This is a good omen. A major company
issuing a Portuguese symphony and violin
knew the symphony from the Portugalsom
recording issued in the 1990s but Fernandes'
Violin Concerto was completely unknown
to me. It's a sweetly lyrical work with
a fragrance of the Delius concerto but
more dynamic. The middle movement has
a Gallic feeling with a nod towards
the Lalo concerto. The first movement
is, in the last analysis, rather time-servingly
lyrical though pleasing. The real heart
of the work can be found in the finale
which is fragile and deeply affecting.
In its emotional reach can be compared
with the Miaskovsky concerto. It has
the same scent of romantic nostalgia
yet is completely fresh and very moving.
It is a most moving piece and is presented
by Alexandre da Costa with creditable
concentration and purity of line. The
composer's integrity is never in doubt
and he has the well judged confidence
to end the andantino third movement
in a pensive fade. The finale has a
more determined air. This is a work
that recalls both the Moeran and the
Miaskovsky but filtered through an imagination
sympathetic to Saint-Saëns, Lalo and
Chausson. It vies with the equally neglected
and equally cantabile Violin Concerto
(1916) by Freitas Branco. The Fernandes
concerto is dedicated to the artist
who premiered it in 1949 under Pedro
de Freitas Branco, Leonor de Sousa Prado.
the 1930s Fernandes was a member of
the Group of Four which also included
the brilliant Ferdinand Lopes-Graça.
While in Paris with Government funding
he studied with Stravinsky, Dukas and
Boulanger. He was professor of composition
at the Lisbon Conservatory from 1953
de Freitas Branco's Second Symphony
in four movements and was written when
the composer was 36. It certainly has
the springy dynamism of a real symphony.
The writing sports a warmly surging
Franckian redolence. After a comforting
andante comes a Mephistophelean
Allegro vivace which at times
(2:33) leans towards Borodin and Berlioz.
The work ends with a ten minute Adagio
with wilder dancing interpolations -
themselves prefiguring the masterly
writing of Joly Braga-Santos - amid
the hymn-like benedictions. It's worth
recalling that it is dedicated to the
composer's sister Marie Candida just
as she was taking Holy Orders to join
the Carmelite community in Navarre.
The symphony was premiered by Pedro
Blanch's orchestra in Lisbon on 26 February
is well recorded and the performances
are polished. The Fernandes in particular
is glowingly given. Let's hear more
from both composers and in the meantime
will the Portuguese government not reissue
the proud Lusitanian treasury that is
the Portugalsom catalogue. They have
much in their musical heritage to be
proud of on an international stage.