> Fernando LOPES-GRAÇA (1906-1994): Álbum do Jovem Pianista [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Fernando LOPES-GRAÇA (1906-1994)
Álbum do Jovem Pianista (1953-64)
Mornas Caboverdianas (1941-78)
In Memoriam Béla Bartók - Suite No. 8 (1960-75)
  Olga Prats (piano)
rec St George's Church, Lisboa, Portugal, 1 June, 23-24 Nov 2000. DDD


CONTACT DETAILS: emartins@strauss.pt

Sérgio Azevedo's notes tell us that Olga Prats is foremost among the small circle of artists who specialise in the music of Lopes-Graça. Presumably Miguel Henriques who gave us the Portugalsom recital of the composer's Piano Sonata No 4 on SP4352 is in the same group.

It is intriguing to note the long gestation period for each of these works - almost another Finzi here though Lopes-Graça is by no means such a frank melodist.

The twenty-one pieces in the Álbum were written for young players and fall into easy and medium difficulty categories. The composer's 'wrong-note' style migrates between Stravinsky, Bartók, folk-like skirl and crunch and a sort of Ravelian austerity. This is preserved without filter or brake; no condescension in evidence. These pieces know both innocence and decay. They might well be one of the best ways of introducing this composer to 'newbies.'

The folk songs encased in Mornas Caboverdianas writhe and reel in these seven movements. The most intriguing is Cuscús where I thought of the sort of treatment the Scots composer Eric Chisholm (dubbed 'MacBartók') gave to folksongs and also of Luciano Berio's folksong set. Perhaps there is a touch of Chopin in Caí no mar. These are presumably authoritative performances: Prats premiered the work in 1981.

Lastly another work premiered by Prats - this time in 1976. The Bartók Suite is the toughest of all the pieces on the disc. Like the Mornas it is in seven movements. This is not the place to start your odyssey through the works of this composer. As the note writer points out the Epicedio (Dirge) forms a deep centre of musical gravity for the suite - black anger rather than lamentation.

A rather nice disc though the sound lacks the open airiness that characterises the best piano recordings. It is however perfectly adequate.

Rob Barnett

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