ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
FERNANDO LOPES-GRAÇA - Works for Violin and Piano


FERNANDO LOPES-GRAÇA - Works for Violin and Piano, and Solo Violin - Bruno Monteiro (Violin) - Joao Paulo Santos (Piano) - 730099717717 - Released: April 2014 - Naxos 9.70177

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!

Jean-Yves Duperron - October 2014