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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Piano Concerto No 4 in G Major. Op. 58 30.46
Armando José FERNANDES
Concerto in B Flat 27.20
Helena Sá E Costa (pno) Orquestra Sinfónica Nacional (Beethoven) Cond Efrem Kurtz Academia de instrumentistas de Câmera
Recorded Lisbon 12 Dec 1954; 2 May 1960 Strauss Potugalsom SP4238 ADD 58.10

Obscure is the word that comes to mind about this disc. From a project supported by the Portuguese Ministry of Culture, the CD appears to be part of an issue aimed at widening the awareness of Portuguese music and musicians. The series is completely new to me as is one of the two works and the pianist. The notes in English are restricted to a part column with some biographical details about the soloist.

There is no information supplied with the disc about Armando José Fernandes. From Grove I read that he was born in 1906, the Concerto dates from 1952, and that his writing is "concentrated and intimate, preferring the chamber medium". His Concerto in B Flat is a four movement work, easy on the ear but unmemorable. The whole work is a vehicle for the piano, mainly in grandiose, florid writing. The orchestral support ranges from the minimal in the opening Maestoso, more of a partnership in the second movement, some hints of attractive string melody in the Calmo con intima expressione and lively support in the closing Allegro. The recording was made at a live performance in a Lisbon cinema which has a dry acoustic. The piano is set forward throughout and the strings have a thin tone and at times sound tentative.

Of the recording of the Beethoven G Major Concerto, sadly, there is little good to say. The release is of a live concert - with the occasional cough - in a Cinema (the Tivoli again). The acoustic is not a good one, the Orchestra lacks weight in the strings, has trouble keeping together and some failings in intonation show. Add to this a 1954 mono performance and one seriously questions the sense of the release. The soloist herself is more than adequate and the audience seemed to like it. There may be some attachment to the artist in Portugal that overrides these failings, but certainly for the UK market, where there are a number of good, modern recordings of the Beethoven concerto, such a sentiment will not apply.


Harry Downey



Harry Downey

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