowing tones. It also displays the talents of Monteiro, Santos, and Rocha and their ability to smoothly meld into one. Then the Trio ends with a sprightly animated and playfully spontaneous finale that wraps up the whole work in fine fashion, the players ready to take their well-deserved bows.

Accompanying the Trio are two short pieces by one of Chausson’s contemporaries, Belgian violinist, conductor, and composer Eugene Ysaye (1858-1931). Fans called Ysaye “the king of the violin,” and, in fact, Chausson considered him to be the best interpreter of his work he’d ever heard. On the present album we have the Poeme Elegiaque for Violin and Piano, Op. 12 (later orchestrated but here done in its original form with Monteiro and Santos) and the Meditation-Poeme for Cello and Piano, Op. 16, with Rocha and Santos. They’re both sweet, enjoyable pieces, the Meditation a little more melancholy than the Elegy, and both played with a fine, delicate poise.

Producers Bruno Monteiro and Dirk De Greef and engineer Jose Fortes recorded the music at Igreja da Cartuxa, Caxias, Portugal in September 2021. As with most small-ensemble recordings, this one is relatively close, providing good, clear detail. Yet there is a mild hall resonance to add warmth to the sessions. As we might expect in the Violin Trio, the violin is the dominant but not overpowering sound.”
| Colin Clarke
Five stars: A disc full of delights and surprises, of subtle shades, of revelations. A superb disc on all levels

"An ideal coupling here, two composers capable of the heights of beauty. I very much enjoyed these players’ disc of Lekeu in Fanfare 43:1, back in 2019, and this is an apt sequel, both in repertoire and in performance standard.
Dating from 1881/2, Chausson’s Piano Trio in G-Minor, op. 5 blazes with a white-hot intensity. It is a joy to listen to, not least because of Bruno Monteiro’s ability to play so in tune. Cellist Miguel Rocha is an eloquent partner, while Joāo Paulo Santos's strength is to convey that intensity without ever resorting to virtuosity (the piano part sounds fiendishly difficult). The booklet annotator (Monteiro himself) is right to mention the shadow of Franck over this music, and not just in terms of the cyclic nature of the piece; and yet Chausson has his own, magical voice. We hear that voice in songful form in the contrasting moments of the second movement Scherzo. Fascinating to hear this performance, so disciplined and yet so pitch perfect to Chausson’s vocabulary. João Paulo Santos gets his chance to shine in the long cello lines of this movement, and shine he does, delivering effortless legato. As a song without words for cello and violin, this movement has few peers. It is remarkable to place this work: Chausson was only 26 years old at the time, having attended classes by both Franck and Massenet, and yet Chausson paints on such a vast canvas, and Monteiro, Rocha, and Santos relish every minute. There is no sense of hurry at all in the “Assez lent” slow movement. In contrast, the finale is marked “Animé" and it certainly trips along with a remarkably Gallic tinge. The slightly dry acoustic of the recording enables the dotted rhythms to really spring, while Santos’ way with the grander statements is perfectly scaled. This is true chamber music, through and through.
While the coupling on the excellent Trio Wanderer performance also works well (the Ravel Piano Trio, Fanfare 23;4), the move to Belgium and Eugène Ysaÿe is spectacularly thought-through, and well timed (in that a significant number of Ysaÿe releases seems to have come my way in various formats of late, not least Sherban Lupu’s amazing Ysaÿe "adventure" with the G-Minor Concerto plus some short pieces—Fanfare 45:3—plus some notable live concerts in London). If there is a flowering of interest in Ysaÿe’s music, it is most definitely to be welcomed. The Poème Élégiaque is gloriously melodious, and what a pleasure it is to hear Monteiro's throaty lower register (the G-String is tuned down to F in this piece, and the whole lower register sounds incredibly intense and poignant so that when Ysaÿe moves to middle or high register it literally feels like it is another instrument responding). The piece flows effortlessly, and while it is violin dominates (and Monteiro is every bit as accurate and expressive as he is in Chausson‘s Trio), one should not miss the subtleties Santos brings to the piano part. As the piece progresses, we move into the fiendishly difficult territory one naturally associates with Ysaÿe, and Monteiro is absolutely the equal of any challenge, be it registral or in terms of stopping. For a piece with such a title, this work is remarkably wide-ranging emotionally, and Monteiro and Santos embrace the composer’s world with supreme assurance. On Hyperion, Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien offer an excellent alternative (coupling it with the Franck and Vierne Violin Sonatas and Lili Boulanger’s Nocturne), and there is no doubting the supreme Hyperion recording quality to boot; but Monteiro has a particular intensity that is compelling. It was this very piece that inspired Chausson to write his own, now much more famous, Poème for violin and orchestra, op. 25.
The Méditation-Poème that follows tightens the screw somewhat, and Rocha is magnificent, playing with the utmost dignity and sophistication, while Santos relishes his opportunities in the limelight here. The way Ysaÿe returns us to a place of tranquillity is so skilful, and with Monteiro and Rocha in charge, the listener finds a place of deep, slightly perfumed, rumination. Sanos plays with just the right vibrato, expressive without over-egging the pudding; the delicate ascending scales near the close are superbly managed, too.
A disc full of delights and surprises, of subtle shades, of revelations. Definitely one for the Wants List shortlist. A superb disc on all levels."
| Robert Hugill
Finely poetic: Ernest Chausson's early Piano Trio alongside works by his contemporary, Eugene Ysaÿe

****

“(…) Chausson's Trio uses a cyclical theme in the manner of his friend and teacher, Franck. This is introduced over a rocking piano figure at the outset of the first movement. This movement is substantial (over ten minutes) yet begins in a remarkably elegiac manner before becoming faster and more turbulent. As with much later 19th century writing for piano trio, the work requires sensitive handling in the piano and this Santos does very well. Throughout there is the sense of give and take between the three and the piano never feels over done. It helps that both Monteiro and Rocha are well able to bring out their own passionate moments in a fine manner, yet each can be discreet too. This is a performance that moves between quiet sympathy and intense passion. The slow movement has a lovely transparency to the opening, with an introduction that feels quite thoughtful before we launch into the perky main section. Here the wry humour and poetic elements take us a little distance from Franck. For the opening of the slow movement, the piano has a long solo, reiterating the cyclical theme and as the other instruments join in there is a quietly intense poeticism that reminds you of Faure, even though the structure is more Franck. An example of the synthesis that Chausson brought to his music. With the finale, we bring the cyclical structure to a close with a large-scale movement that has a perky energy to its rhythmic impetus.
Throughout the performance, I enjoyed the sympathetic give and take between the players and the sense of poetry that they bring to the music. Though a large-scale romantic work, the fevered moments are kept under control and we can enjoy the poetry that we find in Chausson's smaller works.
Ysaÿe's Poeme Elegiaque is another large-scale piece, a single movement lasting nearly 15 minutes. Ysaÿe was inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and musically by Wagner, but also by Chausson, Franck and Faure. The work does very much live in a similar world to the Chausson. The violin's G string is tuned down to F, giving a slightly huskier, darker sound to the piece. We have a flowing, poetic violin over a throbbing piano. This is very much free rhapsody, and whilst Santos' piano is wonderfully sensitive, the focus is on Monteiro's violin. There are moments when the piece seems to almost break its bounds, as if Ysaÿe really wanted to write a work for violin and orchestra.
Ysaÿe's sense of free rhapsody also comes across in his Mediation-Poeme, and here he emphasises things by showing the changes of metre via a single number written above the score rather than conventional time signatures. It begins in haunting and darkly poetic style, a real poetic meditation. And even when things hot up, Rocha and Santos keep that sense of free rhapsody alongside poetic meditation.
(…) I enjoyed this disc immensely, the three instrumentalists all conquer the challenges of the instrumental writing without even making a meal of it. Throughout, the three remain sensitive to the poetry of the pieces, and the trio in particular has a lovely intimate give and take between the three players.”
| Remy Franck
*****

“Ernest Chausson had failed at the Prix de Rome in May 1881. In July he went to Switzerland with his family, where his piano trio was composed. It has been said that the composition was a kind of act of defiance in response to his defeat at the Prix de Rome.
This assumption is fully confirmed in the Portuguese trio’s passionate, highly emotional interpretation. The first movement sounds truly defiant and agitated. The Scherzo is very well differentiated by the three musicians, and the movement sounds as if it questions some of what was said in the first. Lyrism and vitality are perfectly balanced here.
Chausson himself described the Andante as ‘dreamy’. Chausson’s teacher César Franck had found the movement too extended, but Chausson was confident enough of it not to change much. Just how right that was is shown in this interpretation, which alternates between melancholy, somberness, quiet confidence and powerful effervescence. In the final movement, too, Monteiro, Rocha and Santos play with great intensity and contrast, sometimes vital, sometimes sensual, showing us a more combative Chausson.
Ysaÿe’s Poème élégiaque for violin and piano is dedicated to Gabriel Fauré. The performance of the rhapsodic-romantic work is technically brilliant, and the Duo Monteiro-Santos balances passion and tenderness very sensitively. In the quiet parts their interpretation is touchingly interiorized and poetic.
The Méditation-Poème is also performed with great rhetoric and tension. Rocha’s cello tone is utterly seductive, his phrasing a pure joy.
And so this is a CD played by dedicated musicians with technical excellence and, above all, depth and expression, with a wide range of sonorous timbres, an unerring sense of nuance, and an unflagging inventiveness.
Sound engineer José Fortes cared for a very natural and optimally balanced sound.”
| Aart van der Wal
“(…) What these performances demonstrate is the great technical precision of the ensemble, combined with an impressive vision of the very different characteristics of these three works. It thus awakens the unmistakable suggestion of an idiomatic sound that inspires and - how could it be otherwise - invites repeated listening. The tempos are well chosen, the execution is alternately energetic and sensual and the contrasts are not exaggerated. They invite. Also the melancholy atmosphere in the Méditation-Poème is hit. The collaboration between these three Portuguese musicians is, in a word, exemplary.
The recording made by José Fortes is also very successful: the balance is excellent (always difficult in a trio with piano), in a perfectly dosed mixture of clarity and sound. Congratulations also on the fact that both the piano tuner and the page turner are clearly mentioned. I don't see that often!”
| Stephen Smoliar
“(…) As the Etcetera Web page observes, “this Trio is the first of four great chamber works left to us by Chausson.” He began work in the summer of 1881, after having learned that the composition he had submitted for the Prix de Rome had failed to win any level of the prizes being awarded. To be fair, a visit to Amazon.com will reveal that there is no shortage of different recordings of this trio. Nevertheless, as far as I can tell, this recording was my own “first contact” with Opus 3.
The Trio is followed by two duo compositions by Eugène Ysaÿe. The Opus 12 “Poème élégiaque” was composed for violin and piano. It is followed by the Opus 16 “Méditation,” originally scored for cello and orchestra and performed on this album by cello and piano. Both of these pieces are longer than ten minutes in duration, making them at bit too lengthy for encore selections. However, for those of us that know Ysaÿe primarily (if not entirely) for his Opus 27 set of six solo violin sonatas, these tracks provide two highly engaging journeys of discovery. They distinguish this album from any of the earlier recordings of the Chausson trio and are well worth the value of an encounter with Ysaÿe from a different point of view.”
| Jerry Dubins
Five stars: Music and performances of the highest order

“(…) This is playing for which no superlatives exist to describe it. If it doesn’t elevate Chausson to the level of one of the very greatest of French Romantic composers and his Piano Trio to one of the very greatest works of its type from any period and of any national origin, I don’t know of any power on Earth that can exceed what these three indescribably magnificent artist-musicians have done here to accomplish that. This is playing so beautiful, so sensitive, so in touch with this music that no words can adequately explain it or do it proper justice. I can only say, listen and behold a miracle. (…).
Bruno Monteiro acquits himself with gorgeous tone and technical flair in the violin piece, and Miguel Rocha invests the cello piece with a good deal of color and character, maintaining his poise through the score’s most difficult passages.
Pianist João Paulo Santos, who gets to play in all three works on the disc, displays impressive finger work throughout and is a most responsive and sensitive chamber music partner in both the Chausson Trio and both Ysaÿe numbers.
Sometimes mysterious, at other times magical, but always miraculous, this performance of the Chausson will transport you to places you’ve never been and from which you won’t want ever to return. It deserves the most urgent recommendation.”
| 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."
| 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."
| 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."
| 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.”
| 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”.
| 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.”
| 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’.”
| 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.”
| 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.”
| 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.”
| 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).
| 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.”
| 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.”
| 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.”
| 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.”
| 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.”
| Remy Franck
Emotional images from Bruno Monteiro

****

“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.”
| 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.”
| 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.”
| 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

****

“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.”
| 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.”
| Michel Dutrieue
“Igor Stravinsky, Music for Violin and Piano” by Bruno Monteiro (violin) and João Paulo Santos (piano), by Etcetera. Great! (Recommended CD)

“Acclaimed by the newspaper “Publico” as one of the most important violinists in Portugal and by the weekly “Expresso” as one of the most respected Portuguese musicians today, Bruno Monteiro is now also internationally recognized as one of the main violinists of his generation. He also makes an excellent duo with João Paulo Santos.

By highlighting the lesser-known Igor Stravinsky, the program on this CD offers an excellent service to the repertoire. The ballet “Pulcinella”, orchestrated for a modern chamber orchestra with soprano, tenor and baritone, marked the beginning of Stravinsky's neoclassical period. Stravinsky based his composition after all the 18th century music of Domenico Gallo, Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer, Carlo Ignazio Monza and Alessandro Parisotti, previously attributed to Pergolesi. Scores were found by Diaghilev in libraries in Naples and London.

The ballet debuted in May 1920 at the Paris Opera, directed by Ernest Ansermet. The dancer Léonide Massine wrote the libretto and the choreography, and Pablo Picasso designed the costumes and sets. The ballet was commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev. Stravinsky based 3 of his other works on his ballet: “Suite d'après des thèmes, fragments et morceaux de Giambattista Pergolesi” for violin and piano (in collaboration with Paul Kochanski) (1925), “Suite italienne” for cello and piano (in collaboration with Gregor Pyatigorski) (1932/1933), and as recorded here “Suite italienne” for violin and piano (in collaboration with Samuel Dushkin) (1933). Later, Jascha Heifetz and Piatigorsky made another arrangement for violin and cello, which they also called “Suite Italienne”.

The ballet “Le Baiser de la fée” (“The Fairy´s Kiss”) in one act and four scenes, was composed in 1928 and revised in 1950 for George Balanchine and the New York City Ballet. The 4 scenes are Prologue, Une fête au village, Au moulin: Pas de deux - Adagio - Variation - Coda - Scène and Epilogue: Berceuse des demeures éternelles. Based on the short story “Isjomfruen” (“The Ice-Maiden”) by Hans Christian Andersen, the work was a tribute to Tchaikofsky on the 35th anniversary of the composer's death. Stravinsky developed several melodies from the first piano pieces and songs by Tchaikovsky in his score. The ballet, commissioned by Ida Rubinstein in 1927, was choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska and opened in Paris in 1928.

The Divertimento of “Le Baiser de la fée” was initially a concert suite for orchestra, based on ballet music. Stravinsky edited it in collaboration with Samuel Dushkin in 1934 and revised it in 1949. In 1932, Samuel Dushkin and the composer created the version recorded here for violin and piano, with the same title. Another passage from ballet was arranged for violin and piano by Dushkin under the title "Ballade". However, the latter did not receive the composer's consent until 1947, after the French violinist Jeanne Gautier (1898-1974), wife of Joaquín Nin (1879-1949), played the arrangement. The Duo Concertant for violin and piano is dedicated to Samuel Dushkin. Together, they debuted it for Berlin Radio in October 1932 and recorded it the Duo in April 1933.

Bruno Monteiro gave his first recital at the age of 13 and his first concerts with orchestra, at the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos, in Lisbon, at the age of 14. Since then he has played concerts in all major centers of Portugal, with a repertoire of composers from Bach to Corigliano, including important Portuguese composers. He performed internationally in Spain, France, Italy, Holland, Germany, United Kingdom, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Israel, Denmark, Philippines, Malaysia, South Korea and the United States. Monteiro has performed in prestigious venues such as the Palacio Cibeles and the Casa de America in Madrid, the Musikverein in Vienna, the Bucharest Cultural Center, Sofia´s Bulgaria Hall, the Philharmonic Hall in Kiev, the Felicja Blumenthal International Music Festival in Tel Aviv, the Kennedy Center of Washington and the Carnegie Hall of New York. Since 2002 he performs in a recital with João Paulo Santos.

Fanfare Magazine praises Monteiro's polished gold tone, The Strad claims that his generous vibrato produces radiant colors and Gramophone Magazine speaks of his infallible certainty and eloquence. Exactly. Together with his partner, João Paulo Santos, this is a very special edition of Igor Stravinsky's works for violin and piano. In addition, this new recording is the most authentic collection ever released. It is the intelligent and fully musical approach of this talented violinist and his admirable partner that impresses.

Technically impeccable, the violinist's playing is imaginative and rhythmically accurate, so that the different tunnings were worked with great clarity. The recording is excellent with the right distance between violin and piano. Stravinsky's music radiates in these performances by Monteiro and Santos. There is certainly virtuosity, but also a sense of intimacy and soft sound. Due to the technical and expressively excellent performances and a good sound recording, this Etcetera release is a very good and highly recommended CD. Informative notes by Bruno Monteiro himself, in the accompanying booklet, complete this publication.”
| Ivan Moody
“This is a fine traversal of Stravinsky’s output for violin and piano from two of Portugal’s most distinguished chamber musicians. It is particularly welcome because it eschews fireworks for their own sake. Virtuosity is there, certainly, but what I particularly value here is a sense of intimacy, of mellowness of sound, which is the more surprising since it was recorded in the Cartuxa church in Caxias (just outside Lisbon), hardly an intimate space.

There is a sense of unhurriedness about these performances that makes one consider them in a different light. Even in the more ostentatiously vivacious movements, such as the Tarantella or the Scherzo of the Suite italienne, there is a concentration on the depth of the sound rather than an interest only in musical sparks flying, and the fine balance between violin and piano also contributes greatly to this. It is necessary nonetheless to point out a few technical highlights, such as Bruno Monteiro’s gorgeous harmonics in the Sinfonia and the light, flowing touch in the Scherzo from the Divertimento based on The Fairy’s Kiss or, on the part of João Paulo Santos, the deftness of the cimbalom-like repeated notes in the ‘Cantilène’ and the chuntering barrel-organ imitation in the ‘Eglogue I’ from the Duo concertant.

Following a beautifully shaded account of the Three Pieces from The Firebird (in particular the sparkling Scherzo), we end with the ‘Danse russe’ from Petrushka, which screws the inexorable fairy-tale tension up to the maximum, almost as though resuming the entire scenario in one piece. A very fine recording."
| Robert Matthew-Walker
*****

“This fine record is strongly recommended. Several violinists of the years purporting to contain Stravinsky´s music for violin and piano, but which almost invariably have eneded up with “most of it”, and whilst one or two arrangements (either by Stravinsky by his close colleagues – especially Samuel Dushkin) may conceivably be added to the collection, this new recording stands as the most completely authentic collection to have ever been issued. It is splendid recorded; the performances have that special combination of chamber-musical intimacy with virtuosity where required allied to the more’public’, outward-looking character that early and relatively early (almost all this repertoire dates from c. 1910-35) by the Russian genius implies. It is the intelligent and profoundly musical approach from this gifted violinist and his admirable partner that is so impressive. Technically flawless and interpretatively adroid, this is one of the Records of the Year so far as I am concerned.”
| Jordi Caturla González
*** S (Extraordinary Sound)

“Stravinsky's meager work for violin and piano is the result of the collaboration of the Russian composer with Samuel Dushkin, the Polish violinist for whom he wrote his Concerto and protagonist of the Pulcinella (Suite Italienne) ballet arrangements and the Fairy´s Kiss (Divertimento), as well as the only original work written for these instruments, the Duo Concertant. The album that Monteiro and Santos offer us includes these works, in addition to other transcriptions of The Firebird and Petrushka. The duo stretches out and undertakes a Divertimento with a lot of grace and refinement, while in the Duo the concert violinist Monteiro combines his poignant and astringent touch (Cantilene) with the lyricism that he extracts from the Egloge. The delicious miniatures of the last mentioned ballets close an irregular set, globally correct. The sound quality is excellent."
| Giuseppe Pennisi
Gentle and Tender Stravinsky 'The two players are an excellent duo: Bruno Monteiro on violin and João Paulo Santos at the piano.'

"Igor Stravinsky was a prolific composer in all kinds of music genres, yet his chamber music is not generally well known. His chamber music production belongs to two different periods of his life and career. Firstly, when he moved to Switzerland during World War I and, especially after the war, when he transferred to Biarritz, where he developed a quite close collaboration with violinist Samuel Dushkin (1891-1976). Most biographers state that Stravinsky was unlikely to have written a string concerto had it not been for his publisher who introduced him to Samuel Dushkin. Secondly, when in the United States after World War II, he had a short-lived flirt with serialism and composed the experimental Septet in 1953.

As noted by musicologist Richard Whitehouse, the main reason for Stravinsky's interest in this violin and piano combination was out of pragmatic, indeed commercial considerations. Although commissions were still forthcoming in the period following World War I, the need to support his family as well as the inaccessibility of his Russian estate led him into becoming an active commercial musician. He sustained a secondary career as a well-paid pianist too. Dushkin proved an adaptable as well as a willing collaborator. He and Stravinsky worked intensively on the Violin Concerto premiered in Berlin in October 1931. The success of this work encouraged the composer to seek a longer-term partnership, not least when his concert engagements as a solo pianist were limited and his orchestral appearances diminishing due to the economic depression. The outcome was a program whereby Stravinsky and Dushkin toured England and France in 1934, America in 1935 and elsewhere until the composer's emigration to the United States in 1939.

This CD encompasses almost all the violin and piano music he wrote during his collaboration with Dushkin, namely Suite Italienne for Violin and Piano, the Divertimento for Violin and Piano The Fairy's Kiss, Duo Concertant for Violin and Piano, Three Pieces for Violin and Piano from Firebird and Danse Russe for Violin and Piano from Petrushka. Thus, it is not an anthology or a selection but a complete recording of a very special period of Stravinsky's artistic life. In those years, he was in transition from what is generally named his Russian period to what is generally named his neoclassical period. In these violin and piano works, the careful listener can hear influences of both periods. For instance, the first three pieces owe a lot to his interest in and love for Pergolesi, while the last two compositions are full of Russian colours and flavours, also because they're based on works from his previous Russian period.

The two players are an excellent duo: Bruno Monteiro on violin and João Paulo Santos at the piano. They are both Portuguese and have major international careers. Santos is a well-known conductor too and is closely associated with the Lisbon Opera House.

Originally made in 1925 and given the somewhat fanciful title of Suite d'après des thèmes, fragments et morceaux de Giambattista Pergolesi, the Suite Italienne opens with an Introduzione. Its melodic poise and piquant harmonies set the tone for what is to follow.

Next comes a Serenata. Its essentially vocal quality translates naturally to the violin, while the energetic Tarantella features some notably incisive interplay between the two instruments. The heart of the suite comes with the Gavotte. Its theme is a link between the Baroque and the Modern eras.

The Scherzino places no mean emphasis on phrasing and intonation. The final two movements unfold continuously: the Minuetto builds from its chaste beginning to an eloquent climax. The Finale sets off at an energetic pace and exudes engaging humour on its way to an effervescent conclusion.

With Suite Italienne, the Duo Concertant is Stravinsky's only other original work for his partnership with Dushkin. The opening Cantilene is notable for a particularly close integration of the instruments, drawing a great deal of impetus from the contrast between its seamless violin lines and detached piano chords, prior to the quiet though uncertain close.

There follow two movements that are entitled Eglogue. The first of these is a study in pungent harmonies and rhythms, while the second features gently undulating violin phrases and pensive responses from the piano. The Gigue has the feel of an oblique take on the Tarantella dance-measure, with the violin's frequent changes of rhythmic emphasis.

After this, the final Dithyrambe feels the more understated in its inwardness. For all that it reaches the work's climax.

The other pieces are substantial arrangements made with Dushkin. The Divertimento is taken from Tchaikovsky's ballet Le baiser de la fée (The Fairy's Kiss). The adagio (Pas-de-deux) is charming.

The Three Pieces for Violin and Piano from Firebird and Danse Russe for Violin and Piano from Petrushka are paraphrases of the two ballets - pleasant but not on a par with the originals.

In short, this is a gentle and tender Stravinsky in his partnership with Dushkin."
| John J. Puccio
“As time wears on, people tend more and more to forget the details of a celebrity’s life and remember only the highlights. So it may be with Igor Stravinsky, whom most folks might only know for his three early, revolutionary ballets, The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911), and The Rite of Spring (1913). But the man lived a very long time (1882-1971), lived in both Europe and America, and passed through several musical stages in his lifetime, from the avant-garde to the neoclassical to his final, serial years.

The items presented on the current album are from Stravinsky neoclassical period, around 1920-1950 or so. The specific musical numbers are the Suite italienne for Violin and Piano (1925), the Divertimento for Violin and Piano from The Fairy’s Kiss (1932), the Duo Concertant for Violin and Piano (1932), Three Pieces for Violin and Piano from The Firebird, and the Danse Ruse for Violin and Piano from Petrushka (1933). In fact, according to a booklet note, the program included here is the same one that the composer and pianist Samuel Duskin presented as a single concert many times across Europe in the 1930’s.

The violinist is Bruno Monteiro, whose work I have reviewed before. According to Monteiro’s biography, the Portuguese violinist 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.' Bruno Monteiro is internationally recognized as a distinguished violinist of his generation. Fanfare describes him as having a 'burnished golden tone' and Strad states that his 'generous vibrato produces radiant colors.' Music Web International refers to 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 praises his ‘unfailing assurance and eloquence,’ and Strings Magazine summarizes that he is 'a young chamber musician of extraordinary sensitivity.'"

Monteiro’s longtime collaborator is Spanish pianist Joao Paulo Santos, a graduate of the Lisbon National Conservatory and student in Paris of Aldo Ciccolini. For the past forty-odd years Santos has worked with the Teatro Nacional de S. Carlos, 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, concert pianist, and researcher of less-known and forgotten Portuguese composers.

Together, Monteiro and Santos make a formidable team. Now, as to the music, if you’re not a serious Stravinsky aficionado, you may be surprised. These selections are among his neoclassical period, as I mentioned, starting with the Suite italienne. If it sounds familiar, it ought to. It comprises a part of the composer’s Pulcinello Suite of a few years earlier. As always, Monteiro uses his violin as a second voice, the instrument singing radiantly, and Santos’s unaffected accompaniment flawlessly highlights the violin’s lyrical message.

The rest of the program follows suit. The music and the playing are elegant and refined as befit the period. The Divertimento on The Fairy’s Kiss is generally lighter, airier, and sprightlier than most of the other pieces on the disc. Yet the music’s rhythms continue to thrust it forward, and Monteiro makes the most of its continuously fluctuating contrasts. (At various times I thought I was listening to Honegger’s steam train or Leroy Anderson’s waltzing cat.) The music is fun, and Monteiro and Santos appear to be having a good time with it. Even the Adagio has its lighthearted moments.

The Duo Concertant seems to me the most serious music on the agenda. Also, it is perhaps the most “modern” of these neoclassical pieces in its sometimes strange and haunting variables. The Firebird music hardly needs explanation, but as performed here, it takes on a more melancholy aspect than usual. Monteiro in a booklet note calls it an “ethereal” or “magical” quality. Whatever, it is fascinating. The Danse Ruse, drawn from Petrushka, that concludes the program is energetic without being boisterous and rounds out the proceedings with a fine flair.

Producer Bruno Monteiro and engineer Jose Fortes recorded the music at Igreja da Cartuxa, Caxias, Portugal in November 2019. The solo violin sound is clear and resonant, quite realistic. The piano accompaniment is equally good, if a tad close. Still, it’s some of the best violin and piano sound you’ll find on any recording, so all is well."
| Remy Franck
Chamber music by Stravinsky played with imagination

*****

“The Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro and the pianist Joao Paulo Santos turn to a little played repertoire, the chamber music of Igor Stravinsky. And yet, in this programme, we are also very close to the composer’s ballet music.

The Suite Italienne uses mainly themes from the ballet Pulcinella, which in turn goes back to Pergolesi, just as Le Baiser de la Fée refers to Tchaikovsky.

At the same time, the works have a reference to Samuel Dushkin, a violinist who had ordered a Violin Concerto from Stravinsky, which the composer was reluctant to accept because he did not really feel at home with the genre. However, over lunch together, the two of them came to an agreement. Stravinsky wrote not only his Violin Concerto for Dushkin, but also the Duo Concertant. And Dushkin assisted him with the transcription of the music from the ballets, because, after the success of the Violin Concerto, Stravinsky wanted to tour with his friend Samuel with music for violin and piano. The tour consisted of concerts in Königsberg, Ostrava, Hamburg, Paris, Budapest, Milan, Turin, Rome and other cities.

In the transcribed ballet music Bruno Monteiro shows that the music is actually far from the orchestral original and probably closer to what Stravinsky may have had in mind when composing at the piano. The violinist’s playing is immensely imaginative and rhythmically precise, so that the moods are worked out very sharply. Especially when it comes to irony or burlesque, the performance is very characteristic and spicy. The violinist’s sharp and agile playing is a perfect match for this repertoire, just as his rhythmic accuracy makes the sequence of contrasts coherent.

The Duo Concertant is de facto a highly original five-movement sonata, of which Stravinsky said that he tried to create « a lyrical work of musical condensation ». Nevertheless, there are plenty of sharp interactions in this masterpiece, which Monteiro plays expressively. After the ravishing gigue he lets the slow Dithyrambe intensively blossom in all its austere beauty.

With technically and expressively outstanding performances and a good sound recording, this Etcetera production is highly recommendable."

| Maria Augusta Gonçalves
The violins of Stravinsky

“ (…) It is in this universe that the new album by violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos moves, a universe that is necessarily challenging, due to the intrinsic nature of the works and the joint work of both musicians, which has now been close to two decades, with a dozen albums and a vast repertoire, so unique and diverse, ranging from Schulhoff, Szymanowski, Korngold or Lopes-Graça, to Schumann, Grieg or César Franck. (...)

The composer brings together the impossible: austere rigor, which prevents the interpreter from proceeding with any 'game' over time, and the lyricism that the very structure of the first and last movements requires. Monteiro and Santos are experts in combining the temperaments that the composer seems to define, opening the way to the understanding of a demanding work (Duo Concertant), which grows in technical difficulty, especially in the Giga, and which ends in a deep reflection, refering to the Violin Concerto.

The Suite Italienne, from "Pulcinella", which opens the CD, has different transcriptions by Stravinsky and Dushkin himself. Monteiro and Santos choose to play the version of the violinist, from 1934, adding a 'Scherzino', in favor of the clarity of the speech and the apprehension of the work, in the timbre and rhythmic spectrum. In particular, the Tarantella of the third movement stands out, with its percussive effects, in which Santos' piano and Monteiro's violin cleverly emphasize Stravinsky's demanding language. (...)

Monteiro and Santos also surpass the hard test of the three pieces of "Firebird", in a path that is made of introspection and meditation, until the Scherzo, where virtuosity, after all, is a point of honor.

Finally, as an 'encore' of the recital, the "Danse Russe" of "Petrushka" appears, the sequence that determined the composition of the ballet by Diaghilev, transcribed as a demonstration of what violin and piano are capable, together, in its best. The two interpreters honor the determination.

Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos not only offer a tour of Stravinsky's essential works for violin and piano. They also make it possible to see how this path was taken in understanding the capabilities of the instruments and how transcriptions were essential in the process. In practice, they do not forget how Stravinsky assimilated all the styles he dealt with, and built an immense work that remains capable of surpassing itself."
| Stephen Barber
Gentle and tender performances of most of Stravinsky’s music for violin and piano

"Stravinsky had disliked the combination of strings with piano, and he got involved for writing for violin and piano through a roundabout route. His publisher at Schotts, Willy Strecker, persauded him to write a violin concerto for the young violinist Samuel Dushkin. Dushkin was a good, if not a great, violinist, but he was also a cultivated musician and he got on well with the composer. Stravinsky also needed repertoire to play in concerts, so he wrote the Duo Concertant for Dushkin and himself to play together, and this, together with a number of transcriptions from his own works made a concert programme which they toured together for some years.

Stravinsky was not a violinist and worked closely with Dushkin on writing for the violin and most of the transcriptions are credited to the two of them. Earlier on, Stravinsky had also made some different transcriptions of the same works for the violinist Paul Kochanski, though where there is also a Dushkin version, this has usually superseded the earlier one.
~
Here we have most of this repertoire. Right from the beginning, in the Suite italienne, which is based on the ballet Pulcinella, I realized that we would not be getting the usual flamboyant performance of this delightful work, but rather a gentle and tender one, jaunty in the fast movements and graceful in the slower ones and not as brisk as usual. It is an unusual take on the work and I enjoyed it.

Next we have the Divertimento based on music from the ballet The Fairy’s Kiss, itself based on music by Tchaikovsky, whom Stravinsky, rather surprisingly perhaps, greatly admired. This is nothing like as well known as Pulcinella but the playing continues the light and dancing feeling, which includes some stratospherically high writing for the violin.

The centrepiece of the recital is the Duo Concertant itself, the only original work Stravinsky wrote for this combination. This is a strange work, The composer said that it was inspired by the pastoral poets of antiquity and specifically by Virgil’s eclogues, and also that a single theme was developed throughout the five movements.
True, the slower movements have the grave beauty of the arias of the violin concerto, which he had just written, and of Apollo of some years earlier, though I do not find anything particularly Virgilian about them, but the Gigue seems Rossinian and is also surprisingly long-winded for Stravinsky. In this movement too the playing seems occasionally laboured.

We then have three pieces from The Firebird. The Prélude et ronde des princesses is called a Khorovod in the original; this transcription was one of those for Kochanski rather than Dushkin. The Berceuse is Dushkin’s version, as is the Scherzo, which in the ballet is the princesses’ game with the golden apples. Finally we have the Russian Dance from Petrushka, another Dushkin version.

To all these works the Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro brings his thoughtful and rather introspective approach, well supported by his compatriot and longterm chamber music colleague João Paulo Santos. They are given a sympathetic chamber-music acoustic which well suits their interpretations. However, I should point out that this is not, as the booklet states, the entire concert programme which Stravinsky and Dushkin toured. The Stravinsky scholar Eric Walter White explains that they also made and played transcriptions from the operas The Nightingale and Mavra as well as the early Pastorale. The recital on Hyperion by Anthony Marwood with Thomas Adès – here showing himself to be no mean pianist – includes all of these and one or two other things, but replaces the Suite italienne with the earlier and rarer suite from Pulcinella, which Stravinsky made for Kochanski. That means it spills over to a second disc, but the two are priced and packaged as one. However, if you prefer the later and arguably better version of the Pulcinella suite and are happy to forego the extra items, this version will do very well."
| Stefan Pieper
Artistic Quality: 10; Sound: 9; General impression: 9;

“In Stravinsky's chamber music for small orchestras, like his Suite Italienne or his Divertimento, we love the light handling of classical diction, the explicit humor from a cosmopolitan and modern perspective. As much as Stravinsky further developed the colors of the orchestra, he also liked to group the composition material into smaller versions - and his rarely heard versions for violin and piano come largely from his own pen.

Playful and with incredible technology

If you want to face all of Stravinsky's sensual spirit with a solo instrument, you need maneuverability, you need to master a dazzling range of expressions - violinist Bruno Monteiro definitely leaves nothing to be desired and he can count on pianist João Paulo Santos as a sovereign partner!
Courageous, enthusiastic about playing and blessed with amazing technology, both immerse themselves in the adventure. This consists of nothing less than grouping the variety of orchestral colors in the violin and piano duo. Where larger ensembles call for the variety of colors of all the instruments involved, Bruno Monteiro alone evokes a no less luminous palette of changing line styles, dedicated accents, pressure to change strings, flagolets or the opposite. Sometimes this seems almost radical, but it always serves the plausibly object. The character of the song can be experienced again, but it remains true to itself.

Bold sound prints

With a wide line, Monteiro puts the introduction of the Suite Italienne in a corner and also develops enough style and variety of dance in the following movements. Bold sound impressions, researching harmonic adventures, a more subtle interaction of light and shadow herald a new era in the subsequent The Fairy Kiss Divertimento. Even more expression and courage for dissonance breathe the spirit of a new present and uncertain future at the Duo Concertant.

It is no wonder that the three pieces of the Firebird Suite form an equally multifaceted concentrate. Flagolet effects without vibrato, hard percussive impulses and repetitive motor skills - all this is what Monteiro calls strings, while the piano scales keep everything running like a perpetual motion machine. Clear the stage for the grand finale, Petruschka's "Danse Russe"! Here, too, the violin is heavy, harsh and never softened and in soft speech with its partner on the piano. At that moment, one can think that Stravinsky composed all this for these two experienced chamber musicians from Portugal."
| Ben Taffijn
"In the 1930s, Igor Stravinsky wrote several works for violin and piano, in collaboration with violinist Samuel Dushkin. Sometimes this was a new piece, but much more often it involved adaptations (or parts of) pieces that Stravinsky had previously composed for a different formation. Violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos recently recorded many of these works for Et'cetera.
The oldest piece is the 'Suite Italienne', of six movements, for which Stravinsky used parts of his 'Pulcinella' ballet. In 1925, he wrote the first version for violinist Paul Kochanski; in 1932 the second - now for cello and piano and in 1933 the version we found on this album. By the way, this is the version that is most performed. The basis of the piece is the Commedia dell'arte and in the music attributed to Giovanni Pergolesi a century ago. It was Sergei Djagilev who asked for an adaptation to Stravinsky. The music is obviously danceable, with a nod to the Renaissance, but according to the story there is also clearly a sad tone. An atmosphere that Monteiro and Santos know how to achieve.

'Divertimento', also from 1932, based Stravinsky’s ballet music for 'Le baiser de la fée' or in English 'The Fairy Kiss' of 1928, combined with pieces from' Humoresque, opus 10 'and' Nocturne, opus 19 ', both by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Stronger than the Italienne suite, in part because Stravinsky was not attached to the Renaissance pattern here, this piece has a clear dramatic tone. In addition, the strong pace stands out, for example, in the 'Danses Suisses'. Stravinsky also adapted parts for his violets 'L'Oiseau de Feu' and 'Petroesjka' for violin and piano. The most impressive is the calm 'Prélude et Ronde des princess', the first part of the three-part suite he touches. Based on L'Oiseau de Feu.
Along with Stravinsky, Dushkin also debuted the 'Duo Concertant' on October 23, 1932. the only piece in this series that Stravinsky did not build on existing work. In "Cantilene", the two instruments clearly follow their own path, to complement each other beautifully in "Epilogue I". Again, a powerful rhythm, which is a particular challenge for the violinist, that Monteiro knows exactly how to deal with. Also special is 'Gigue', loosely based on Bach."
| João Marcos Coelho
CD of the Week

“(…) Violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos form one of the most qualified duos that Portugal has produced in recent decades. Since 2000, they have covered the vast classical, romantic and modern repertoire.
Their most recent adventure - which was on this album released in the Netherlands about two months ago - reproduces what would be one of those recitals by the duo Stravinsky-Dushkin. If you listen to the Introduction to the Italian Suite, you will be immediately captured by the beauty and accessibility of this music, which is pure thin biscuit designed for the masses."
| Carme Miró
“This recording is the chronicle of the Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro who, through the scores of Igor Stravinsky, rediscovered a sonorous paradise. Accompanied by Lisbon-born pianist João Paulo Santos, Monteiro analyzes the music of the Russian composer with a selection of works for violin and piano. Many of them are transcriptions of the great ballets written and premiered in the first decades of the last century. Starting with The Italian Suite, of which there are three scores with significant differences, based on themes, fragments and pieces by Giambattista Pergolesi, dating from 1925. The suite contains, with the exception of the brief Scherzino, a transcript of five of the eleven movements of the orchestral suite extracted from Pulcinella, from 1922. The version performed in this album contains six movements in a different order from the original, with the addition of a Scherzino. This version is still the most played for its variety of different movements, which stand out for the cleanness of the melodic line. Bruno Monteiro brilliantly expresses this stylistic purity enriched by a wonderful rhythmic impulse.

The Fairy´s Kiss, written in the spring of 1932, is a tribute to Tchaikovsky. In fact, for this work, Stravinsky composed his Divertimento, with the theme of the ballet Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty. In this sense, Stravinsky said the opposite: the 1934 orchestral suite (The Fairy's Bes suite) is essentially an orchestration of Divertimento. Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos instill character in this work and give it almost enigmatic power. In fact, they give great depth to the very distinguished Stravinsky, who was nothing more than a great fascination for dance.

The Concerting Duo is a work that contrasts with the other two due to the austerity with which the composer builds the five movements. We highlight the Dithyrambe which, as is known, was an ancient Greek hymn sung and danced in honor of Dionysus. The composer recreates a bucolic world of very pleasant sounds.

Following are the Three Pieces of Firebird, KC 10, which are small miniatures, transcribed for violin and piano from the music of the aforementioned ballet.

Danse Russe is also a virtuoso piece, transcribed in 1933 from the Petrushka ballet (1911), with revisions by Dushkin.

The two musicians brilliantly created a musical performance that generates a virtuoso circle between orchestration and transcription."
| Jerry Dubins
Five stars: A recital of Stravinsky’s works for violin and piano to savor

"On at least five previous occasions I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing releases by violin and piano duo partners Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos. Nor am I alone among Fanfare’s contributors to have received a reliably steady stream of the duo’s albums featuring the players in an almost dizzying array of repertoire, ranging from French composers Saint-Saëns, Chausson, and Franco-Beligan Lekeu; to Portuguese composer, Fernando Lopes-Graça; to the German contingent of Richard Strauss and the Schumanns, Robert and Clara; to Czech, Erwin Schulhoff, and Pole, Karol Szymanowski.
Yet, as wide-ranging as Monteiro and Santos’s musical odyssey has been, it still comes as a bit of a surprise that the next stop on their journey together should have been Stravinsky, and here’s why. Those who know their Stravinsky well are surely aware that the composer’s original works for violin and piano are so few they can be counted on two fingers of one hand; and one of those works, the Themes, Fragments, and Pieces by Giambattista Pergolesi (1925) isn’t included on the present disc, Still, it does get counted as one of the two, only because it’s a work Stravinsky originally scored for violin and piano. In the strictest sense of the word, however, it is not an unqualified original work, in that its musical material was already extant and recycled by Stravinsky from his 1920 ballet, Pulcinella.
Indeed, Stravinsky got more mileage out of Pulcinella than most folks get from a retreaded tire. To ensure his copyrights in perpetuity—or at least in his lifetime—Stravinsky was wont to republish scores of the same works with only minor changes, or to publish ostensibly “new” works that were stitched together from pre-existing ones.
The Suite italienne for violin and piano is such an example of this practice, and it’s only one of the composer’s Pulcinella-derived works—the last of them, actually—and it’s four times removed from its original source material. The first spinoff came two years after the ballet premiered in Paris under Ernest Ansermet in May of 1920, and it was an orchestral suite in 11 movements drawn from the ballet in 1922.
The next recycling came in 1925 with the above-cited Themes, Fragments, and Pieces by Giambattista Pergolesi, which was originally scored for violin and piano at the request of violinist Paul Kochánski.
Next, in 1932, cellist Gregor Piatigorsky collaborated with Stravinsky to arrange a suite of pieces in five movements from Pulcinella for cello and piano, a work that was published under the title Suite italienne. Of course, there’s nothing like a little redundancy to add confusion to the mix, and so shortly thereafter, in 1933, Stravinsky arranged the Suite italienne for violin and piano for violinist Samuel Dushkin, publishing it with the same title as the cello version. Thus, the title appears twice in the composer’s work catalog.
But here’s the kicker. The cello and violin versions are not the same work, for Stravinsky changed the order of the movements, dropped one movement from the violin version that was in the cello version (Aria) and added two new movements to the violin version that were not in the cello version (Gavotta con due Varizioni and Scherzino).
Suite italienne—Cello Version Suite italienne—Violin Version
Introduzione Introduzione
Serenata Serenata
Aria Tarantella
Tarantella Gavotta con due Varizioni
Minuetto e Finale Scherzino
Minuetto–Finale
Monteiro and Santos perform the violin and piano version as it’s shown in the righthand column, a work four generations removed from its original source in the ballet, Pulcinella.
Much the same is true of all but one of the works on Monteiro and Santos’s album. It’s not their fault. For whatever reason, Stravinsky just didn’t favor violinists and pianists with much original duo music, although most of the violin and piano arrangements are his.
The year 1932 gave birth to another such offspring, the Divertimento for Violin and Piano, a four-movement work, this one made up of numbers from Stravinsky’s 1928 ballet, The Fairy’s Kiss, which, in turn, was based on pieces by Tchaikovsky. But Stravinsky wasn’t done with The Fairy’s Kiss. For after the Divertimento for Violin and Piano arrangement, just as with Pulcinella, he extracted an orchestral suite from The Fairy’s Kiss in 1934, publishing it with the same title, Divertimento.
There’s no disguising the Three Pieces from The Firebird or the Danse Russe from Petrushka with abstract formal titles, such as Suite or Divertimento. They are exactly what they say there are.
And so that leaves the Duo Concertante, also from 1932. As far as I know, it’s Stravinsky’s one and only originally composed work for violin and piano that is not drawn from one of his ballets and is therefore an entirely new and independent work. It, too, was written for Samuel Dushkin.
Turnabout being fair play, however, the Duo Concertante underwent transformation in the opposite direction, when it was choreographed by George Balanchine for a ballet of sorts to be performed by two dancers at the 1972 Stravinsky Festival. Stravinsky had no knowledge of Balanchine’s use of his work, nor could he have approved or disapproved of it, having died the year before.
Despite the fact that there’s so little truly original music for violin and piano duo by Stravinsky—i.e., not arranged from pre-existing sources—players have had to rely on recording programs similar or even identical to this one, made up of the composer’s own arrangements of numbers from his ballets. Ray Chen and Timothy Young, for example, offered an enthusiastically received program by Robert Maxham in 35:1 that differed from Monteiro and Santos’s program only in substituting the Themes, Fragments, and Pieces by Giambattista Pergolesi in place the Suite italienne.
Isabelle van Keulen and Olli Mustonen went them one better, putting out a two-disc set on Philips that included additional pieces in collaborative arrangements by Stravinsky and Dushkin from Mavra and The Nightingale. Stravinsky and Dushkin were, after all, close friends who toured and concertized together, and these short arrangements likely served them as encore pieces, while further familiarizing audiences with Stravinsky’s music.
If, based on everything said above, I’ve conveyed the impression that I don’t find these Stravinsky arrangements for violin and piano all that compelling, even if the composer did make them himself, it’s only because I think they sound better, and I prefer to hear them, in their original settings. That, however, is a matter of personal taste. There is no intent to suggest that violinists shouldn’t play them. Indeed, and to the contrary, I would submit that any violinist who does choose to play them, should only prove as capable of doing so as does Bruno Monteiro.
In the Pergolesi-Pulcinella derived Suite italienne, Monteiro perfectly captures the lilting gracefulness and coy glances of a commedia dell’arte tableau.
The fairy in Stravinsky’s Le Baiser de la fée (The Fairy’s Kiss) is no sugar plum, despite the fact that pieces by Tchaikovsky served as a source for the music. The scenario of Stravinsky’s ballet is based on a very dark Hans Christian Andersen’s short story, The Ice-Maiden. The ballet is not often staged, a result no doubt of its unappealing storyline.
This fairy is one nasty piece of work. She steals an infant from his mother and plants a kiss on his forehead that seals his fate for the rest of his life. Always lurking in the shadows, the fairy stalks the youth as he grows into manhood and falls in love. The fairy dons a disguise to trick the young man into believing she is his fiancée, and by the time he realizes the fairy’s treachery, it’s too late. His fiancée is gone, and the Ice-Maiden drags him off to the Land Beyond Time and Place to remain there with her for all eternity.
The disturbing aspect of the story is its amorality. There’s no reason for or point to the cruelty and suffering visited upon an innocent soul simply to provide a sadistic harpy with an unwitting partner for her sick and twisted game. Tchaikovsky would have been appalled; his fairies are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. I’d be loath to say that Monteiro’s playing in the Divertimento is characterized by cruelty, but there is an iciness to his tone, and in Santos’s touch, that conveys the unmistakable point of this music.
The Duo Concertante, as the album note suggests, is “the chamber music counterpart of the Violin Concerto,” both of which were dedicated to and premiered by Dushkin. Much of Stravinsky’s familiar neo-Classical driving rhythms, angular melodic lines, and sharp dissonance are prime elements in both the Concerto and the Duo Concertante. The latter is performed here by Monteiro with expert skill in the tongue-in-cheek, if not cheeky, clucking and squealing of the second movement (Eglogue I); with moving expression in the lyrically touching third movement (Eglogue II); and with real cockiness in the jaunt of the fourth movement (Gigue).
The concluding movement remains enigmatic in its designation, Dithyrambe, which according to the dictionary, was a frenzied, impassioned choric hymn and dance of ancient Greece. Stravinsky, I’d have thought, would be more mindful of musical nomenclatures, especially in his works of neo-Classical bent, but this concluding movement of the Duo Concertante doesn’t accord at all with the character of its named archetype. To the contrary, it has been described as “tragic,” and as “the most lyrically beautiful music Stravinsky ever wrote.” One can easily believe that, listening to this heartfelt performance by Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos.
For their Duo Concertante alone, I would give this release my strongest recommendation. But I would add that if you also appreciate Stravinsky’s arrangements of his ballet numbers for violin and piano, Monteiro and Santos’s performances are the way to hear them."
| Colin Clarke
Five stars: Stravinsky’s music shines eternal in these often revelatory performances by Monteiro and Santos

"Stravinsky’s works for violin and piano occupy a world of their own. The composer’s voice is so individual the only parallels to be made are The Soldier’s Tale and, of course, his magnificent and still under-rated Violin Concerto. How wonderful, therefore, to have his complete output for violin and piano on one disc in performances of great assurance.
Perhaps the defining factor of Bruno Monteiro’s Stravinsky is its grittiness; when it comes to the more lyrical moments of the Suite italienne, this works particularly well as there is a sort of emotional distancing Stravinsky would surely have approved of. Almost all of the material for this piece comes from Pulcinella (which itself took music by Pergolesi, presented in a Stravinsky wrapper). The challenges to the violinist in particular in this arrangement are multiple, but the stoppings are particularly tricky. Throughout all of this, Monteiro and Santos remain true to a vital aspect of this piece and, indeed, of Stravinsky in general: rhythm. Monteiro and Santos find real grace in the Gavotte, and a true sense of delight in the variations. The version played of this piece has six movements, performed in a different order from the original, and inserts a spiky Scherzino (not the one from the original suite). Monteiro’s dry staccato is delightful. The Menuetto builds nicely to the finale, which here is gently lilting, almost playful. I admit to a soft spot for Kavakos and Péter Nagy on ECM, where this and the Duo concernant meet Bach (the First Solo Violin Partita and Sonata) but Monteiro and Santos have an integrity all of their own; and, of course, their version is held within an all-Stravinsky program.
The Divertimento, an arrangement by Dushkin in collaboration with the composer of music from Le baiser de la Fée, receives a highly committed performance, fully honouring the contrasts that are a vital part of Stravinsky’s music because of his penchant for block juxtaposition. We might be up against the likes of Mullova, Repin and Judith Ingolfsson (the latter of whose Fauré Sonatas with Vladimir Stoupel I enjoyed so much on the Audite label, Fanfare 40:5). What characterises the best performances is that sense of rock-solid rhythms, of nary a sense of rushing; and Monteiro and Santos are as one on this. They find wit and balletic lightness in Stravinsky’s often spare textures. But they find depth, too, in this very special piece. Monteiro’s way with the repeated gesture is exceptional, often glacial in that Stravinsky-objective way. Alternatives come in the form of Arthur Grumiaux, full-throated in his lower registers, with István Hajdu on Orfeo (a pity the piano is rather distanced for this is fine violin playing) or, in more modern garb, the splendidly fresh Isabelle van Keulen and Olli Mustonen on Philips, while admirers of Lydia Mordkovich will not be disappointed in her Chandos recording with Julian Milford. But Monteiro and Santos stand brilliantly on their own (four) feet.
The Duo Concertant takes us into a very different world. On one level we hear a “purer” Stravinsky, even more distilled; on another, we hear the clear influence of Bach. The concluding “Dithyramb” has a preternatural purity and depth. Wolfgang Schneiderhan’s recording with Carl Seeman of this piece has a real sense of rightness, but Monteiro and Santos match their interpretative strength note for note; though if intriguing couplings appeal, try Eudice Shapiro and Brooks Smith on Crystal Records, where this and the Firebird pieces share disc space with Lukas Foss’ phenomenal First String Quartet.
We undergo another journey to a different kind of fairytale world, a dark fairytale, in Firebird, and it seems even more unsettled in Stravinsky’s arrangement, which sometimes seems more of a deconstruction of the original, fragile and haunting, the spare counterpoint between violin and piano offering the merest skeleton. How pure is Monteiro’s stratospheric register (and how beautiful Santos’ contribution, too) at the end of the “Ronde des princesses”. The “Berceuse” offers held-breath stasis, but with little hint of the luxury scoring of the original while the concluding “Scherzo” breezes its way delightfully to its final, deliciously dismissive gesture.
The Petrushka “Danse russe” is almost offered in the manner of an encore. Both players handle the huge ascent to the opening theme’s return brilliantly and, again, that sense of deconstruction works wonders in reframing the piece for the listener. Listen to the delicious pianistic glistenings of Santos; unfortunately, it is impossible for the piano to imitate the horn crescendos on one chord (the original horn parts are so much fun to play!) but that hardly matters. And again that rhythmic mastery of both is incredibly persuasive.
I have enjoyed several of Bruno Monteiro’s discs previously. His repertoire choices always seem stimulating: for example his recent disc of Lekeu (Brilliant Classics, Fanfare 43:1, part of that disc presented with the current pianist) or, entirely with Santos, a disc of Schulhoff’s music for violin and piano that provided huge joy (Brilliant Classics, Fanfare 40:4), Both were revelatory. This is hardly any less so, and, in bringing lesser-known Stravinsky into the spotlight, it offers a sterling service to the repertoire. The recording is excellent, beautifully present and with just the right distance between violin and piano.
Full and informative notes complete a fabulous release, one that I hope will bring you as much joy as it did to myself. Stravinsky’s music shines eternal in these often revelatory performances by Monteiro and Santos."
| Michael Wilkinson
A fascinating and highly enjoyable programme

“It sometimes seems as if Stravinsky’s standing in the pantheon of twentieth century composers has slipped since his death, almost half a century ago. Concert performances of the three great ballets are still common, as well as some of the operas, but his chamber music seems to have a less secure place in the repertoire. This CD is valuable not least in redressing some of that imbalance, but also in sterling performances of some charming music.

Stravinsky wrote quite a body of music for violin and piano, not least because of his close working relationship with the violinist Samuel Dushkin. Their collaboration, especially intimate for an eight-year period, in the 1920s and 1930s, covered the period in Stravinsky’s career described – much to his annoyance – as neo-classical, when he drew so consciously on older forms and
composers, including, notably Pergolesi in Pulcinella. For many listeners, music from this period has an accessibility not always found in the serialism of the 1950s, though the ‘shock of the new’ of the three great Diaghilev ballets often obscured the continuities with past composers.

The charming Suite italienne, in six movements, draws principally on themes from Pulcinella, with the exception of the brief Scherzino. The reduced forces draw our attention to the melodic line as well as to the classical elements. The suite is notable both for its variety and for a distinct rhythmical drive which nevertheless captures some of the character of Pergolesi’s epoch.

Divertimento for Violin and Piano The Fairy’s Kiss, from 1932, is a more substantial work. Today, the original title of the 1928 ballet, is more commonly replaced by the original Le Baiser de la fée. The suite heard here, like the ballet, is an extended homage to Tchaikovsky, but also draws on additional works, including the Humoresque from 3 Morceux (Op.9) and the Nocturne from 6 Pieces (Op.19). Interestingly, the 1934 Suite for Orchestra, essentially is an orchestration of the Divertimento, rather than confining itself to the themes of the original ballet.

Duo Concertant is not directly based on a previous ballet, but the five movements demonstrate Stravinsky’s fascination with earlier dance forms. The influence of Bach is strong. Though everything is restrained, even austere, there is a strong sense of the lyrical. The final movement, Dithyrambe, is remarkable, and I have returned to it several times. Overall, I thought this the most significant work on the disc, in its profundity.

The two final works are essentially virtuoso pieces, which would have delighted original audiences. The programme on this release is the programme toured by Stravinsky and Dushkin, over several years – and it works very well as a programme. The Portuguese Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos, neither exclusively chamber musicians, have nevertheless worked together for many years, and their rapport is evident in their confident anticipation and blending of sound. Monteiro’s playing is as pin-point precise as Stravinsky would wish, and his tone has a wiriness and astringency entirely appropriate to this repertoire. There are alternative recordings of the works, notably from Lydia Mordkovich on Chandos (CHAN9756). Especially interesting is a recording of the Duo Concertant, by Stravinsky and Dushkin, in remarkably good sound, from T.E Lawrence’s Record Collection at Cloud’s Hill, available as a download from Trunk Music. Dushkin’s tone is – even in a recording nearly ninety years old – notably more mellow than Monteirom and makes a fascinating contrast.

Production values are high, with good notes by Bruno Monteiro, and a very clear recording."
| João Santos
****

“In 1971, when the man had gone to bury, an anthology called “Stravinsky Joue Stravinsky” was placed on the market, partly devoted to the works for violin and piano that the composer had recorded with Samuel Dushkin. Nothing special distinguished it, other than the sudden confirmation of how very little idiomatic it was, as he was allergic to the instrument's implicit expressiveness, Stravinsky had resisted hostile to compose for violin. However, from 1932, motivated by his German publisher, and always with Dushkin at his side, he imagined himself to dispute the place reserved for the great virtuosos, through recitals whose program the present CD evokes and which one would say had as exponents "Duo Concertant", "Divertimento (The Fairy´s Kiss)" and "Suite italienne (Pulcinella)". As expected, for the time, the style was that of those needless autopsies to the baroque so to the taste of the halls of the chic Winnaretta Singer, where it was never discussed the fact that a quarter of the population was unemployed. Still, in retrospect, there is an undeniable and crucial tension in these short pieces that makes them worthy of note: even the most scrupulous obedience to the canon can prove to be a disrupting factor of the present, they seem to say. In fact, it is enough to juxtapose this kind of indomitable discomfort to which the violinist devouringly indulges and the delicacy and distinction in everything that the pianist choreographically touches to take a portrait of the Great Depression. The edges of their time hitting the smooth surface of history, only once, as I recall, had a violinist swap the bow for the plane (Itzhak Perlman, in 1976) - since then, it is preferable to honor hesitations and irritations in score, that is, except for “Pas de deux” or “Dithyrambe”, which here produces Monteiro's a somewhat barbed tone. In Virgílio's “Bucólicas”, which the “Duo Concertante” alludes to, this reads: “I know poems, and a poet / call me pastors; I don’t believe it / So far nothing I do / It is worthy of Varius or Cinna / Among songbirds swans I am duck. ” As much as they try to convince us otherwise, it is a beautiful description of the violin in Stravinsky's work."
| Veerle Deknopper
THE PURE STRAVINSKY – A FIREBIRD´S TESTEMENT

“Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) was born near the Russian cultural metropolis of St. Petersburg and came from a musical background. He was a child at home with his grandparents like Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov when he studied piano with his son at the age of nine. The fact that he started making music at such young age, combined with the advanced age he was allowed to live, strongly influenced his style. He experienced many currents, both musical and political, that were expressed in his music. His life was so rich in impressions that his music also fed on that. But still, it can be a fairytale ballet, a folk dance or an avant-garde piece. Stravinsky's seal is always present, Et'cetera.

The Suite Italienne was written in 1920, when Stravinsky was 28 years old. The young composer had already written a whole series of poetic-inspired songs and ballets when he wrote this suite. He felt the need for another inspiration. He found it at the beginning of the piece. This is also very well heard during the program. A clear influence from Pergolesi. Especially during the second of the six movements - Serenade - one can experience the recognizable passive facet of this influence. Movements three and four (Tarantella and Gavotta con due Varizioni) are more inspired by dance. However, a Stravinsky very different from what one is used to experience when seeing / hearing one of his ballets.

The fact that Monteiro and Santos opted for an audibly austere scenario takes Stravinsky's music back to its origin, to its essence. You hear pure instrumental beauty, along with all the fantasy behind the story. This idea was founded on the collaboration and friendship between Stravinsky and the violinist Samuel Dushkin (1891-1976), a student of Fritz Kreisler and others. The compositions on this album emphasize their joint research for sound. It seems a little bubble of time, a representation of how serene pianist and violinist approach the score and the creation of sounds together, without the theatrical aspect that will occur on the stage afterwards. New World and he dies in the United States at a blessed age.

When viewing the curriculum vitae of the two performing musicians on this album, it is possible to establish the same artistic path, a journey through ancient classical music, to experiment and identify.

Imagine going through an open window this Sunday morning and you will see two musicians working and showing you pure and unadulterated what is happening in their imagination and that makes you dream. You'll find that in this album.

An interesting extra is the cover of a work by the artist Wassily Kandinsky (Moscow 1866-Neuilly-sur-Seine 1944) Developpement and Brun from 1933 that reflects the character of the album. Warm colors that give little hints of old world art, displayed in elegant modern patterns, surrounded by light."
| Aart van der Wal
“Certainly for the Stravinsky adepts, this CD contains familiar material, but for those who are familiar with the great ballets, this album can still be a revelation. As a closer relative with the well-known music, but with a different appearance, for violin and piano, like the Suite Italienne, the five movements that the composer arranged in 1925 from the suite Pulcinella, with 11 parts, based on the music of Pergolesi. The Divertimento from 1932 based on the ballet Le baiser de la Fée from 1928. The Three Pieces from the ballet L'Oiseau de Feu are three-part adaptations, while Danse Russe can, of course, be found in Petrushka. Only the 1931/32 five-movement Duo Concertant remains alone as a model and resembles a sonata for violin and piano.
Like the ballets in their original orchestral form, they are, without exception, very atmospheric pieces that have been assembled here in performances of extremely high musical quality. Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos breathe this special combination of spontaneity, rhythmic precision and poetic expressiveness, but above all this music is about music (objective), exactly as Stravinsky intended. Stylistically and abstractingly, these are the main elements that also stand out in these interpretations. It is also a form of objectification that the composer himself liked to use as a guide for his work. For example, he once observed that the mass of the artist demands that he reveals his inner self and that, according to the same mass, it is only then that the 'noble art' exists. According to Stravinsky, this is denoted by character and temperament, but it has the death of a brother: for no price did he want to be a part of it, much less that his creations could be accomplices in it. Also in this respect, therefore, no knees bent for the public. Making music without problems is exactly what Monteiro-Santos duo clearly seek in these pieces: less is more, what these five works - as could be otherwise - fit then like a glove. The particularly beautiful recording seals this very successful recital. Monteiro provided a clear and concise explanation in the booklet."
| Stephen Smoliar
“Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro continues to expand his repertoire in unanticipated directions. Those following my writings for some time know that he has previously explored the catalogs of Karol Szymanowski, Erwin Schulhoff, and, most recently, Guillaume Lekeu. His latest album turns to more familiar selections, most of which are not in their usual settings. The album consists entirely of music for violin and piano by Igor Stravinsky; and, as in previous recordings, Monteiro is accompanied by pianist João Paulo Santos. As of this writing, it is currently available only directly through its label Etcetera Records. A Web page for purchase has been created; but, since Etcetera is based in Belgium, the price is in euros. Under current conditions, it may be difficult to estimate how long delivery time will be.
In the accompanying booklet Monteiro observes that much of the content of the CD resulted from an eight-year collaboration between Stravinsky and the violist Samuel Dushkin.
Those familiar with the ballet repertoire will probably recall the episodes behind the excerpts from both “The Firebird” and “Petrushka.” One may miss the rich orchestration, but Stravinsky certainly knew how to distill the essence of his own music. Monteiro consistently captures that essence in ways that will appeal to both concertgoers and ballet lovers.
In “Pulcinella,” however, we see one of the earliest moves away from Russian tradition into what came to be called “neoclassicism.” Under Diaghilev’s influence, Stravinsky thought he was creating a score based on the music of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. Pergolesi was a very popular composer in his day, but he died of tuberculosis at the age of 26. In an effort not to lose his “cash cow,” his publisher hired other musicians to create further additions to the Pergolesi catalog; and these deceptions were not unravelled until musicological research in the twentieth century. Regardless of actual sources, however, Stravinsky endowed eighteenth-century Italian traditions with a bevy of twentieth-century twists; and those twists can be easily relished in Monteiro’s account of them.
The score for “Le baiser de la fée,” throws retrospection into an entirely different light. In this case Stravinsky drew his source material from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and I have to confess that this particular ballet score never really registered with me until I had become familiar with most of those sources. Now this is one of my favorite Stravinsky compositions, and I enjoy recognizing the Tchaikovsky “roots” in Stravinsky’s chamber music version as much as I enjoy them when watching the ballet. I suspect it would be fair to say that this was the portion of the album that evoked some of my fondest memories."
| Stephen Smoliar
"Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro continues to expand his repertoire in unanticipated directions. Those following my writings for some time know that he has previously explored the catalogs of Karol Szymanowski, Erwin Schulhoff, and, most recently, Guillaume Lekeu. His latest album turns to more familiar selections, most of which are not in their usual settings. The album consists entirely of music for violin and piano by Igor Stravinsky; and, as in previous recordings, Monteiro is accompanied by pianist João Paulo Santos. As of this writing, it is currently available only directly through its label Etcetera Records. A Web page for purchase has been created; but, since Etcetera is based in Belgium, the price is in euros. Under current conditions, it may be difficult to estimate how long delivery time will be.
In the accompanying booklet Monteiro observes that much of the content of the CD resulted from an eight-year collaboration between Stravinsky and the violist Samuel Dushkin.
Those familiar with the ballet repertoire will probably recall the episodes behind the excerpts from both “The Firebird” and “Petrushka.” One may miss the rich orchestration, but Stravinsky certainly knew how to distill the essence of his own music. Monteiro consistently captures that essence in ways that will appeal to both concertgoers and ballet lovers.
In “Pulcinella,” however, we see one of the earliest moves away from Russian tradition into what came to be called “neoclassicism.” Under Diaghilev’s influence, Stravinsky thought he was creating a score based on the music of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. Pergolesi was a very popular composer in his day, but he died of tuberculosis at the age of 26. In an effort not to lose his “cash cow,” his publisher hired other musicians to create further additions to the Pergolesi catalog; and these deceptions were not unravelled until musicological research in the twentieth century. Regardless of actual sources, however, Stravinsky endowed eighteenth-century Italian traditions with a bevy of twentieth-century twists; and those twists can be easily relished in Monteiro’s account of them.
The score for “Le baiser de la fée,” throws retrospection into an entirely different light. In this case Stravinsky drew his source material from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and I have to confess that this particular ballet score never really registered with me until I had become familiar with most of those sources. Now this is one of my favorite Stravinsky compositions, and I enjoy recognizing the Tchaikovsky “roots” in Stravinsky’s chamber music version as much as I enjoy them when watching the ballet. I suspect it would be fair to say that this was the portion of the album that evoked some of my fondest memories."
| Asier Vallejo Ugarte
“Only twenty-four years lived the Belgian Guillaume Lekeu, between 1870 and 1894, during which he had time to admire Wagner's music (it is said that he fainted while listening to Tristan and Isolde in Bayreuth) and receive lessons from Franck and D'Indy. The trail of the three can be seen in these two broad, ambitious, affectionate and impetuous works, composed in a romantic key and crossed by a melancholy that gives special strength to the dramatic moments. The same determination that he would have to compose them is shown by these three Portuguese performers, Bruno Monteiro, Miguel Rocha and João Paulo Santos, not well known to us, but with important careers behind them. Together they offer a great portrait of Lekeu, of a young man who, as far as he tells through his music, had a lot of life to give to the world. The Sonata for violin had an extraordinary godfather, Ysaÿe, who premiered it in Brussels in 1893. It is a work that shows good points of contact between the sonorities of the two instruments, violin and piano, besides joining to its cyclical structure (in the middle of the Franckian line) a lyricism that reaffirms, maturing it, purifying it and refining it, the inner story of the Trio, that speaks in first person of intimate thoughts, of a warm and dreamy vision of its own existence. The notes on the record underline Beethoven's influence, expressed from the start in the emblematic tonality of C minor, which was elevated to an expressive category throughout the 19th century, but also in the strength and character of some of his themes, which, however, Lekeu does not develop with the skill, mastery and dexterity of the great classics, as if in many moments of the piece the emotional charge was ahead of the technique, the need for expression ahead of pure musical writing."
| Stephen Smoliar
Catching Up on Bruno Monteiro´s Recordings

“Readers with relatively long memories may recall the interest I took when Brilliant Classics shifted from providing “reprint” anthologies to producing original recordings. One of the first of these releases was an album consisting of the complete music for violin and piano by Karol Szymanowski. This came out in May of 2015, back when I was writing for Examiner.com. The performers on this album were both Portuguese, violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos. By the time their second album was released, Examiner.com had closed; and I was able to write about them on this site. That second album was another “complete works” release, this time covering Erwin Schulhoff’s compositions for violin and piano.

I have now caught up with this duo by listening to the album they released this past May. This is not a “complete works” program. Rather it samples two compositions by Guillaume Lekeu, a late nineteenth-century Belgian composer that died at the age of 24 but left behind about fifty completed works.

When this album was released, Lekeu was not a stranger to me. Ironically, I had learned about him when violinist Alina Ibragimova and pianist Cédric Tiberghien made their album of the complete works for violin and piano composed by Maurice Ravel for Hyperion Records. Because that content was not enough to fill a single compact disc, they provided an “overture” of sorts in the form of Lekeu’s G major violin sonata, composed between 1892 and 1893. (Lekeu would die on the day after his 24th birthday in January of 1894, having contracted typhoid fever from a contaminated sorbet.) Since Lekeu’s death preceded Ravel’s earliest sonata for violin and piano, his sonata preceded the entire Ravel corpus on the Hyperion release.

I therefore welcomed the opportunity to listen to an album devoted entirely to Lekeu’s music. The first half of the recent Brilliant release consists of an account of that G major sonata by Monteiro and Santos. This is followed by a somewhat earlier composition, a piano trio in C minor composed between 1889 and 1891. For this performance Monteiro and Santos are joined by cellist Miguel Rocha. By way of chronological context, Lekeu had visited Bayreuth to see performances of operas by Richard Wagner in August of 1889; and after his return he began private lessons in counterpoint and fugue with César Franck, who would later die while Lekeu was working on his trio.

There are those that associate Lekeu and his G major sonata with the sonata by the fictitious composer Vinteuil that figures significantly in Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. However, Proust began work on this project in 1909 and was familiar enough with concert performances that any number of candidates for Vinteuil had been proposed. For my part I had not heard of Lekeu when I set about to read Proust, so I was content to think about other composers from the late nineteenth century! (I seem to recall listening to chamber music by Camille Saint-Saëns while reading Proust.)

Taken as a whole, this is definitely an album of discovery. Because I tend to seek significance in chronology, I probably would have preferred to have the trio precede the sonata, rather than follow it. On the other hand the trio is the longer work, and I find that I have encountered a variety of ways in which Lekeu chose to go beyond traditional approaches to structure. The sonata, on the other hand, was the result of a commission by Eugène Ysaÿe; and it tends to be the more accessible of the two pieces on the album. Consequently, there may have been some logic behind the decision of the performers to draw upon the sonata to “introduce” Lekeu to listeners encountering his music for the first time.

Nevertheless, regardless of motives and contexts, each of these two selections makes for a thoroughly absorbing listening experience in its own right."
| Henry S.
Intense and Impressive

*****

“Were it not for the model that Mozart established as a 'wunderkind' composer, it would be hard to imagine that a teenager could create music of great intensity and complexity. Nevertheless, this is the legacy that Guillaume Lekeu left in the late 19th century. Only 24 years when he died in 1894, Lekeu composed a striking series of chamber music works, and 2 of them are put on full display in this new Brilliant Classics recording. Featuring a trio of excellent Portugese musicians, the program sizzles with powerfully extroverted passages, all the while projecting an atmosphere of seriousness, even sadness.
This is gorgeous music, and I definitely recommend the disk to all chamber music devotees."

| Hans Quant
“What an ominous date: 1870-1894, 24 years! No war violence here, but complications in a typhus infestation that would prematurely end the life of the Belgian composer Guillaume Lekeu. He admired Wagner, he would have fainted with excitement with a performance by Tristan und Isolde. His studies with César Franck and Vincent d’Indy have audible influence in his works. The Sonata for violin and piano in G major from 1892 shows a precocious master who can write large-scale music in a small line-up. The first part is a world in itself, rich in moods, ingenious in its harmonic development, a grand romantic composition. The slow part is a melancholic song, the third part is "très animé", energetic, with a strong climax at the end. The Piano Trio in C minor is a little earlier, from 1890, more classically oriented. The toiling-searching of the slow part is followed by a fierce Scherzo, but a feeling of powerlessness colors the whole work. The performers play with full dedication. Previously recommended, in the violin sonata, Tasmin Little and Martin Roscoe (Chandos) or Ibragimova and Tibergien (Hyperion)."
| Juan Carlos Moreno
***** S (Extraordinary Sound)

“ (…) Through an impeccable sound, the performers of this album succeed in translating everything that is here of life, drama, passion, fluctuating from the most intimate tone to the most exasperated in a fluid and musical way, without excesses or ups and downs. Full recommendation."
| Aart van der Wal
“The strength of this music lies above all in its strictly own expressive character and does not tolerate what unfortunately many musicians (even some famous ones) do: the tendency to just 'play'. True art is always crawling under the skin of music and with her the composer and stay away from artifacts, artificialities that violate the expressive and structural concept. Can this be expected from Portuguese performers? Why aren't they too far from Lekeu's music in an idiomatic sense? This may seem at first glance. It is precisely this transboundary nature of Lekeu's music that offers more than enough room for interpretations that - like the music itself - far exceed its own national character. This also happens here: this Portuguese trio perfectly together avoids demotivation, but yes achieves the ideal effect by letting the music "simply" speak , no frills, no agogic accentuation, but therefore the still more moving and impressive. Music that is as overwhelming from very close as from far away.

The fact that this Portuguese triumvirate has given its name to this beautiful but still little known music gives a warm feeling that fits perfectly with the Iberian sun and the pronounced, sun-drenched lyrical landscape, but sometimes too irregular in the distant. The recording lets you hear the smallest details. The name of the piano tuner. Paulo Pimentel is more than justified: he provided a perfectly tuned Steinway. The violinist was responsible for the entire production, which makes a very valuable contribution to hopefully reviving Lekeu. Now is the time."
| Michael Beek
****

"An emotionally- drenched sonata and trio show us a composer who was mature beyond his short-lived years. Intimate recording of passionate performances only adds to the impact."
| Maria Augusta Gonçalves
The best of Lekeu

“ (…) Violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos chose him to continue a discography that already has a dozen notable titles, most devoted to less obvious and immediate composers, in the repertoire: Schulhoff, Szymanowski, Korngold. Looking at the choise, it does not seem like a fluke. It reinforces the testimony of Romanticism by Schumann, Chausson, Grieg, Saint-Saëns or Franck, and looks at the choice of twentieth-century expressions such as Ernest Bloch, Armando José Fernandes or Fernando Lopes-Graça. But what it reveals above all is an excellent interpretation of two more or less rare works - the Sonata for violin and piano in G Major, and the Trio for violin, cello and piano in C minor - on a beautiful recording, to be placed among the first choices of the composer's chamber music. (…)

Chamber production, between the Sonatas for violin and cello, the trio and the Quartet with piano in B minor, and the orchestral production, with symphonic studies and the Adagio for orchestra, some more fragments of unfinished works, allowed about 20 years ago, the five CD edition from Ricercar that brought together musicians such as pianists Luc Devos, Catherine Mertens and Daniel Blumenthal, violinists Philippe Hirshhorn, Philippe Koch and Anne Leonardo, cellists Luc Dewez and Marie Hallynck, organist Bernard Foccroulle, singers as the soprano Greta de Reyghere and tenor Guy De Mey.

This was the first and only published set to date of Lekeu's work. Until then - and after - the recordings were always dominated by the Violin Sonata, accompanied by one or more pieces by the composer, or compositions by his master César Franck. Such is the award-winning version recording of Gerard Poulet and Noel Lee (Arion), the meeting of Augustin Dumay and Jean Philippe Collard, which cross Debussy and Ravel (Erato), or the reference of decades by Arthur Grumiaux and Dinorah Varsi (Philips), the Spiller Trio (Arts), featuring the Piano Trio, and the celebrated recording by Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien (Hypérion), with the complete works for violin and piano, are two albums devoted entirely to the Belgian composer, which stand out in the existing discography. Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos' new album, with cellist Miguel Rocha, obviously joins the group of the elect.

Violinist and pianist, who have years of complicity, with all programs performed in concert, live, before any recording, are perfect in the Sonata in G Major, completed in 1892, perhaps the most demanding for both instruments, and the most mature from Lekeu´s output. Here there is clarity, cleanliness and balance in the dialogue between violin and piano. Monteiro immediately seduces in the opening theme, drawing a long and fascinating melodic line that leads to the heart of the work, with a piano rising in the foreground. The trip culminates in a strong and vigorous re-exposure that requires the maximum of both interpreters. (…)

Once again Lekeu's expression seems drawn to the best of Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos, who find in Miguel Rocha a partner at the same level of demand. Emotion predominates and everything is surpassed by glow. The interpretation of the musicians is extremely intelligent in accentuating the more passionate side of the work, taking advantage of what it’s own "immaturity" may seem. They thus reveal a richer vision that ennobles Lekeu's forgotten Trio. It is generous. But it's also another factor of excellence that characterizes the album."
| Hugo Papbst
"Like many of the early geniuses, Lekeu was mowed at the age of 24 (died in Angers on 21 January 1894) with typhoid fever, leaving us orphans of a rare and passionate talent whose rich texture, taste for chromaticism, a obviously Wagnerian thought, remains the eternal promise of a forever refused maturity. Yet the two scores discussed here clearly indicate the obvious realization of a dense, intense writing performed despite the French romantic composer at a young age.He also won the 2nd Prize of Rome in 1891 (for his Andromeda cantata to urgently rehearse.) The sense of color, the harmonious flow of modulations and uninterrupted passages shape a particularly opulent and active material, Listening to them, the "Rimbaud" of French music did not usurp his nickname or the relevance of this poetic rapprochement.
Frequently presented as his masterpiece, the Sonata for Piano and Violin in G Major, composed in the summer of 1892, was successfully premiered in Brussels in March 1893 by the famous violinist Eugène Ysaÿe (who was the Sonata's special dedicator). It takes a lot of energy and commitment, but also delicacy to take on this permanent lyricism whose overactivity can obscure the meaning and clarity of architecture. Because also influenced by Beethoven, Lekeu has a passion for form, development, driven by a musical ambition and a perfectionist instinct in every respect. Everything is perfectly connected in this 2-voice Sonata whose expressive acuity shines in an overflowing melodic lyricism, a sense of structure also better balanced, channeled and built in the very seductive and light first "Trés modéré" movement; "Trés lent" central points point to the nuances of a very introspective violin; before the end (Trés animé), openly in love or rampant but always fresh and springy.
Most captivating to our taste, the Piano Trio has the charm of radiant sincerity, though still undecided even clumsy in its writing. It is a little older (composed in 1890), where the influence of the Beethovenian structure is most clearly employed in its more explicit construction, although the first and last moves are full of dense and mixed ideas and harmonic reminiscences that underlie the critiques. Regretting many developments. Ambitious, the scoreboard employs four particularly "talkative" or ... dramatic movements, say the most benevolent. Passionate soul and intricate strength, Lekeu knows how to deploy a boundless intimate imagination as attested by the first movement in which two very contrasting episodes (energetic lent and Allegro) interact, expressing a series of nuanced prolix feelings: pain first, with somber reverie, from the furtive renunciation to the most diffuse depression: all here through the filter of an expert and hyperactive sensitivity, denounces and experiences the failure and repetition of intimate wounds. Trés lent, then the highly syncopated Scherzo, finally the ending, which is also slow, perhaps too long, though harmoniously exciting, believes in the strong genius of the young romantic; the three interpreters make patterns emerge in echoes or opposition; which also refines the violin while controlling the intensity of Bruno Monteiro. There remains the Cello / Piano Sonata (1888), the Piano Quartet (1893), to capture the genius of a young and exciting Lekeu. For future registrations? Next."
| Jean-Luc Caron
"In defense of these essential works of Lekeu, three Portuguese musicians put their art, clearly great and noble to the service of the music and they combine to make their playing so impeccable, enthusiastic, passionate and provocative."
| Robert Matthew-Walker
*****

"The tragic brief life of the Belgian composer Guillaume Lekeu (1870-1894) cut short a career that gave every indication of a truly major talent. Because of his early death, his surviving works are very few in number, but all show compositional gifts of unique qualities. We are indeed grateful to Bruno Monteiro, the driving force behind this importante new release for this outstanding new CD of Lekeu´s two major chamber works, in which he is magnificently partnered by João Paulo Santos and Miguel Rocha. The Violin Sonata is virtually on a pair with Cesar Franck´s in terms of originality and consistent quality, and simply does not deserve the neglect which has befallen it. As with the Sonata, Lekeu´s Piano Trio is more than the equal of those by Fauré, and I very much hope this fine new recording achieves the sucess, artistic and comercial, it richly deserves. Bravo!"
| João Santos
****

"Lekeu did not have the time to read Proust, but red Mallarmé, who suggested that there are "states of mind" that we only attain by "completely deciphering an object" - that is, when our mediation does not offset the impact of its ambiguities. Remembers this beautiful album that's exactly what Lekeu tried to do with chamber music."
| Pierre Jean Tribot
"The music of Guillaume Lekeu struggles to dominate the repertoire, including that of the artists of the French-speaking world. In this context, we salute the brave initiative of this Portuguese team led by violinist Bruno Monteiro, a musician trained between his native country and the United States. We love his beautiful sensibility in the Sonata for violin and piano, work definitely marked by the interpretation of Philippe Hirschhorn and Jean-Claude Vanden Eyden (Ricercar). The Trio for piano, violin and cello is a fitting complement, especially since it is surrounded here with all the required expression. We are delighted to see Portuguese artists contributing to the international reputation of this Belgian composer."


 

| John Puccio
"Monteiro appropriately plays the work in a most sympathetic manner, his violin sounding soulful and yearning, the piano accompaniment forceful but never interfering with Monteiro's splendidly forthright and emotionally affecting interpretation. While the third movement is clearly more animated than the others, particularly in the first section, the composer going out on a swirl of notes so to speak, the music nevertheless maintains the same mood of tempered sadness we see throughout. And Monteiro is careful to sustain that tone to the end. In all, it's a lovely piece, and Monteiro and Santos show their appreciation with a delicately wrought performance. Monteiro and his friends play it with a full measure of fluid grace, sophistication, and brilliance, never sentimentalizing the plush harmonies. Producer Bruno Monteiro and engineer Jose Fortes recorded the music at Igreja da Cartuxa, Caxias, Portugal in June and July 2018. The violin has a sweet, decorous tone, and its miking sets it back far enough to benefit from the room acoustics. The overall sound for the three instrumentalists is warm and smooth as well, with a natural presence, the several instruments together in excellent balance."
| Uwe Krusch
"They play with such overwhelming fervour and energy that one can become dizzy. This is extremely impressive and stirring..."
| Stuart Sillitoe
A disc I like the more I listen to it, and one which has my recommendation if you are looking for a disc that solely presents the music of Guillaume Lekeu

"I have always had a soft spot for Tasmin Little and Martin Roscoe’s 2014 recording of the Violin Sonata (CHAN 10812), and even when compared to the highly praised recording by Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien (CDA67820), this remains my favourite. So, Bruno Monteiro and Joao Paulo Santos have tough acts to follow in this enjoyable performance, their slightly slower tempos do emphasise the sustained passion of the Sonata, however, it is the more impassioned performance of Little and Roscoe which for me still comes out on top, although Bruno Monteiro and Joao Paulo Santos make a good impression and are not that far behind.
The Piano Trio has fared less well with only a handful of recordings available, with my introduction to the work being through the Spiller Trio’s performance on the Arts label (47567-2) from 1999". The work is perhaps a little to long with the composer over developing the thematic material, but that being said there are some nice passages here, especially in the slow second movement were once again the composer’s passionate nature shines forth, especially in this new recording where Monteiro, Rocha and Santos exploit the emotional element slightly more that the Spiller Trio with their slightly slower tempo. Indeed, throughout this new recording has the edge with their playing being more committed, whilst they also benefit from better sound than the Spiller Trio are afforded on the Arts recording.
This is an enjoyable recording one which while it is not my first choice for the Violin Sonata, it does give you a committed performance, something which is carried over into the Piano Trio, where this recording is my preferred when compared with that of the Spiller Trio. The sound is very good. The booklet notes also by Bruno Monteiro, although brief, are informative and helpful. A disc I like the more I listen to it, and one which has my recommendation if you are looking for a disc that solely presents the music of Guillaume Lekeu."
| Stephen Barber
"Monteiro has the rich and full-blooded tone Lekeu's violin writing requires, and Santos has all the technique in the world, which he certainly needs for Lekeu's elaborate piano parts. The tone of the cellist, Rocha, is similar to that of Monteiro, and he fits in well into the trio. I have no complaints about the recording quality. There are sleeve notes in English and Portuguese and an attractive cover picture; this is a stylish production."


 

| Jerry Dubins
***** Sublimely beautiful music, exquisitely performed and recorded

"It's quite exquisite, breathtaking really, especially in this reading by Monteiro and Santos. Much as I admired the performance by Frédéric Bednarz and Natsuki Hiratsuka in 39:3, I find myself transported to an even higher level of the sublime by this new recording that captures the music's magical ambiance in a special way. Amazon's inventory offers a wider choice, including versions by Arthur Grumiaux, Lola Bobesco, Christian Ferras, and a number of others not listed by ArkivMusic. I've not heard the relatively recent recording by Alina Ibragimova with Cédric Tiberghien that received an urgent recommendation from Robert Maxham in 35:3. Generally, I've been very receptive to Ibragimova's playing, and would no doubt like her performance of Lekeu's sonata, but with Monteiro and Santos's CD in hand, I can't imagine it being bettered or wanting to trade it in for another version. I can't say that this performance of the Trio by Monteiro, Santos, and cellist Miguel Rocha is better than the one by the Hochelaga Trio that blew me away in 36:2, but it's mighty fine, and the truly exceptional performance of the Violin Sonata with which it's paired pushes this release into the urgent recommendation category."
| Colin Clarke
****Intelligent and focused with a core of expressivity: musicianly performances of beautiful music

"Monteiro and Santos seem to find exactly the right tempo (it is marked “Très modéré”) so that the music has a sense of expansion but does not feel overly languorous. The central slow movement is touchingly done, the result is absolutely beautiful. The finale is Gemini-like in having two faces, one forwardly-thrusting, one decidedly reflective. Monteiro and Santos offer an intelligent, tensile reading, There is less competition still for the Piano Trio in C-Minor (1890). Again, Grumiaux recorded it with his Trio (but again this appears to be currently unavailable). This present performance by Monteiro, Rocha and Santos reflects the strengths of that of the Violin Sonata: intelligent and focused with a core of expressivity. The addition of cellist Miguel Rocha to the mix is a positive one, he is a fine exponent of his instrument and a sensitive chamber musician. Those passages where violin and cello play in octaves find the two players in complete accord. The highlights of this reading is the second movement, “Très Lent,” an oasis of beauty, and the astonishing, suspended-time passage that opens the finale (another “Lent”)."
| Dave Saemann
"The artists on the present CD are beautifully attuned to Lekeu's melos. Violinist Bruno Monteiro was a student of Isidore Cohen and Shmuel Ashkenasi. He possesses a reedy, expressive sound reminiscent of Joseph Roisman of the Budapest Quartet. His regular duo partner, conductor-pianist João Paulo Santos, is a splendid chamber musician, making a lovely, full sound and always displaying flexibility for his colleagues. There is a recording of Lekeu's violin sonata by Elmar Oliveira and Robert Koenig that exhibits violinism of the ultimate smoothness and suppleness, something Monteiro can't touch. But Monteiro and Santos are the superior interpreters of the sonata, greatly attuned to Lekeu's long lines and haunting, borderline macabre atmosphere.Cellist Miguel Rocha is a worthy collaborator with these two artists in the piano trio. He has a big sound and explores the extreme world of Lekeu with tension and subtlety. Highly recommended."


 

| Jean-Yves Duperron
"Violinist Bruno Monteiro shapes each phrase differently according to its expressive content or emotive weight. For example the sweet tone he uses to introduce the main motif of the Sonata eventually becomes emotionally charged or downright inexorable in its discourse. And because pianist Joao Paulo Santos has been collaborating with Monteiro for quite a while now, the piano reacts to the violin in a symbiotic fashion and follows the action accordingly while adding its own insights. And the sadness they both express at the end of the middle slow movement is quite touching. Quite the opposite can be said about the Scherzo movement of the Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello in C minor in which Bruno Monteiro, Joao Paulo Santos and cellist Miguel Rocha all jump into the action guns blaring, and deliver a highly commited reading. And once you hear this deeply dramatic and moving account of the ending of this Trio, you will definitely feel the need to further explore the music of Guillaume Lekeu."


 

| Jan de Kruijff
"Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos play the work (Violin Sonata) with appropriate and dignified feeling, carefully dealing with details. But this CD derives its importance even more from the Piano Trio, an erroneously underestimated passionate four-part masterpiece of almost 45 minutes in size and of a Beethovenian allure. It contains a few special moments in the moving, long piano passage at the start of the très lent, the powerful scherzo as a whole and the mysterious lento section from the final. It is precisely those moments that give this recording, as a whole, a successful recording its special value." 
| Terry Robbins
"There is much to enjoy here (Schulhoff). The playing in the Suite and the Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2 is outstanding, with a rich, resonant sound of the piano and an excellent balance with the violin.
The Szymanowski set fares much better, especially CD2 with Mythes Op.30 opening the disc and the Nocturne and Tarantella Op.28 providing a strong finish. The Sonata in D Minor Op.9, the Romance in D Major, the Three Capriccios of Paganini Op.40 and the lullaby La Berceuse Op.52 are the other original works in the set, with the remaining five tracks either transcriptions by the composer’s compatriot, the violinist Pawel Kochanski, or – in two cases – joint compositions by them."
| Santiago Martín Bermúdez
"Erwin Schulhoff was not allowed to turn fifty. The Nazis killed him, like so many millions. Surprise from this album; the chamber music by that composer who would have been insurmountable had he not fallen into the nets in which he got himself as resistant. To resist the Third Reich, being Czech, when British and French had given him their blessings in Munich, in 1938! It is surprising because in these works for violin, alone or accompanied, we see a transit towards new objectivity and a nostalgia for a lost time, which is not precisely that of the late Romantic sounds. It is also surprising because it is a fully Portuguese production, an album recorded at the Igreja da Cartuxa in Caxias last year, by two great Portuguese artists. Monteiro and Santos play the Sonatas for violin and piano, the Suite that opens the recital (five beautiful dances with classic touch) and the Sonata for solo violin, in whose four movements Monteiro shines; Is a wise, penetrating work. The true advantage of the interwar period was composed by composers such as Schulfoff, who followed, denied, dismantled, or surpassed post-Vienna teachings. But also the teachers were expelled or annihilated, so things became difficult after the years to tie up. This CD comes very well to those who do that, who tie the ends of a time that we did not know everything about, and of which recently, from some time in the late 70's and early 80's, we began to receive - timonium, credit, information as contained here. Monteiro and Santos make a beautiful album from a hidden repertoire by the illogical of things. And Brilliant points out a new tide in its recoveries, on the other hand, so accessible to modest pockets without modest pretensions and goals."
| Santiago Martín Bermúdez
"A beautiful recording. Along with a few short works by Karol Szymanowski that are of importance for themselves (The Dawn, Wild Dance) or as derived from others (the ballet dance Harnasie, Roxana's Song of King Roger), this double CD offers important works marking transcendent moments of the itinerary of Szymanowski: Myths op. 30, especially, of 1915, at the apex of the first stage of maturity of the composer; Or the 1904 Sonata, a youthful work with a very clear statement, a time when every artist takes advantage of outside influences (it is not that we see Brahms there, it is simply that the young Karol knows very well the music of the last years of the century). We could add two works of great encouragement of similar ambition, the adaptation of the Paganini Caprices or the two movements of Nocturno and Tarantella. Several works included in this program are outside the numbered catalog of the great Polish composer. Two excellent Portuguese soloists, the violinist Bruno Monteiro and the pianist João Paulo Santos give a beautiful recital of sensual music, only sometimes dramatic, from the scores to full achievements like that of Myths op. 30. Virtuosity, but above all understanding the sequences of phrases and even cells that motivate suggestions, rather than affirmations. Some readings at times "French", sometimes classicist, always with measured, elegant, but undeniable intensities not only when (say) agitation is imposed, but at the end of the program itself, that Neapolitan Tarantella of more or less 1915, brilliant couple of the Nocturno, who evokes Spanish stylizations in the style of Albéniz and other contemporaries around here. In short, a double CD of high level in works and interpreters, at one of those incredible prices of the seal Brilliant."
| Robert Matthew-Walker
*****

“This is a most important record of previously-negleted 20th-centuary chamber music. Schulhoff was one of the very fine Jewish musicians – a pianist and a composer – who perished in the Holocaust. It is only in recent decades that his music is being rediscovered and being given its due as a significant work of a composer with great gifts. We have to thank violinist Bruno Monteiro and his excellent partner João Paulo Santos for giving us this very well played and recorded CD, which makes a belated act of restitution for a notable composer. The music largely dates from the 1920 and 30´s of course, and in many ways, reflects the modern ethos of those decades – but Schulhoff is no imitator – here is the music of an idividual composer, well worth hearing."
| Gonzalo Pérez Chamorro
Editor´s Choise/Top 10 CD´s of February 2018

*****

“Bruno Monteiro continues to travel to the back roads of the violin chamber repertoire between centuries. After his Erwin Schulhoff CD, this time he stops in Karol Szymanowski, the brilliant Polish composer unclassifiable, who would virtually share seat with Janácek, Scriabin, Martinu or Enescu, among others, as this period favored the flowering of free spirits against the current. This recording shows all his work for violin and piano, which includes small pieces such as Roxana of King Roger's aria (fundamental opera of the 20th century), a dance drawn from the Harnasie ballet or the Dance Sauvage, among others, with works of greater substance such as the early Sonata Op. 9 (1904), of Franckian resonances, and, especially, Mythes Op. 30 (1915), one of his masterpieces, a "Greek" triptych in which he describes the myths with a new writing technique for the violin. The profund reading of the Portuguese violinist, with his usual pianist Joao Paulo Santos, explains and clarifies very well the pentatonism, the almost dodecaphonic harmony or the intervals in the style of Alois Hába. There was already a great recording of this music by Ibragimova and Tiberghien (Hyperion), which is added by this one on equal intentions to consolidate, for music, interpretation and the need to know better the great Szymanowski."
| Gilles-Daniel Percet
****

"Noticed early on by Dvorak, the Czech Schulhoff (pianist and composer) died shortly after his arrest (which preceded a planned escape for the USSR) by the Nazis who had long pointed him as a Jewish Bolshevik (author of a cantata on the Communist Manifesto !), gay (but married) and with a '' degenerate '' vision of the future. He quickly abandoned post-Romanticism and "Debussyism," and was drawn to jazz and Dadaism.


He proclaimed that the absolute art revolution was against agreed sound and rhythm. Between the bitter lines, dances and more traditional expressivity (the '' Tranquilo '' here in the first sonata), in which mostly feels a prolonged freshness, renewal almost in sight, a kind of inspired perpetuum mobile. Not to mention that he was a friend of Alban Berg (the sounds he sometimes resembles, as in this second sonata), he never resorted to serialism.


And always, a trip to Bach (the title is already present in the beautiful Andante of the second sonata and sonata for solo violin) socialist realism, dissonances, modal tone and quarter, but in a very free approach. Truly inspiring music, invigorating, gaining in depth by repeated listening, perfectly served by our two artists."

| Stuart Sillitoe
“Of the four works presented here I only knew two, the Sonata for Solo Violin and the Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2. In my other recording, by Oleh Krysa and Tatiana Tchekina (BIS-CD-697), the second sonata is denoted as No. 1 Op. 7. Here Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos are considerably slower than Krysa and Tchekina whose performance I prefer.
He (Monteiro) makes a good fist of it (…) João Paulo Santos does sound at home, he proves an adept interpreter, bringing out every nuance of the music.


The sound is good. At first I thought it a little over-bright, but with repeated listening I came to the conclusion that it was Bruno Monteiro’s tone and not the recording. The accompanying booklet notes are quite detailed and informative, concentrating on the music rather than the composer. They make a good introduction to these works."

| Grego Applegate Edwards
"Erwin Schulhoff was born a Czech in 1894 and lived much of his life there. His student years found him at Prague Conservatory when only 10; studies followed in Vienna, Leipzig and Cologne, where among others he studied with Max Reger and Debussy. His Jewish heritage led to his untimely death in the hands of the Nazis in 1942.
He went through in successive years of composition a post-romantic, avant garde, then a Czech folk and neoclassical phase. You can pretty much hear all periods to good effect in the new release Complete Music for Violin and Piano (Brilliant 95324). The works are played with lively spirit and idiomatic sensitivity by Bruno Monteiro on violin and João Paulo Santos on piano.
I've heard a bit of his music previously but this particular volume is a ear-opener. From the great character of his "Suite for Violin and Piano," the modernity of his "Sonata for Solo Violin," to the classical-folk inspiration and workmanship of his two "Sonatas for Violin and Piano" a complete picture emerges of an original voice of his times, a composer of thematic cogency and an excellent sense of flow.
He may be the greatest of the composers to be lost to us in the holocaust, or certainly among the most talented.
This volume spells out his brilliance. I do recommend it very strongly."
| Brian Wigman
“This is a beautiful disc. Bruno Monteiro and pianist Joao Paulo Santos have already tackled some adventurous repertoire for Naxos and Brilliant Classics, and this may be their finest achievement on disc.
Since moving to Brilliant Classics, Monteiro's unique tone has been beautifully captured. Joäo Paulo Santos isn't a mere background artist, but a deeply sensitive and commitment artistic partner. There's a lot of piano writing in both the suite and the sonatas, and none of it is especially simple. But the violin writing is consistently inventive and proves very rewarding.
The sound is excellent and ideally compliments the performances. These pieces would be an ideal recital item, and I'm a little surprised we don't hear them more often. Thanks to Brilliant Classics for this important addition to both the composer's discography and the library of violin music on disc."
| John J. Puccio
Classical Candor Favourite Recordings 2016

“In an earlier review of Monteiro and Santos performing the music of Portuguese composer Fernando Lopes-Graca, I said of them that they play "so affectionately, so enchantingly, I look forward to hearing them again." Now, I've gotten that chance, and I am no less impressed.


The program contains four works: one suite for violin and piano, two sonatas for violin and piano, and one sonata for solo violin. The thing you have to remember, though, is that Schulhoff began composing at about the time the modern era of music began, and while he is clearly avant-garde, innovative, and experimental for his day, he also has one foot firmly planted in the melodies and harmonies of the older Romantic generation. So his music is a kind of fascinating amalgam of the old and the new.


Anyway, Monteiro has arranged the order of the program in chronological order, starting with the five-movement suite, dating from 1911. It has a generally positive and happy outlook, with the violinist delighting in its almost-classical demeanor. Monteiro's tone is always clean, golden, and vibrant, qualities he maintains throughout the program. The interior minuet and waltz segments appear most adventurous, yet they never become objectionable in their eccentricities. The final movement ends the piece with something originally titled "Dance of the Little Devils," and it's charming in its impish delights, at least the way Monteiro and Santos play it.
The next three items are more overtly "modern," being somewhat less harmonious or melodic. The first sonata has more starts and stops to it, with more contrasting sections and a more emphatic rhythmic drive. Nevertheless, for all of its oddities it comes over with an appealingly pensive mood under the guidance of Monteiro and Santos.


In the solo violin work Monteiro not only gets to show off his more virtuosic talents, he gets to display his knowledge and feeling for the jazz idioms Schulhoff adopted. Finally, in the second sonata we hear a more dance-like feeling from the composer, probably from his embracing more of the native folk elements of his country. Don't expect Dvorak, but you get the idea. It begins briskly, energetically, followed by a highly expressive slow movement and returning in the final segments to some of the same themes with which the music started. Again, Monteiro and Santos make a splendid team, keeping the drama of the piece moving forward with a pulsating, scintillating enchantment.


Producer Bruno Monteiro and engineer and editor Jose Fortes recorded the album at Igreja da Cartuxa, Caxias, Portugal in April 2016. The church makes an excellent setting for the musicians, the sound taking on a touch of hall resonance without in any way affecting the overall transparency of the instruments. We get clarity and dynamic impact aplenty, plus a realistic separation of players, making the listening both pleasurable and lifelike."

| Lynn René Bayley
“…Violinist Monteiro possesses a fine tone and technique… Monteiro does not hold back; he attacks this music with relish, fully understanding its idiom and purpose. All in all, a fascinating glimpse of a different side of Schulhoff. In the end, I wasn’t so sure how I really felt about this music in toto; yes, it was interesting, but was it substantive enough to warrant repeated listening? That’s a question each listener has to answer for him or herself. I can only tell you my reaction; I can’t predict yours; but it’s certainly music worth hearing at least once."
| Jean-Yves Duperron
“Violinist Bruno Monteiro has a way of dramatically changing the tonal color of his instrument, sometimes note by note, based on the music's character at any given moment. A technique that his quite captivating and effective. And particularly effective for example in the post-Romantic Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano WV24 from 1913. The first two movements, in my opinion, sound very much as if they could have been composed by Alexander Scriabin during the final stages of his life. Strongly passionate and constantly expanding his harmonic reach. Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942) wrote this Sonata in such a way where Bruno Monteiro and pianist Joao Paulo Santos can't help but feed off each other's energy, be it bright or dark. The same could be said about the foreboding slow movement of the 1927 Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano WV91 in which grim and sullen expressiveness is the order of the day. As a matter of fact most of Schulhoff's music is "hard", and by that I don't mean difficult, but rather stern and severe. But Bruno Monteiro's eloquent playing cuts through its tough exterior and reveals the earnest intensity burning at its core."
| Stephen Smoliar
“… The Brilliant production team has done well to provide us with this sincerely refreshing account of this particular facet of Schulhoff’s repertoire."
| Maria Augusta Gonçalves
"Here, once more, is very clear the artistry of both musicians: virtuoso playing, technical command, the profound knowledge of the works and their time, from the sophisticated writing and it´s demands. From each piece and interpretation, there are moments that go beyond the simple hearing: the violin line, in the "Gavotte" of the Suite, the freedon of the "Waltzer", the lyrism of the First Sonata, the power of the piano in the Allegro Final, the drama of the 2nd Sonata and the high demands of the Solo Sonata.To this day, not many musicians and labels took the chance of recording the complete music for violin and piano by Schulhoff. There is the Viennese Gramola (David Delgado and Stefan Schmidt), the American MSR (Eka Gogichashvili and Kae Hosoda-Ayer), the UK based Hyperion (Becker-Bender and Markus Becker).
Listening to the version of Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos, there are no reservations. These artists are the first choise right away amoung the existing versions. They offer outstanding readings where we can hear the richness and power of seduction."
| Colin Clarke
“Any disc that furthers the cause of the phenomenal Czech-born composer Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942) is incredibly welcome. This release on Brilliant Classics presents the complete music for violin and piano presents two Portuguese musicians in a good if not exceptional recording, well presented with copious booklet notes by Ana Carvalho. The four pieces are given in their documentation with their “WV” numbers: WV 24, 91, 18 and 83 in head-note order.
The principal competition is a recent disc on MSR by Esa Gogichashvili and Kae Hosoda-Ayer (reviewed by James North in Fanfare 39:4) and Tanja Becker-Bender and Markus Becker on Hyperion (also Mr. North, Fanfare 34:6). All three discs present exactly the same program. The Brilliant release enters at a lower price point, which may swing it for some; Although not listed as available at archivmusic.com, there was a disc on Gramola of these works from 2013 (David Delgado and Stefan Schmidt, 98982) and a 1994 Supraphon disc with Ivan enatý and Josef Hála (112168), the latter of which which adds a piece entitled just “Melody.”
Bruno Monteiro plays with great character (and very true tuning) in the Suite for violin and piano, given usually as “op. 1” but on the present release listed as “WV18”. Monteiro’s sound is remarkably pure in its higher reaches.
The two violin sonatas open out the discography for the assiduous collector (that is, those not limited by what is “officially” still available) with a 1977 Supraphon recording, presumably LP only (1 11 2149); an early BIS recording by Oleh Krysa and Tatiana Tchekina (679) and on the small label Obligat (Musikproduktion München) Florian Sonnleitner and Hildegard Stenda (01.222) offer single sonatas. The First Sonata (WV24, more generally known as op. 7) dates from 1913 and is markedly more advanced than the Suite in musical language. As the booklet notes rightly point out, there is a clear Debussy influence in the first movement, contrasted at times with characteristic Schulhoff spikiness; Monteiro and Santos are remarkably adept in moving between the two fields. Monteiro’s violin sings the cantabile of the slow movement (“Ruhig”) and, while one might wish for more bass presence from the piano, Santos offers fine support. By far the briefest movement, the Scherzo flickers before the Rondo finale offers up its staccato wit.
Written in 1927, four years after Schulhoff’s return to Prague, the Sonata for Solo Violin references traditional Czech folk music. Its opening Allegro con fuoco seems also to be cut from the same cloth as Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale in its carefree demeanour; Schulhoff’s recurring returns to repeated open fifths enhances the outdoorsy feel. It is superbly, and decidedly rustically, played by Monteiro (who even adds a small ornament on one sixteenth note not in the printed score.) The second movement, Andante cantabile, includes such markings as “sonoro,” “con passione” and passionato molto,” which gives some ideas as to its expressive levels. The final ascent to a pppp harmonic is perfectly managed. The Scherzo is a nicely judged Allegretto grazioso, holding a whole host of delights and is characterfully despatched by Monteiro; the finale, making the clearest references to folk music emerges as an imposing piece.
Finally, the Second Violin Sonata, composed in November 1927. The first movement covers a wide territory, the open fifths of the solo sonata return here, bolstered though by dissonance piano chords. The music here is full of surprising twists and turns, expertly negotiated by both players (Santos’ finger strength is particularly impressive in the later parts of the movement.) There is even a hint of a solo cadenza before the end. The slow movement (Andante) begins with, essentially, muted tolling bells on the piano over which the violin sings a dirge-like lament. The whole movement is basically one long line for the soloist, and Monteiro maintains the tension throughout. A “Burlesca” takes us to a spikier side of Schulhoff, and there is a raw side to Monteiro’s G-string that is most appealing. The close of the movement is incredibly imaginative, and perfectly judged here. The finale’s demands (and there are many, on both players individually and in terms of ensemble) are well handled, the excitement at the close palpable.
A fascinating and rewarding issue. It is a cause for celebration that such competition in this repertoire is out there, but there is no doubting the firm belief in this music that exudes from Monteiro and Santos’ performances."
| David DeBoor Canfield
“The violin playing of Bruno Monteiro is quite respectable. I did enjoy this disc, and the solid collaborative effort of pianist João Paulo Santos, and can accordingly recommend this CD as worthy of investigation by those interested in under-explored repertory."
| Jerry Dubins
“Here the four works are performed by Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos, two outstanding Portuguese musicians I’ve encountered before, once in 36:1 on a Centaur recording of Chausson’s Concert for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet, and then again in 39:1 on a two-disc Brilliant set of works for violin and piano by Szymanowski.
I have the Hyperion CD with Becker-Bender and Becker, and while it is very, very good, Monteiro and Santos dig deeper into Schulhoff’s iconoclastic and idiosyncratic musical universe and produce results that are more atmospheric in slow movements and more outré in fast movements, which, I think, is what Schulhoff was aiming for. Much of his music, after all, was intended to shock and upset the status quo of the day.
In an A-B comparison between the two recordings, Becker-Bender and Becker come across as more refined, civilized, and urbane, but civility and urbanity are not what Schulhoff is about. Monteiro and Santos project a sense of animalistic primitivism that heightens our awareness of danger and puts us on the alert to the predator about to spring. Simply stated, Monteiro and Santos are riskier and therefore more exciting.
In the end, I think it’s fair to say that Schulhoff is an acquired taste, one which, if you ever acquire it at all, is apt to develop slowly. Monteiro and Santos, however, succeed in making the composer’s music as palatable as have any other players I’ve heard. Their Schulhoff release may thus be recommended as a good place to whet your palate."
| Noemí Sánchez
“Centro Centro of Madrid had a concert yesterday by two of the most virtuoso musicians of Portugal: the violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos. In the XIV Edition of the Mostra da Cultura Portuguesa, both artists filled the beautiful Palácio das Comunicações de Madrid with music and magic. The experience and cumplicity between the artists was evident and it is apparent when they perform together. An emotional concert."
| James Palmer
*****

“both works here are wonderfully well performed, and finely recorded with a natural balance that is impressive". (Saint-Saens/Strauss Violin Sonatas)."
| 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."
| Jens F. Laurson
Classical CD Of The Week: Szymanowski's Works For Violin And Piano

"Karol Szymanowski (1882 – 1937) is, Chopin apart, the Polish national composer. En route he is also one of the great, usually underrated, often overlooked composers of the 20th Century: a composer who has everything to offer from post-Brahmsian romanticism to exotic Scriabinesque ecstasy to Bartók-like rhythmic tenacity. If we hear any of his works in concert, it’s most likely one of the fabulous violin concertos (or both, as on this occasion with Frank Peter Zimmermann and the BRSO) or perhaps one of the symphonies.

Szymanowski’s works for violin and piano are an excellent way to delve into the composers’ less familiar chamber repertoire and they are perfectly suitable to get better acquainted with the heterogeneous styles of the composer. Two fine recordings that collect this music have recently popped up: One by Marie Radauer-Plank (violin) and Henrike Brüggen (piano) on the fine local German Genuin label and another by Bruno Monteiro (violin) and João Paulo Santos (piano) on the cheap international Dutch Brilliant label (the one that was the first to successfully merge the super-budget approach with quality).

The German release contains Violin Sonata op.9, Myths op.30, the “Danse paysanne” from the ballet Harnasie, La berceuse d'Aïtacho Enia, op.52, Nocturne & Tarantella op.28, a Nocturnewithout an opus number, and “Roxana's Air” – Pawel Kochanski’s arrangement culled from Szymanowski’s great opera King Roger and fits it all on one CD. The Brilliant release makes claims to the Complete Music for Violin and Piano of Szymanowski’s and includes all the above plus the Romance in D Major op.23, Three Capriccios of Paganini op.40, the Kurpian Song op.58/9 (his own arrangement of an art-song), and two shorter collaborative pieces: L’Aubeand Dans Sauvage, where the piano part is Szymanowski’s and the violin parts Kochanski’s and Leo Ornstein’s (another, even more underrated and neglected composer), respectively.

Both releases are excellent. Bruno Monteiro’s violinism is more direct and explosive; Radauer-Plank‘s more lyrical, with a lighter approach, the notes separated further, the pace over-all more relaxed but not necessarily always slower. If the Duo Brüggen-Plank is more mobile in their approach but always together in lockstep, the Portuguese twosome is more ethereal and Monteiro sort of sliding above Santos’ pianism as if separated by a layer of oil. Where the German violinist’s tone is spritely but sometimes thin or pinched and recorded in a dry acoustic, Monteiro’s is round, bold, and – particularly true for Paulo Santos’ piano – resonant bordering on the wooly. On the latter recording, I prefer the more emphatic, violesque sound of the violin and the softer, velvety pianism. With the Brüggen-Plank Duo I admire the intense and tight finale of the folk-music influenced “Danse paysanne”. The close, sometimes slightly hard, certainly lean sound of the production is a benefit here. Henrike Brüggen plays absolutely marvelously in the Nocturne; as adroit and soothingly as can be; similarly Radauer-Plank displays a beauty and purity in her tone. Bruno Monteiro can only offer his broader, hazier but more mysterious tone as an alternative.

Where the Portuguese approach with their impulsive articulation and the recording’s acoustic score is the early piano sonata, broadly in the late-romantic German style. In the gorgeous Mythes, Three Poems – a de facto impressionist violin sonata with here breathy and elsewhere robust hints of Debussy – both musical teams shine with their relative merits: tawny, rhythmically strict, elegant, dynamically virile, precise and exerting compelling pull on the Genuin recording; indulgent and clad in colorful mist on Brilliant. The difference in the beginning of the third movement – “Dryades et Pan” – is telling: Radauer-Plank comes in and out like a swarm of friendly-curious, super-precise hornets; Monteiro sways casually like a Venetian gondola.

Brilliant is known for skimping on booklets – but not here… if you can make do with English. The notes on Genuine, written by the artists, are absolutely adequate, too, and tri-lingual. If it were a mere matter of quantity, Brilliant’s 2 CD set has 110 minutes of music on offer and Genuin’s single disc 70…

P.S. It should be mentioned that the terrific Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien also have recorded the complete works of Szymanowski’s (on Hyperion), which is a self-evidently promising proposition – but I have not heard that recording."
| Gonzalo Pérez Chamorro
Editor´s Choise/Top 10 CD´s of February 2018

*****

"Bruno Monteiro continues to travel to the back roads of the violin chamber repertoire between centuries. After his Erwin Schulhoff CD, this time he stops in Karol Szymanowski, the brilliant Polish composer unclassifiable, who would virtually share seat with Janácek, Scriabin, Martinu or Enescu, among others, as this period favored the flowering of free spirits against the current. This recording shows all his work for violin and piano, which includes small pieces such as Roxana of King Roger's aria (fundamental opera of the 20th century), a dance drawn from the Harnasie ballet or the Dance Sauvage, among others, with works of greater substance such as the early Sonata Op. 9 (1904), of Franckian resonances, and, especially, Mythes Op. 30 (1915), one of his masterpieces, a "Greek" triptych in which he describes the myths with a new writing technique for the violin. The profund reading of the Portuguese violinist, with his usual pianist Joao Paulo Santos, explains and clarifies very well the pentatonism, the almost dodecaphonic harmony or the intervals in the style of Alois Hába. There was already a great recording of this music by Ibragimova and Tiberghien (Hyperion), which is added by this one on equal intentions to consolidate, for music, interpretation and the need to know better the great Szymanowski."

| Jan de Kruijff
"The genius of Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) may be elusive, but it is also very broad. Wagner was an early influence, but from his teenage years Chopin, Scriabin, R. Strauss and Reger also played a part in his development.

Traveling through Italy and North Africa gave him a great appreciation for the classics and Arab culture. His meeting with Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky in Paris just before W.W.I broke out was a crucial musical experience. Many of those influences crystallized when Szymanowski became more mature.

His most famous work for violin and piano, Mythes, composed in 1915 and published in 1921, was the first of three works that possess his personal style.

Szymanovsky felt strongly that he had created a new style for violin compositions. Each of the three parts also reflects the fascination of the composer for classical mythology.

One can not be mistaken: all this music first sets formidable technical requirements for both performers, while the interpretations also require the greatest possible refinement. Although the emphasis is on the instrumental coloring, in many of these works the musicians must also pay attention to the lyrical and dramatic contente.

The two Portuguese artists performing here seem ideally created for this repertoire of which they give excellent interpretations. Along the way they conjure up beautiful colors and differentiate nicely between the styles.
The fact that the recording was made at Igreja da Cartuxa in Caxias gives a somewhat generous reverberation, but rather like a sound that is too direct.

In 2008, Anna Ibragimoa and Cédric Tiberghien also made a so-called 'complete' p [name of the violin / piano works (Hyperion CDA 7703), but left the opus-less tracks aside and then of course there is the selection of Rosanne Philippens and Julien Quentin (Channel Classics). CCS SA 36715), but for the total Brilliant Classics is unique and fortunately so successful."
| Jens F. Laurson
"… Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos also score points in their recently recorded version of these works (Szymanowski – Complete Music for Violin and Piano) with explosive articulation and resonant sound in the Sonata, written in German late-Romantic style."
| Ernst Blach
"The recording of the complete works for violin and piano by Szymanowski opens up fascinating new ideas about his extensive artistic work. For example, in the Chant de Roxane, a transcription of his opera, King Roger, an oriental atmosphere is evoked, in the dance of Harnasie, an adaptation of the homonymous ballet by the violinist Pavel Kochanski, traditional sounds of pastoral music, which requires the violinist to play in extreme moods.
Also in other works of this CD, the technical sophistication of the virtuoso violinist Bruno Monteiro comes into play, for example, in the Sonata in D minor or in the adaptation of Paganini Caprices with modern harmonies.
The influence of Ravel and Debussy can be heard in the Myths with their tremolos, pizicatos, harmonics, trinados, double stops and the use of pentatonic scales.
Szymanowski is a musical traveler from Southern Europe and Africa at Nocturne and Tarantella.
The rhythms of Flamenco and Habanera make the violin become a guitar, and some of the non-European expressions are reminiscent of the Middle East.
A successful accomplishment, excellent performance, although not all of Szymanowski's works have the same quality and the dramatic momentum for the violin in a recording which sometimes is too much savored."
| Santiago Martín Bermúdez
"A beautiful recording. Along with a few short works by Karol Szymanowski that are of importance for themselves (The Dawn, Wild Dance) or as derived from others (the ballet dance Harnasie, Roxana's Song of King Roger), this double CD offers important works marking transcendent moments of the itinerary of Szymanowski: Myths op. 30, especially, of 1915, at the apex of the first stage of maturity of the composer; Or the 1904 Sonata, a youthful work with a very clear statement, a time when every artist takes advantage of outside influences (it is not that we see Brahms there, it is simply that the young Karol knows very well the music of the last years of the century). We could add two works of great encouragement of similar ambition, the adaptation of the Paganini Caprices or the two movements of Nocturno and Tarantella. Several works included in this program are outside the numbered catalog of the great Polish composer. Two excellent Portuguese soloists, the violinist Bruno Monteiro and the pianist João Paulo Santos give a beautiful recital of sensual music, only sometimes dramatic, from the scores to full achievements like that of Myths op. 30. Virtuosity, but above all understanding the sequences of phrases and even cells that motivate suggestions, rather than affirmations. Some readings at times "French", sometimes classicist, always with measured, elegant, but undeniable intensities not only when (say) agitation is imposed, but at the end of the program itself, that Neapolitan Tarantella of more or less 1915, brilliant couple of the Nocturno, who evokes Spanish stylizations in the style of Albéniz and other contemporaries around here. In short, a double CD of high level in works and interpreters, at one of those incredible prices of the seal Brilliant."
| James Palmer
*****

"Here is an extremely valuable and most welcome set of records, bringing together on two CDs the complete music for violin and piano by the greatest Polish composer since Chopin. Those who know his two magnificent Violin Concertos will need no second bidding to listen to and hopefully acquire this beautifully performed and excellently recorded set, for such works as the D minor Sonata and the Mythes are well worth anyone's attention, and the shorter pieces, which embrace several quite well-known works more often encountered as encores, are equally deserving of the intelligent music-lover's attention. Bruno Monitero is a gifted violinist, of that one can have no doubt, and he is admirably partnered by João Paulo Santos, the result being an eminently recommendable issue which in our opinion has no equal. A very strongly recommended issue."
| Roy Westbrook
"All these pieces are given very good performances by the excellent duo of Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro, and pianist João Paulo Santos. They enjoy the exotic colours and indulge the luscious harmonies in both the three Mythes and the Sonata. (…) the skills of Monteiro are well attuned to the needs of the idiom. He always sounds engaged and passionately committed, with plenty of colour and spirit in his playing."
| Pedro Boléo
"This recording has the virtue of recall and renew this complicity between two musicians in a current partnership between two Portuguese artists who do not give up and disseminate good music. (...) The challenge is great in all three "paraphrases" of the Paganini Caprices, which required Bruno Monteiro a difficult virtuosity to revisit. (...) The best of this issue is on the second CD in Mythes op.30, a work of a hundred years ago (1915) when demand aesthetic Szymanowski and Kochansky, takes us on very curious paths and the difficulty is not only playing all the notes- is to understand and build a coherent discourse. The violin and piano dynamic and invent new sounds with the violin drawing melodies ranging up to very high notes, and the piano in surprising harmonic transitions that already correspond to a different conception of his early works."
| Julian Haylock
****

“Portuguese virtuosos Monteiro and Santos, captured in opulent sound, hurl themselves into the virtuoso fray where appropriate, steering the music’s sometimes meandering course with a firm rudder."
| Robert Matthew-Walker
*****

“I am surprised that no-one has ever thought of this before - the fully complete, music for violin and piano by this great Polish master. Apart from the masterly large-scale Sonata and other shorter well-known pieces, this collection includes all of the known transcriptions either made or sanctioned by the composer, whose association with the great Paul Kochanski produced this splendid set of works. The performances are uniformly excellent, as is the recording. Here is a very highly desirable and recommended issue, one of the most significant to have been released in recent years with regard towards a completion of this wonderful composer's music being made available on compact disc. It is, therefore, strongly recommended."
| Brian Wigman
“Every release from Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos confirms them as a tremendously adventurous and musical partnership. Now that they can be found on labels like Naxos and Brilliant Classics, I hope the two will gain more exposure. While they have focused on a mix of neglected Romantic repertoire and Portuguese masterpieces in previous projects, I believe this release to be their most important yet (…) Bruno Monteiro has just the right tone for this music, as he vividly paints these mythological stories for us. (…) Here at least is a project of real importance and wide musical appeal."
| João Santos
A generous Szymanowski

"This generous set of Szymanowski´s complete music for violin and piano by Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos, is of remarkable fidelity, accurately identifying the distinctive phases of the romanticism, symbolism and nationalism, keeping the linearity when the music demands, succumbing to the spell of color when she so requires, making the allegorical sounds as nothing more than naivety seems possible. At the same time, it let´s the artists being tempted by the transcendence, dodging context, denying ideology and it´s launching sensuality. It is in these moments that arises here a definitive Szymanowski."
| Michael Loos
"Bruno Monteiro (Violin) and João Paulo Santos (Piano) really play as an ensemble, and face the highly technical obstacles on both instruments - and in the case of Szymanowski, it cannot be said that the pianist simply accompanies the violinist. Especially in the provocative second movement 'Scherzando', the coordination is exceptional. The composer presents a very different sound (and a more convincing one) in Myths op. 30; and here Szymanowski dares to take big steps towards modernity. Ramifications of enigmatic sounds on the two instruments, great lack of themes and different reasons cause a strange and magical atmosphere, which is picked up by the two artists excellently. In the Nocturne and Tarantella op. 28, a work technically and musically very demanding, the performers are fully up to the demands. Although Szymanowski is a much played composer (mostly his piano and orchestral works), his chamber music pieces still lead a shadowy existence. This may be understandable because the quality of the pieces swings, but are worthy to be heard – and with such excellent interpretation as this one by Monteiro and Santos - no doubt."
| Maria Nockin
“Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos perform with magnificent virtuosity as they show us the many facets of this interesting composer. The sound on this Brilliant Classics recording is crisp and gives each artist equal stature."
| Jerry Dubins
"This new Monteiro/Santos set is the only one, in my knowledge of Szymanowski recordings, to offer both the composer’s six original works and Kochanski’s five contributions. “Ecstatic raptures,” whether quasi-oriental or otherwise, is a good description of these radiant and inspiring performances by Bruno Monteiro and João Santos. For comparison I have only the Ibragimova/Tiberghien Hyperion CD, which does not contain the Kochanski extras. I’d have thought, though, that the Russian-born Ibragimova would have a closer connection to the Russian-born (now Ukraine) Polish Szymanowski than would the Portuguese Bruno Monteiro, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Technically, the two violinists are a match for each other, but in getting at the essence of Szymanowski’s elusive music, Monteiro has the definite edge. The nuanced phrasing and tonal refinement he brings to these pieces in sympathetic partnership with João Santos illuminate the music from within in a way that, for this listener, has made a deep and lasting impression. Very strongly recommended."
| Huntley Dent
“Monteiro and Santos are ideal guides through Szymanowski’s elusive world; they capture the perfume and shadows in his music quite evocatively. Brilliant’s sound is detailed and atmospheric. This is the musical equivalent of hunting for rare orchids in misty rain forests. If that image holds any appeal for you, so will Szymanowski’s violin music."
| Maria Augusta Gonçalves
“Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos are at ease in the repertoire. They have performed it live coutless times, have years of ensemble work, in different universes and they share the same vision on Szymanowski´s music – it´s richness, demand and history. With them, the composer´s work prevails. Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos enter now in the exclusive group of the great interperters of his music."
| Stephen Smoliar
“Monteiro’s playing on this new recording is particularly effective in escalating the mood of Opus 30 (Myths) beyond the plane of mere mortals. Highly absorbing CD, making a strong case that this music deserves more attention when violinists are planning their recital programs."
| Rui Branco
"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."
| Brian Wigman
"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."
| Maria Augusta Gonçalves
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."
| 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."

| João Santos
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."

| Phillip Scott,
"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."
| Maria Nockin
"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."
| Lynn René Bayley
"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."
| Greg Cahill
"... 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."
| Bernardo Mariano
"... 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."
| Jean-Yves Duperron
"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!"
| Byzantion
"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."
| Bryce Morrison
´"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."
| Julian Haylock
****

“Portuguese virtuosos Monteiro and Santos, captured in opulent sound, hurl themselves into the virtuoso fray where appropriate, steering the music’s sometimes meandering course with a firm rudder."
| John Puccio
"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."
| Zita Ferreira Braga
The power Lopes-Graça´s music at São Luíz

“Bruno Monteiro on the violin and João Paulo Santos on the piano interpreted excellently works by Lopes-Graça in a concert that took place this evening of January 5th 2013, at the Teatro Municipal de São Luiz.
Playing Lopes-Graça is not easy, and it requires virtuosity in each musical phrase, understanding and perception of what the composer wanted to convey.
The pieces interpreted in this concert were short, exclusively composed for violin and piano, with the exception of two solo pieces for violin.
Bruno Monteiro, a violinist who has played in various venues and festivals in countries such as Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands and the United States, lived up to the praise and positive references that he presented, showing great sensitivity and assurance in pieces such as the extremely difficult "Prelúdio e Fuga for Solo Violin LG 137".
João Paulo Santos accompanied him brilliantly; particularly on the piece that ended the concert, "Prelúdio, Capricho e Galope Violin and Piano LG 98", their performance was so vibrant that reminded us of how revolutionary Fernando Lopes-Graça´s music is.
We regret that Portuguese composers like Lopes-Graça, Joly Braga Santos and others are so seldom programmed at concerts that would make known to the public works and musical creations that are as good as the composers of other nationalities."
| Brian Wigman
"There is some absolutely lovely music making to be cherished here. Saint-Saëns and Strauss probably look like odd bedfellows even on disc, but the program is a convincing argument that the pairing works. These well respected Portuguese artists play with flair and commitment, and I found myself excited by the music in a way that chamber music – which came late to me as an interest – rarely inspires in me.
The notes credit Saint-Saëns with bringing chamber music back into the French musical scene, and if that's so, we have much to be thankful for. This absolutely delicious sonata in D Minor has all the fabled refinement of that French master, in such an intimate setting that you have to wonder why these works fail to be better known. A guitarist friend of mine called D minor "the saddest key in all of music", and while I'd usually agree with that assessment, Saint-Saëns goes in a different direction. It's wistful music, to be sure, but with a smile. The first movement simply beguiles; I dare you not to like this. The jaunty dance of a second movement allows Santos and Monteiro to show off, and the word here is "fun". It reminds me of the Carnival of the Animals, which again makes its underexposure all the more baffling. The final movement is very, very French – here a good thing, to be sure – and entirely charms. Like most of Saint-Saëns, it doesn't take a ton of musical risks, but taken as a whole it's a piece entirely worth knowing and loving.
Richard Strauss is certainly a composer who did take risks, although his early and late works both mellow considerably. The two-movement sonata here is a very early work, and one of his last chamber works before shocking the world with his operas and tone poems. It too is delightful, with a longing and sweet first movement that could even be mistaken for Brahms in some places. I'm less convinced by the second movement, which simply lacks enough contrast from the first movement (and contrast within the movement itself). If I'm less enthusiastic about it as a whole than the Saint-Saëns, that stems from the fact that it just isn't truly great music. Santos and Monteiro clearly believe in the piece, and the sonata is preferable to the same composer's somewhat lacking violin concerto, but as a whole the piece isn't a top choice for a violin sonata.
Santos and Monteiro are both outstanding artists. (…) Still, for the Saint-Saëns alone, this disc is a keeper."
| Lynn René Bayley
"Here young Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro presents us with an interesting pairing of late-Romantic French and German sonatas played with his by-now-familiar combination of sweet and sour tone. There is never any question with Monteiro as to his complete musical absorption of the material or the passion and sweep of his performances, only the occasionally edgy timbre, but by and large his sound is sweeter here than in some of his other releases.
I’ve come to accept that Monteiro is our modern-day Bronislaw Huberman, thus it might be instructive to explain some of the similarities and differences. Like Huberman, Monteiro plays everything with a smoldering intensity and employs portamento— less than Huberman, whose style seemed to be built around this device, but more than most modern violinists use (note, particularly, the opening movement of the Strauss sonata). Monteiro, like Huberman, also has an unusually dark, almost viola-like lower register that I find immensely appealing. Huberman played a great deal with straight tone, only using vibrato for sustained notes, much like violinists of the 18th and early 19th centuries, whereas Monteiro uses a rather lush vibrato throughout. Possibly because of this, Monteiro lacks something I’m actually happy about, which is Huberman’s penchant for occasionally scratchy sound (more prevalent on his 1940s broadcasts than his earlier studio recordings). Monteiro also lacks Huberman’s astonishing runs, pizzicato and spiccato technique (one critic admiringly described Huberman’s spiccato as “almost vicious”) as well as a remarkable stylistic similarity to Gypsy violinists. But of course everyone is different, and if Monteiro sounded exactly like Huberman one would be prone to label him a copycat and not an original, which he most certainly is. Moreover, Monteiro’s lack of a Gypsy-like bowing technique is not a detriment, as I always felt this was the reason for Huberman’s occasional scratches on the strings. Both violinists approach a piece with a sense of not only drama but as a momentous occasion, but Monteiro is more continent in his consistently flowing sound (like a never-ending stream from first note to last) whereas Huberman could break the line to emphasize the drama more strongly.
Between the two sonatas, I felt Monteiro was even stronger in the Strauss than the Saint-Saëns, bringing out tremendous drama and “building” the music up to and away from emotional peaks. In this respect, Monteiro reminded me of another past violinist, Toscha Seidel, Heifetz’s fellow-pupil in Leopold Auer’s class who was, in fact, Auer’s first choice to send to America (he then changed his mind and sent Heifetz). Seidel also possessed a dark, viola-like tone, in fact even darker than either Huberman or Monteiro, but as I listened to the latter play the Strauss I was reminded of the descriptions of how Seidel played. He would pace up and down the stage like a panther, head cocked slightly down as if listening intently to himself, so wrapped up in his violin that the audience did not exist. I don’t know if Monteiro’s stage demeanor is like this, but particularly in the Strauss sonata, that was my impression.
In my zeal to laud Monteiro I should not overlook the excellent playing of pianist Santos, though to be honest he functions here primarily as a bolster to the violinist, occasionally coming forward as a participant in the ongoing musical drama (particularly in the second movement of the Strauss, where he is in fact quite wonderful), but that is the nature of today’s world of accompanists, not to be too strong a player. The sound quality of this disc is also remarkably natural, capturing the full sound of both instruments with stunning fidelity."
| Maria Nockin
"Portuguese artists Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos are becoming well known for their passionate interpretations of music for violin and piano. On this CD they play Camille Saint-Saens Sonata No. 1 in D Minor, Op 75, and Richard Strauss Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 18. Saint- Saëns wrote his first violin sonata in 1885, when he was enjoying the fullness of his creative life. His next works were The Carnival of the Animals and his third symphony. He dedicated the sonata to Franz Liszt and we can hear some allusions to Liszt’s sonorities in it. Monteiro and Santos play the two movements with conviction and panache and they make the music seem much simpler than it really is. Communication between them is always instantaneous, but that is probably because they often work together. They occupy equal sound placement on the disc, too, which is important to the realization of this music. They play the tricky rhythms of the first part of the second movement with consummate style. You want to look for tiny magical creatures dancing on the ceiling when you listen to it. Then comes the more difficult section, but it does not bother these musicians in the least. They never slow down and they toss it off as gingerly as a simple etude. Santos has wonderful articulation and manages to keep each note separate no matter how fast he plays. Monteiro has burnished golden tones and he imparts a great deal of emotional warmth in his playing.
Midori and Robert McDonald played this piece on their French Violin Sonatas album for Sony in 2002. They also give a fine performance, but the piano is a bit too far forward for my taste. Gil Shaham and Gerhard Oppitz recorded it in fantastic style and with consummate grace in 1991, but the sound is a bit out of date. the real competition is Joshua Bell and Jeremy Denk’s 2012 rendition on Sony Masterworks. It really does capture the elusive charm of Saint-Saens music. Richard Strauss wrote his sonatas in 1887 and 1888 when he was falling in love with the soprano who would eventually become his wife, Pauline de Ahna. He had just written incidental music for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and would soon write the unforgettable art song, Breit über mein Kopf. This sonata has three movements and begins in a somber mood, which gradually lightens to the point of jubilation at the finale. Monteiro’s violin has a lush sound, particularly in the lower strings. He and Santos always convey the charms of romantic music like this and they almost outdo each other in emotional expression. On an EMI disc released in 2000, Sarah Chang and Wolfgang Sawallisch take a conservative approach to Strauss’s music and lose the opportunity to excite the listener. Vadim Repin and Boris Beresovsky do not fare much better with their 2001 rendition on Elektra because they seem to lose much of Strauss’s charm and romance. One must congratulate Monteiro and Santos for having the courage to compete with other fine artists in recording this beautiful music. We do need several renditions of it in order to appreciate different interpretations of these pieces."
| Ivan March
Portuguese violinist Monteiro echoes Little´s recente CD

"This new coupling by Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos of Strauss´s Violin Sonata with the D minor work by Saint-Saëns makes a fascinating comparison with the Tasmin Little/Piers Lane coupling of the Strauss with Respighi, so diferente in its forward impluse: Little and Lane play the Strauss Sonata in a comparatively restrained way, yet still full of Romantic emotional feeling in the early movements, followed by and agitato finale. Their warmly affectionate lyrical style, full of a natural spontaneity, recalls Strauss´s own recitals with his wife, Pauline. This yearning delicacy of impetus, with its moments of sheer passion and virtuosity, is quite diferente from Monteiro´s approach, so full of verve and boldness, echoed by his pianist, and tending to sweep listeners off their feet. A similar difference is felt in the playing of the couplings, just as diverse in character.
Saint- Saëns ´s First Violin Sonata was a complete surprise to me – as played here, quite unlike the Piano Concertos. In his day, Saint- Saëns was regarded as France´s greatest composer; and in listening to this two- movement sonata,with its powerful, thrustful outer sections, one can understand way, and can appreciate why the composer´s compatriots were bowled over by such compulsive writing.
Again, the difference in Little´s alternative coupling of Respighi´s rhapsodic Violin Sonata and the charmingly lightweight Six Pieces is striking, especially when they are so beautifully played, with fine support form Lane. So choise between this two discs is difficult to make: they both have many of their own virtues."
| Greg Cahill
"The pair of iconic Romantic-era works featured on this disc are like ships passing in the night: Camille Saint-Saens’ Sonata No. 1 for violin and piano in D minor, Op. 75, was written in 1885 at the French composer’s creative peak; while Richard Strauss’ Sonata for violin and piano in E-flat major, Op. 18, composed between 1887 and 1888, is one of the German composer’s earliest, youthful pieces. In the hands of the talented Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro, accompanied by the equally gifted pianist Joao Paulo Santos, they receive an emotionally sensitive, richly balanced, and lyrically reading that captures all the elegance, storminess, wistfulness, and power found in these broadly painted chamber works. Monteiro brings a warm, beautiful, singing tone to these recordings and casts a radiant glow over complex emotions expressed in these works."
| Maria Augusta Gonçalves
"The two works (Saint-Saëns/Strauss) witness the complicity of the two musicians – who have been working together for over a decade -, their taste for the romantic repertoire, how brilliantly and passionately they approach them. The recording dates from 2007 – nearly six years ago -, but it is absolutely untainted. Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos, who interpreted the works in public, wisely balance reason and emotion, between the colours and the subtlety of the details, which define the Saint- Saëns environment and the grand and eloquent gestures of Strauss.
After César Franck and Gabriel Fauré, Ernest Chausson and Eugene Ysaÿe, chosen for the previous recordings, Saint- Saëns represents, in a way, the French composer who was missing (on a record), in order to place Monteiro among the artists who best knows the repertoire, together with the piano of João Paulo Santos. At the same time, the choice for Richard Strauss after Robert and Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms, confirms the emotional strength, the brilliance and the clarity with which both face the German repertoire."
| Rui Branco
"Particularly productive recording duo, which releases now two Sonatas by Camille Saint-Saëns and Richard Strauss respectively, paradigmatic works of the romantic period. Again, the highlight here is the virtuosity of violinist Bruno Monteiro, complemented by João Paulo Santos fine playing. For a cared hearing, and preferably, repeated."
| James Palmer
*****

"Both works here are wonderfully well performed, and finely recorded with a natural balance that is impressive". (Saint-Saens/Strauss Violin Sonatas)."

| Edward Bhesania
"Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro completed is studies in the US and this is his seventh recital disc, following releases of Grieg, Franck, Fauré, Respighi, Prokofieff and others. The pairing on this release is interesting not only for its stylistic contrast but also in that Saint-Saëns came to the violin sonata age 50, while Strauss ebullient work dates from his twenties. Technically all is present and correct. (…) Monteiro responds better to the full blooded Romanticism of Strauss´s Sonata, and it´s more fluid form helps in to trace the contours of the work. He is clearly excited by what must be one of the most gratifying of all violin melodies, in the second movement. Monteiro is in suitable ardent, heroic mode in the finale, but there is strong competition – not least from Sarah Chang and Tasmin Little – even in this relatively rarely heard work."
| Byzantion
"Monteiro consistently strikes an almost ideal balance between the expressive and the intellectual, especially in Saint-Saëns' masterpiece. His tone is warm but never saccharine against the cool neutrals of Paulo Santos's pianism, and as a team they offer, for anyone who has forgotten quite how brilliant the D minor Sonata is, an insistent reminder. The two of them have already demonstrated an affinity for French music in their recording for Centaur of Chausson's Poème and his Concerto in D, the latter performed with the Lopes-Graça Quartet (CRC 3120). On the other hand, their Schumann disc released last year, also on Centaur, showed that they also have the emotional wherewithal to tackle the Germanic repertoire; and so it proves in Strauss's Sonata, all but his last word in chamber music, and a deceptively demanding work - technically and psychologically - that gives Monteiro and Paulo Santos a chance to dazzle. Sound quality is good, the church ambience spacious and pleasantly humid."
| Greg Cahill
"Expressive, interpretative playing, beautiful tone, and a textbook ensemble mark this stunning recording of Ernest Chausson´s sometimes elegant and often dramatic Concerto for violin, piano and string quartet, as well as the monumental Poème for violin and orchestra, arranged here quite effectively for violin and piano. Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro delivers an emotional but tightly managed performance, over and again rising to the Chausson´s many challenges throughout these to great works – just listen to the way he handles the lengthy high-register passages at the close of the concerto´s first movement, "Decidé – Animé". This is a young chamber musician of extraordinary sensitivity. In terms of technique, Monteiro learned his lessons well while studying at the Manhattan School of Music in New York, where he was taught by Shmuel Ashkenasi, Patinka Kopec, Isidore Cohen, and members of the American String Quartet. As an artist, he shows himself to be deserving of a much larger slice of the limelight on the world stage."
| Brian Wigman
"Bruno Monteiro and Joao Paulo Santos triumph again with this exceptional album of French music. Both of these exceptionally lovely works was dedicated to the great Eugene Ysaÿe, and fittingly they are both deeply challenging and refined. As with their previous albums, Monteiro and Santos prove to be terrific partners. Like their disc of the Schumann works, this release has already gotten enthusiastic praise. It's not hard to fathom why, either; both artists choose repertoire that they feel strongly about and commit only their best thoughts to disc. It's quite refreshing in an era where anybody will record anything – sometimes a second or third time – and get to hear such excellent music making.
A concerto for these forces is unusual to say the least, and yet Chausson balances everything effortlessly; you wouldn't want the work any other way. The Quarteto Lopes-Graça is impressive, but Santos and Monteiro tower over them. Monteiro plays handsomely, with total confidence and conviction. As I’ve previously mentioned, he has a unique sound, but so well does it fit the French music he plays that it seems trivial to question it. And again, Santos proves a miraculously sensitive artist. Perhaps the quartet blends less well than they should, but the piece itself is captivating and overall entirely satisfying.
The coupling is excellent, and comes in the form of the evergreen Poeme Op. 25. Arranged here for piano and violin, it sounds fresh and entirely natural. Monteiro thrills with a warm sound full with vibrato, and Santos follows him like a shadow. It's so convincing that you wonder why you don't hear the work this way more often. If you don't like French music, chamber music, or the violin, you won't hear anything to make you change your mind. However, provided you like any of those things, this CD should provide many hours of enjoyment. Excellent!"
| Remy Franck
"Here is a passionate and highly expressive version of the Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Quartet by Ernest Chausson, that does full justice to both the lyricism and dramatic power of the composition. In the "Poème", Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro shows a very warm and fluid sound that differentiates the different contrasting sections of the work."
| David Denton
"This new release describes the work as a "concerto", and with the violin and piano placed well to the fore, it highlights the exanting technical demands in a finale where fingers fly around the violin fingerboard from the distinguished Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro. Up to that point it is a highly convincing account, beautifully played, with the gentle and unaffected Sicilienne preceding a slow Grave of quiet dignity. (…) But this Centaur disc is recommended for the rhapsodic account of the Poème, where Monteiro´s generous vibrato produces radiant colours to complement the generous backdrop from pianist João Paulo Santos."
| Caroline Gill
"An impressive line-up of some of Portugal´s best known chamber musicians, and the playing on this disc is inventing and lyrical in a way that shows that they are warmly engaged in their performance. (…) The solo violin tone is, in fact, sweet and beautiful."
| Maria Nockin
"Tracks one through four are devoted to the concerto (Chausson). Bruno Monteiro, João Paulo Santos and the Lopes-Graça Quartet begin with broad strokes that soon soften to an intimate lyricism that they paint with stunning tonal colours. There are several comparable recordings for this piece. Joshua Bell, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and the Takacs String Quartet can be heard on an excellent Polygram recording from 1991. Itzhak Perlman, Jorge Bolet, and the Juilliard String Quartet recorded the work for Sony in 1984. Both of these discs have amazing playing but suffer from out-dated sound quality. Thus, the 2012 Centaur disc holds its own very well. (…) With regard to the Poème, Monteiro's violin trills are like sunlight on a rippling river. The most serious competition for this recording is with Julia Fischer's 2011 recording for Decca. Monteiro's approach is dramatic. Fischer's is lyrical. The sound is excellent on both discs, but I do think that Monteiro's personal interpretation tells a musical tale of striving for an ideal that he eventually achieves with the radiance of his playing."
| Mark Pullinger
"The performance is a pleasant one, the playing uninhibited from these Portuguese artists. They capture the passionate sweep and intensity of the Concert, especially its outer movements, while the Sicilienne second movement has charm."
| Bárbara Cordón Hernández
"The Portuguese group led by the violinist Bruno Monteiro approaches the works with the necessary concentration and a less than ordinary intensity which finds its maximum expression in the sort of funeral parade which is the Grave."
| Maria Augusta Gonçalves
"All is played among the dialogue of the instruments, a dialogue which gains its owns will and which Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos seem to dominate as few can, after the years they have worked together. Bruno Monteiro, always clear, precise and pungent, much as the repertoire so demands, has correspondence in the mastery of João Paulo Santos. The interpretation of both of them and the choice of the two least recurrent works of Chausson sustains the importance of this CD, dedicated to the French composer."
| Byzantion
"Some of Portugal's leading chamber musicians team up for this recital of two of Ernest Chausson's most famous works. (…) For the Concerto there is stiff competition, none more so than a crème-de-la-crème line-up of Joshua Bell, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the Takács Quartet released by Decca half a dozen years ago (E4756709) as part of the Joshua Bell Edition. Within the last six months a new Naxos release (Meadowmount Trio/Wihan String Quartet) is not quite as strong as the present one. (…) Performances here are strong enough to warrant consideration. (…) Monteiro flourishes with the added support of the Lopes-Graça Quartet in the Concerto, which is surely one of the biggest and best sextets in the Romantic repertoire: lyrical, intense, dreamy, inventive, reminiscent in spirit of Franck's earlier Piano Quintet, and in the right hands, soaring to the same ecstatic heights. Certainly the performers here seem convinced of its potentialities, expressively twisting and turning as page after page of Chausson’s marvellous score takes flight, like beautiful butterflies on a summer zephyr. Sound quality too, from a technical point of view, is very good."
| Jerry Dubins
"Monteiro plays with a seductively voluptuous tone that exudes Chausson’s fragrant (Poème), if somewhat dangerous, perfume with the unforced naturalness of a breath inhaled and exhaled. His is a performance filled with both touching vulnerability and barely suppressed rage. (…) After the Poème with some 75 recordings, the Concert shares a close contest for second place with the Poème de l’amour et de la mer, each having roughly 25 recordings, give or take. My trusted go-to among the versions I have has been around since 1983, but it features Itzhak Perlman, Jorge Bolet, and the Juilliard String Quartet, all in their prime, on a Sony CD that is now available at budget price. Overall, Perlman and company are a bit slower than Monteiro, Santos, and the Lopes-Graça Quartet, but tempos aside, I much prefer the newcomers for their lighter, more idiomatically French performance of the score and for the much better, up-to-date sound of the Centaur recording. This is definitely a disc I will be keeping, and not just for the novelty of the piano version of the Poème which, with further exposure is bound to grow on me, but also for the exceptionally fine playing of these outstanding Portuguese musicians. Very strongly recommended."
| Brian Wigman
"Portugal doesn't get much credit for seemingly any of his accomplishments, but they are substantial, particularly in art. These absolutely lovely violin sonatas from two composers who worked in the 20th century not only rectify this oversight, they add unquestionably to an already rich violin repertoire. Monteiro and Santos have had my attention for quite some time now, this 2010 release is simply another success in a line of great releases. I've admired their artistry, but it really is a treat to hear them in music that is so clearly close to them.
Bruno Monteiro makes both sonatas sing. The Da Silva sonata is a new to disc, and deserves to be recorded about 20 more times. It's a wonderfully crafted work, full of lush tunes and some passionate emotion. It's quite old fashioned, in the sense that it could easily be an earlier work, and so the score isn't earth-shattering or revolutionary. But for a composer born in 1870, it makes sense. The melodies, especially in the Andante, are divine, full of life and color. Monteiro contributes his usual depth of feeling with an added jolt of energy. If anything, his unique timbres suit this music especially well. Your eyebrows might raise at his tone, but there's no denying that it's exactly the sound the man wants. He's aided as usual by Santos, a great artist in his own right, and a big reason why all of these discs have been so worthwhile.
The sonata by Fernandes (1906-1983) is completely different in mood and style. It's still very beautiful, but also more blatantly modern. Monteiro and Santos seemingly relish the challenge, balancing the work's loveliness with its more emotionally ambiguous nature. After the Silva, the Fernandes might seem a bit shocking. Monteiro is the voice that pushes the sonata forward, but Santos provides a rock-solid backdrop on which to paint the work. The highlight for me is undoubtedly the mysterious and effortlessly spun third movement, in which these two artists almost lovingly duet. It's well worth having for this alone. A fine achievement, one that will introduce you to music you didn't even know existed.”
| Cristina Fernandes
"Bruno Monteiro´s approach is poignant and clean cut. (…) The usual rhetorical fluency of the violinist manifests itself especially in the passionate "Allegro molto" final. The Sonata by Armando José Fernandes reveals a more consistent and balanced conception and in the contrasting musical moods. It is also in this work that the duo formed by Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos shows their best, both in technical precision and rhythmic coordination, as well as in the expressive palette, confirming therefore their solid career of these past years."
| Rui Branco
"Interpretative excellency"
| Maria Augusta Gonçalves
"The reward is immediate with the first contact with the works of Óscar da Silva and Armando José Fernandes. (…) Two precious jewels rarely heard, two of the most fascinating works for violin and piano of the Portuguese music of the last one hundred years (…) virtuosity and the «right doses» of the interpreters, what is rigorously and amazingly achieved. (…) The two musicians have more than given proofs, in their own careers, also have a common journey with several years already, with a rare repertoire, shared and tested in the truth of the concert halls. The expressions of Óscar da Silva and Armando José Fernandes, being so distinct writings among themselves, but also so elaborated and meticulous, demand that truth. With Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos could not be any other way."
| Brian Wigman
"Robert Schumann gets a lot of flack for his symphonic works, which are somewhat foursquare in conception. Then he doesn't get credit from many for his chamber music. Go figure. Clara usually gets passed over entirely for her husband, and ends up in the shadow of Brahms, too. Maybe the Schumann family is just unlucky then, but the music is simply wonderful stuff. As I stated last month, Joao Paulo Santos and Bruno Monteiro are a terrific duo, who clearly believe in whatever they play. This disc has already gotten a good deal of media attention, and rightfully so, but my two cents are below.
Monteiro has a unique sound, and it takes some getting used to. Once you've done that, bask in his unfailing artistry and musical sincerity. The two Schumann sonatas simply soar; Centaur's recording putting you in a concert hall seat. To my ears, the first sonata reminds me a good deal of Brahms, and it's none the worse for that. Even if you disagree, it's so delightfully soulful and Romantic that you have to appreciate just how masterful this is. Perhaps it doesn't have the tunes that Brahms' work for this pairing does, but what it possesses is great regardless. Santos is simply wonderful; I loved him in the Saint-Saens/Strauss disc I reviewed, and in a more favorable acoustic I'm able to appreciate just how fine an artist he is. But this is still Bruno Monteiro's show, and he glows. The darkly dramatic third movement shows him at his virtuosic best.
The second sonata is both more substantial and more challenging. It fazes these players not a whit, their abilities shine in this work, too. Lasting over a half hour, this piece oozes Romanticism in an absolutely spine-tingling manner. I'd like to highlight the third movement, which is simply gorgeous. Again, the violinists' unique tone may raise some brows, but so serious is his purpose and so heartfelt are the melodies that there's little else to quibble about. The finale brings the work to a stormy and whirlwind close. It's intensely satisfying.
Instead of the composer's third sonata, Santos and Monteiro opt instead for three heart-wrenching Romances by his wife Clara that prove an apt coupling. They are what they are, melancholy and bittersweet miniatures that show Clara's extraordinary gifts for composing, gifts she would abandon at Robert's death. Again, praise goes to Bruno Monteiro and João Pablo Santos for their complete belief in the music and their willingness to put it before us. This is really very, very fine. A winner of a disc."
| Lynn René Bayley
"Here is a disc with multiple and often big-named competition, particularly in the first two works, although surprisingly enough, most of the heavily recommended versions are by lesser-known names (Nicolas Chumachenco on MDG 3041647, Thomas Zehetmair on Teldec 81031, and Ingolf Turban on Telos 98). In the Clara Schumann Romances, his principal competition seems to be Aaron Rosand (Musical Concepts 129) and Soojin Han (Profil 10071). I give the disc thumbs up for Monteiro’s sensitive and highly musical phrasing, as well as the outstanding playing of pianist Santos. He is clearly a descendant, either consciously or unconsciously, of the Arnold Rosé school of violin playing, meaning that he produces a strong but astringent, almost wiry tone that probably sounds great if he were concertmaster of an orchestra but can be grating in a sonata setting. (To be fair, I hear much the same tone from the far more famous Gidon Kremer.). (…) Monteiro’s smouldering, passionate playing wins one over as these works progress. (…) I found myself enjoying him immensely. I can recommend this as an arresting interpretation."
| Maria Nockin
"Bruno Monteiro is a young Portuguese violinist who is beginning to make an important career. Here, he plays with pianist João Paulo Santos, the Director of Musical Theatre Studies at the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos. Together the intensity of their playing makes the Schumanns’ romantic passion come alive. Monteiro has wonderfully poetic and dramatic tones while Santos gives us pianistic energy. The Robert Schumann sonatas are extremely demanding and there are times when dramatic propulsion overtakes precision, but the outcome is well worth it. This is no-holds-barred playing that commands the listener’s attention and holds it fast for the duration of each sonata. When the composer calls for passionate expression, Monteiro and Santos give us exactly that and when Schumann asks for a light touch, they make the music skip along like a child at play. Gidon Kremer and Martha Argerich also offer a strong rendition of the first two Robert Schumann sonatas on Deutsche Grammophon, but they recorded their disc in 1985 and the sound is a little less than today’s state of the art. More than a decade ago Silke Avenhaus and Isabelle Faust recorded all three of the Schumann sonatas for a CPO records release and their renditions are also good, but they do not have the intensity or passion of the Monteiro and Santos Centaur recording. The ambience is that of a concert hall and the sound is clear and present."
| Jerry Dubins
"The last recording of Schumann’s violin sonatas I received for review featured the up-and-coming, Chicago-born, Korean violinist Jennifer Koh and her excellent pianist partner Reiko Uchida. That was back in the 2007, 30:6 issue of the magazine. Of Koh’s playing I said at the time that it was of a transfiguring refinement and beauty that somehow manages to blend a sense of angelic chastity with a sense of profound human knowingness, and I compared her to Menuhin in his good years. That’s a tough act to follow, but Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro achieves a different but equally alluring beauty all his own in the two with-opus-number sonatas. His tone, not as virginal sounding as Koh’s, has a vibrant, throbbing quality to it that swathes Schumann’s effusive outpouring of almost nonstop melody in a mellow glow. If it’s brightness and a sense of innocence that suffuse Koh’s readings, Monteiro’s are more mature, filled with feelings of past happiness lost and portents of darkness to come. Where the two versions overlap, they complement each other nicely and, were it only for the two sonatas I’d have a hard time choosing one over the other. (…) The three Romances are lovingly and longingly played here by Monteiro and Santos. A thoroughly engaging release recommended without reservation."
| Byzantion
“(…) Schumann's mental health was in serious decline in the final year or two of his life, but in the two Sonatas of this attractive recital by Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro and his stalwart pianist João Paulo Santos there is little sign of anything but vitality and an imagination that is looking unequivocally to the future. Minor key tonalities do not always mean doom and gloom, and there is barely an unilluminated corner in either of Schumann's Sonatas. (…) There are many recordings available already of the two, frequently paired: choice picks among single-CD recordings include Marwood and Tomes on Hyperion (CDA 67180), Gringolts and Laul on Onyx (4053), Wallin and Pöntinen on BIS (SACD 1784), Widmann and Várjon on ECM New Series (4766744), Kaler and Slutsky on Naxos (8.550870). Yet this one on the American independent Centaur has plenty going for it too, not least the coupling with Clara's Romances, which is seldom encountered. Moreover, along with Carlos Damas, Bruno Monteiro is one of Portugal's leading violinists. His approach to Schumann's music may be characterised as approachably intellectual, with good attention to tempi and phrasing and very little vibrato. He is never drily academic, expressing emotional aspects effectively through an appealing smattering of rubato. Monteiro's violin has a tone that will not be to all tastes, however, being a little more on the fluorescent side than glowing. João Paulo Santos makes a highly dependable and intelligent partner. Sound quality is good overall."
| Jorge Calado
"It is comforting to hear a CD of international repertoire by Portuguese instrumentalists. (…) Bruno Monteiro, that had the support of the excellent Gerardo Ribeiro and subsequently American training, is one of today´s most renowned Portuguese musicians, highlighted by a handfull of first-rate recordings. The beauty of the sound imposes itself from the beginning of the "Sonata in a minor, Op.105" (1851). With the irreproachable collaboration of João Paulo Santos – always aware of the tempo and rhythmic changes and the piano textures -, we have a fresh interpretation, where the introspective character is not betrayed by the big lightness of the 2nd movement neither by the brilliant rhythmic articulation of the 3rd. (…) The delicious 3rd movement (with chordal pizzicatto) and the mischievous 4th (Sonata Op.121), where Schumann feels tempted to explore new rhythms and harmonies, sound to me well explored. (…) The 3 Romances, of C. Schumann, composed in 1853 and obviously stimulated by her husband´s sonatas, are small dreamlike and melancholic jewels, where piano and violin dialogue on equal terms."
| Bernardo Mariano
"In the Sonata nº1 (Schumann), we highlight the first movement (with passionate expression) and in the Second Sonata, again the first movement and the third one, as those where the technical proficiency and right expression (both hauling often the violin up to its limits) reach more elevated levels. In the Romances, I highlight nº1, by the balance and domestic fusion and salon like decorum."
| Maria Augusta Gonçalves
"This is the first CD by violinist Bruno Monteiro for the biggest independent North American recording label, Centaur. This fact alone says a lot about the career of the Portuguese musician and is also eloquent as regards to the partnership with pianist João Paulo Santos, present in three of the four CD´s published with the Monteiro´s "signature". (…) Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos do not fear the constant tension, do not avoid the confrontation with the evidence and the inevitability that each one of the works present. The piano offers one of most idiomatic readings of the last movement of the Grand Sonata, and the violin knows well the internal "voice" that Schumann attributed to him – the big example being the end of the Op. 105. The complicity between the two musicians is evident – but that is only possible by who knows what distinguishes a great interpretation. Here, the test is done, again, at all moments. The album closes with the three Romances of Clara Schumann and its dialogue is expressive and sad, between the two instruments. A possible epilogue, probably the most correct one for one of the most beautiful homages to the chamber music of the German composer that came out this year."
| Phil Muse
"Two musical artists from Portugal, Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos, bring fresh life to two engaging works from the last years of Robert Schumann’s life. (…) The finale (Sonata nº1) requires the close teamwork of both partners and keeps our artists on their toes. (…) The final movement (Sonata nº2) (…) in the hands of Monteiro and Santos, it builds steadily to a fine climax. The program also features Three Romances, Op. 22 by Clara Schumann.(…) My favourite, No. 3 in B flat minor, is radiantly beautiful in this performance."
| Maria Augusta Gonçalves
"A new CD of violinist Bruno Monteiro, now alone. The musician face to face with the Masters, the interpreter before the works and nothing else. The challenge is confirmed: "The risks are big", writes Bruno Monteiro, in the program notes that accompany the CD. There is not support or interaction with others musicians, only boldness and total delivery. As regards the repertoire, it increases the challenge itself. The program includes the 2ª Partita of Bach, seminal work for solo violin, the 2ª Sonata of Eugène Ysaÿe, Obsession, dedicated to Jacques Thibaud; the Sonata in D Major, Op. 115, by Sergei Prokofiev, and the Recitativo and Scherzo Caprice, Op. 6, by Fritz Kreisler. To begin the journey with Bach and his 2ª Partita is, so to speak, to replace "the world´s origin". Afterwards came the Op. 115 by Prokofiev, the Sonata for solo violin or for violins in unison, of 1947, example less known of the permanent contrast of ideas, characteristic of the composer. Between Prokofiev and Ysaÿe, we find Fritz Kreisler, if it wasn´t necessary to recuperate the breath. But the piece, although short, does not give rest, by the extreme virtuosity and by the dramatic tension, not always associated to the interpreter-composer. Finally, the 2ª Sonata of Ysaÿe, one of the six works that the composer and Belgian violinist resumed, 200 years after, the pioneering attitude of the master of Leipzig. The Prelude, by the way, resumes to the 3ª Partita of Bach, citing it and developing it, with a "plasticity" only possible in the 20th century. It is like everything was prolonged itself in time, from the beginning to the end of the recording. A high bet, a bet earned. Of the CD edition completely assumed (author´s edition), it is still important to congratulate the technical work of José Fortes."
| Cristina Fernandes

Público, Cristina Fernandes, December 2009

“With the exception of the Sonatas and Partitas of J. S. Bach, the recordings dedicated to the solo violin, without another instrumental support, are rare and constitute always ambitious challenges. But violinist Bruno Monteiro didn´t let himself became intimidated and heads in his fourth CD by the adventure of the absolute solo with nonchalance. The program was chosen according of his personality, allying "the virtuoso side of the instrument to the more intellectual side of composers of reference". It includes the Partita nº 2, by J. S. Bach; the Sonata op.115, by Prokofiev, and two works of virtuoso violinists that admired themselves mutually: the "Recitativo and Scherzo-Caprice" op.6, by Fritz Kreisler (work dedicated to Ysaÿe) and the Sonata nº 2, op.27 nº2, "Obsession", by Eugene Ysaÿe (written for Jacques Thibaud). This last piece is a homage to Bach, citing literally several passages of the great baroque composer, but combining them with lines of romantic language. This stylistic commitment, allied to the writing of someone that knew deeply the instrument, seems to adapt very well to the musical profile of Bruno Monteiro that highlights with eloquence the diverse expressive and aesthetic universes of the work. From the beginning of the recording, he shows a bright and beautiful sound. (…) The result that Bruno Monteiro obtains in the monumental "Ciaccona" is admirable. In this page full of difficulties, a real "tour de force" for all interpreters, he shows a big technical control, sharp musical intelligence, good sense of polifonia and of the multiple contrasts of this fascinating music. In the Sonata op.115, by Prokofiev, and in the "Recitativo and Scherzo-Caprice" op.6, by Kreisler, Bruno Monteiro reaffirms qualities such as lyricism, rhythmical vigour, technical agility and strong emotional involvement."

 
| Maria Augusta Gonçalves
"In less than a year, violinist Bruno Monteiro presents the third CD with pianist João Paulo Santos, after the duo´s debut (Debut), in the Sonatas of César Franck and Edvard Grieg, and the 20th Century Expressions, with works less known of Szymanowski, Bloch and Korngold. Now Bruno Monteiro comes back again to a more traditional repertoire, with origins in the late Romantic period and in the multiple expressions that already opened ways for the first decades of the XX century, maintained the title of the disc, In Recital, and the level of the technical demand of the previous recordings: the Scherzo for violin and piano in c minor Wo02, of Johannes Brahms, the 1st Sonata in A Major by Gabriel Fauré, the Sonata in b minor of Ottorino Respighi, and Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20 n. 1, by Pablo of Sarasate. Four composers of different origins: four illustrative works of everything that separates and approaches them. The piece of Brahms, previous to the big late works of chamber music, summarizes in some way the foundations of the German Romantic period, in a determinant turning point - the beginning of the decade of 1850 - precursory of its greatness. Conceived for the famous violinist Joseph Joachim, the Scherzo reaches an elevated level of virtuosity, as patent in the title, Frei, aber einsam, Free, but alone, imposing the "fate" of the interpreter. The Sonata of Gabriel Fauré, premiered in Paris in 1877, contains all the seduction power of the French composer, in a trend that combines the expressive urgency of the epoch and the formal innovative perspective, to a great extent resultant of the barely visionary tonal instability here explored. The Sonata in b minor, by Respighi, opens a perception of the Italian composer, beyond the most known and always cited symphonic pieces: Roman Treology. And, however, it is like if one analysed to the detail the importance of the "orchestral ensemble" in his language, by the permanent "metamorphosis" of textures, in the interaction between the violin and piano. One of the most difficult and fascinating works of the CD, so much for the violin as for the piano. Finally, Zigeunerweisen, the first of four pieces inspired in original Hungarian melodies (or gypsy, as the name indicates), of the Spanish composer and violinist Pablo of Sarasate. It is one of the most popular of the repertoire, a spectacular ending for the recital, with the violinist in the foreground, in one of the most demanding challenges. An "encore" of glory. After the challenges throughout the program, Bruno Monteiro well deserves it. João Paulo Santos also."
| Cristina Fernandes
Exuberância violinística

"Among Portuguese instrumentalists of the new generation, violinist Bruno Monteiro stands out as one of the most qualified musicians in the artistic and technical plan, which reflects itself in an intense musical activity between live concerts and in the construction of a discography that has been very well received by the public and critics alike. The program includes the "Scherzo" in c minor Wo02 of Brahms; the Sonata n. 1, op. 13, of Gabriel Fauré; the Sonata in b minor, by Ottorino Respighi; and "Zigeunerweisen" op. 20 nº1, of Pablo of Sarasate. With his Hungarian popular subjects, its dancing rhythms and strong contrasts, this last work is a typical piece of "encore", that Bruno Monteiro plays with big energy and nonchalance, but the violinist is equally well in works that demand another breath in the structural domain such as the Sonatas by Fauré and Respighi. They represent also the continuation of a coherent journey to the aesthetic level that shows the preference by works of the end of the XIX century and the beginning of the XX century with some affinities among themselves, initiated with the recording of the Sonata of César Franck in his debut recording. Brilliant sound, a musical statement always maintained with vehemence and sense of the tensions, outbursts of romance in the sections in "cantabile" and a technical domain that permits Monteiro to surpass with nonchalance the difficulties of the virtuoso writing are some characteristics of Mr. Monteiro´s style that has in the pianist João Paulo Santos the adequate support."
| Bernardo Mariano
"Third recording of Bruno Monteiro in the Numerica label, always with João Paulo Santos, this "In Recital" contains two short works of Brahms (Scherzo in c m, of 1853) and of Sarasate (Zigeunerweisen op. 20, of 1878) and two broad compositions by Fauré and Respighi, respectively, the sonatas in there A M, Op. 13 (of 1875) and b minor (of 1916-17), the all program being of elevated demand in interpretative and technical level. (...) The interpretations of the duo Monteiro/Santos are all of very good level and balanced. (...) Solid approach, thought, with rhythmic nerve and lyrical expansiveness in the right doses and at times even reaching the exuberance."
 
| Rui Branco
"In Recital is the third CD of the duo Bruno Monteiro (violin) /João Paulo Santos (piano), in a short period of time. That said, Monteiro and Santos perform works of Brahms, Fauré, Respighi and Sarasate. The result is frankly seductive: invites us to continuous hearings such is the efficacy with which they grasps us the senses. The violin of Bruno Monteiro is more and more powerful, finding in João Paulo Santos the ideal support to show off all his virtuosity."
| Brian Wigman
“Wow. This is a wonderful, important release for anyone who's tired of the same old violin stuff over and over again. It's funny; collectors complain about the lack of musical diversity on the market, but usually shy away from discs like this because they don't feature "major" artists on "major" labels. Well, Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos are major artists by any standard, having been praised on every label they've graced. They also dare to record a variety of works that are sometimes difficult to find, and other times extremely difficult to find. Frankly, I cannot stress enough how much I really enjoy their partnership; not only do they make excellent music, but there is a genuine chemistry that is very appealing.
The Szymanowski is a masterpiece of this medium. The outer movements seethe with forceful, driving movement. The inner andantino, by contrast, is as tranquil and lovely as can be. Szymanowski uses an undoubtedly modern language, but nothing turns coarse or ugly, nor does the work puzzle the listener in any way. That doesn't mean it isn't challenging; it is in the best possible way. Multiple listens confirm how well-written the work actually is, full of good tunes meshed with a solid intellectual argument. Monteiro and Santos make the work their own. While the violinist's tone has been mentioned as unique, he always serves the music with it. And Santos is his usual self, which is to say a masterful pianist working with a like-minded partner. Together, they allow the sonata to speak for itself, with excellent results.
The three-movement Bloch sonata isn't as memorable initially, but does add an important view on the composer, who is known for a select few works. I'm not convinced by the opening movement, which doesn't have the melody not tightness of form that the Szymanowski does. On the other hand, the Molto quieto is incredible. Monteiro uses his personal sound to stunning effect against Santos' rain-like accompaniment. It's haunting, and a must-hear. The work ends with a jaunty, folksy romp, and I like it. Throughout, the commitment and cogency that this pair brings to the work probably transcends the work itself. But that middle movement is something else.
The Korngold is a fun way to end a rewarding disc, and is played extremely well. As with the previous two works, Monteiro and Santos infuse the suite with a ton of character. It's here that the violinist's particular sound and style is most evident, and also most appropriate. The packaging is cool and stylish, the sound is very good indeed, and the project as a whole is as satisfying and musically rewarding as anything this pair has ever done. Excellent."
 
 
| Maria Augusta Gonçalves
"If the program of the first recording of Bruno Monteiro seemed to give the idea of a personal manifesto, in the interpretation perspective, opting for the Sonata for violin and piano of César Franck and by the third one of Edvard Grieg, two demanding, distinct and determinant works of the final romantic expression, this new CD accentuates, certainly, the challenge that the musician imposes to himself, widening the perspective to three less known composers: Karol Szymanowski, Ernest Bloch and Erich Korngold - and, through them, to the problems of an epoch. With Grieg and Franck, Bruno Monteiro risked in a fascinating world, with a repertoire wildly played; in the new recording, Monteiro recuperates contrasting and powerful testimonies of an epoch, with the confrontations and joys that marked it at all levels. It is an assertion against the forgetfulness, in which he is accompanied by João Paulo Santos. The partnership cames from the previous disk and the empathy is reinforced by the historical perpective, shared and necessarily enriched by the pianist. (...) With the Sonatas of Szymanowski and Bloch, Much I Ado About Nothing is recorded in Portugal, by the first time. Those are Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos doing it, it´s not strange. It is also an advantage."
| Pedro Boléo
"An excellent recording of two Portuguese artists that "attack" little known repertoire of three interesting and always over looked composers. As it was not enough by the fact of joining two exceptional Portuguese musicians in a collaboration of quality, this disk can help to show that the music history of the first half of the past century was not itself written with four or five names. An ensemble work, even when shines us sharp the violin of Bruno Monteiro or it comes out the piano of João Paulo Santos, nearly always an anchor, indispensable, but discrete. Hear-itself the violin of Bruno Monteiro grasping all the beauty of the lyricism (and by the middle section ironic) of the second movement of the "Sonata for violin and piano in D minor Op. 9" of Szymanowski. Or the piano of João Paulo Santos with an intense and full sound in the "Agitato" of the "Sonata n. 1" of Bloch. They are examples of good encounters with the music of these composers that challenge the traditional lineages of the "classical" music. History ignores nearly always the ramifications and the diversity of the contradictory modernisms of the 10´s and 20´s. The composer Erich Korngold is a curious case of the music history of the 20th century. He lived until 1957, and since 1934 (fleeing to the Nazism) worked in Hollywood, where he composed music for movies. The light quality of his music led some to put-him alongside the "classical" European music history. However, Korngold wrote a lot of chamber music, several operas and was always connected to new technologies, to radio, the disk, the movies, and also to the theatre. This disk includes the originally music composition for stage, for accompany "Much Ado About Nothing" ("A lot Noise by Nothing") of Shakespeare. Only afterwards he extracted from there this suite, light, suave and simple but very well written, of "classical" and tonal form. Nothing of this is found in the post-romantic and a bit worrying sonata of Bloch that finishes slow and mournful. Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos discover the correct breath and hold the constant tension of the work. It is there that the happiest moment of this CD can be found."
| Ana Rocha
"After a first CD with Sonatas of César Franck and Grieg, Bruno Monteiro (violin) teamed up in studio with João Paulo Santos (piano) to record the first sonata of Bloch, another one by Szymanowski (op.9) and Much I Ado About Nothing, a piece that Erich Korngold composed while still young. In the second recording of the Oporto-born violinist the pieces presented are not often heard in the standard repertoire. During 64 minutes, Monteiro and Santos communicate (in the sudden blasts in the work of Szymanowski, in the abstract musical substance of Bloch´s Sonata and in the highly original work of Korngold) a pulse that they explore movement by movement, always with the shared conviction that there is a real flow between the two instruments, in a conversation never petrified."
| Bernardo Mariano
"After Debut, violinist Bruno Monteiro came back choosing again the partnership of João Paulo Santos and Numerica label for his second CD. It is called 20th Century Expressions and contains three works that are among other premiere recordings in CD by a Portuguese artist: the Sonata for Violin and piano in d minor, op. 9, by Szymanowski; the Sonata for violin and piano n.1, of Bloch and the Four Pieces for violin and piano extracted from the music for theatre for the play Much Ado About Nothing by Korngold. (...) In the Szymanowski (...) undeniable intensity that flows in his reading. (...) In the Bloch, certain the zenith of this CD: in a work mentally (and physically, for sure...) exhausting, Bruno Monteiro pulls out a magnificent interpretation, always "in the thread of the knife", but receiving the reward. Finally, the Korngold, much lighter than the preceding works, has by Monteiro an irreproachable technically reading and endowed with a complete sense of character in each piece."
| Rui Branco
"Interpretative excellency"
| Maria Augusta Gonçalves
"To include, in the debut recording, the Sonata for violin and piano of César Franck and the third and last Sonata of Edvard Grieg is so much a personal challenge as a manifesto: they are two healthy key-works of the final full, intense, and romantic expression, although of diverse nature among them, both very demanding, in interpretative terms. Besides, they are not rare works in recital, even less in good recordings, being paired together or not. From the versions of Itzhak Perlman and Martha Argerich (EMI) and Pierre Amoyal and Pascal Rogé (Decca), to the ones of Augustin Dumay and Maria João Pires (DG) or of Takako Nishizaki and Jeno Jando (Naxos), no memory lacks neither possibilities of comparison. Bruno Monteiro, however, imposed the bet to himself and it can be said that he defeated – the attention to the detail, the correct phrasing and the care in the expression. Everything is clear, sincere and vehement. The Sonata of César Franck establishes a landmark in the French chamber music of the XIX century. Preceding in a few months the Symphony and the String Quartet, it acquires something of the dimension of the big works of the Belgian composer, establishing a thematic connection between the different movements – a cyclical structure that is transformed continuously, defining the almost hypnotic and brilliant character of entire work. The third and last Sonata of Grieg, equally composed in 1886, presents a distinct nature, in which tragic feeling predominates, accentuated by lines of bigger dramatism, that require the lucidity of the interpreter – what doesn’t lack in Bruno Monteiro, so little the contention with the vibrato, what constituted one of the many points to his favour. In the two works that require a dialogue on equal terms with the piano, there is still to emphasize the empathy between both musicians and the interpretation of João Paulo Santos, whose perfect expertise can be measured in the beginning of the second movement of the Sonata of Grieg or in the exposition of the second theme of the first movement of the Franck. The CD appears after years of Bruno Monteiro’s work in the United States, where he studied with Gerardo Ribeiro, after the Bachelor degree at the Manhattan School of Music. Ribeiro possesses by the way one of the good interpretations of the Mendelssohn violin Concerto (EMI), exactly the work that Bruno Monteiro is going to take to CCB, on the 19th, with the English Chamber Orchestra."
| Bernardo Mariano
"One of the more certain values of the new generation of the Portuguese violin.”
| Pedro Boléo
"This recording has the virtue of recall and renew this complicity between two musicians in a current partnership between two Portuguese artists who do not give up and disseminate good music. (...) The challenge is great in all three "paraphrases" of the Paganini Caprices, which required Bruno Monteiro a difficult virtuosity to revisit. (...) The best of this issue is on the second CD in Mythes op.30, a work of a hundred years ago (1915) when demand aesthetic Szymanowski and Kochansky, takes us on very curious paths and the difficulty is not only playing all the notes- is to understand and build a coherent discourse. The violin and piano dynamic and invent new sounds with the violin drawing melodies ranging up to very high notes, and the piano in surprising harmonic transitions that already correspond to a different conception of his early works."
| Rui Branco
"Hypnotic and crystalline sound"