This precious collection of piano-four-hands works from the foremost musical minds of Portugal in the 20th and 21st centuries can serve as a welcome introduction to the classical music of Portugal for those who may not know it. But there is a greater significance and added value to this thoughtful recital programme, in that it traces back the genealogy of modern Portuguese classical composition – and pianism! – to roots firmly planted in German Romantic soil. It links the living composers to their teacher and inspiration, the great composer–ethnographer Fernando Lopes-Graça who undertook research into Portuguese folk music on a par with what Vaughan Williams and Bartók & Kodály did in their own nations, and then links Lopes-Graça back to his piano professor, the great virtuoso and music educator Joseì Viana da Mota, himself a pupil and disciple of Liszt.
The album opens fittingly with a set of Portuguese Folk Melody treatments by Lopes-Graça, the third in his three-volume set being dedicated exclusively to piano four hands. Immediately, the national colour welcomes listeners to the distinct ethnicity of Europe’s far southwestern corner, a historic and pre-historic crossroads for Celtic, Roman, Gothic and Moorish cultures. This is followed by the Sonatina of his student, Sérgio Azevedo, bristling with the Neoclassicism he inherited from Lopes-Graça. Then to the wellspring, Viana da Mota’s Opus 7 singing with a Mendelssohnian lyricism, yet nonetheless tinged with the innate longing of the Portuguese soul. The expressionistic, effusive atonality of Lapa’s Storyboard returns the listener to the modern era, and to finish, Victorino d’Almeida’s heartfelt Ballad (for a child about to be born) embraces melody and tonality once again, from a post-modern vantagepoint.
The fascinating liner note positions this multi-generational story of composers against the political backdrop of 20th-century Portugal, chronicling the struggles of many of them against the oppression of the Salazar dictatorship, and how the restrictions and subsequent freedoms after the ‘Carnation’ Revolution shaped their careers and creative output.
The piano duo of Luís Duarte and Lígia Madeira are at the vanguard of a young generation of world-class performers and music educators active in the cultural dynamo of Greater Porto, in the north of Portugal. Among their many individual activities is their duo collaboration, which they have enjoyed since 2008.
A fascinating program of original works for piano duet by 5 Portuguese composers: Viana da Mota (1868-1948), Lopes-Graça (1906-1994), De Almeida (b.1957), Lapa (b.1950) and Azevedo (b.1968).
The origin of the National Style of Portugal is traced back to José Viana da Mota, a pupil of Liszt at Weimar,who upon his return to his native Portugal founded the National School. His pupil Fernando Lopes-Graça infused the German Romantic style of his master with folkloristic features, using popular themes and colouristic effects. This new style found its way in the works of the other composers on this disc, who all share a common heritage and language.
Played with great dedication and feeling for the language by the Portuguese piano duo Luís Duarte and Lígia Madeira.