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Luis de FREITAS BRANCO (1890 - 1955)
Quartetto de Cordas (1911)
Sonata para Violoncello e Piano (1913)
Takács Quartet - Miklós Perényi, cello - Jenö Jandó, piano
Recorded: Lisbon University, February 1979 and Hungaroton Studio, Budapest, February 1980
STRAUSS SP 4179 [43.31]

Freitas Branco, one of the founding fathers of modern Portuguese music, showed a great inclination towards abstract music, quite unlike most older composers of his times. Quite early on, he composed important chamber works. Indeed, his First Violin Sonata was composed in 1907 when he was seventeen.

A few years later, he completed the impressive String Quartet (1911), a quite substantial piece also bearing Franck's imprint, especially the cyclic structure which remained a hallmark of Freitas Branco's music, even in his later symphonies and in his Second Violin Sonata of 1928. However, Freitas Branco's string quartet also has its composer moving towards Debussy and Impressionism, though his attitude to Impressionism remains at a rather superficial level. (Freitas Branco will soon adopt some sort of "Frenchified" Neo-Classicism, from the First Symphony of 1924 onwards.) The Quartetto de Cordas of 1911 is in four movements, though its structure is fairly unusual in that the first two movements (Moderado [sic] and Vivo) are quite short, the following Lento much longer whereas the last movement Animado [sic] is both the longest and the most complex. Curiously enough, and this may result from the composer's Franckian approach, the work's structure is remarkably coherent. Freitas Branco's only string quartet is an ambitious, warmly lyrical work that repays repeated hearings, especially in a fine performance as this one by the celebrated Takács Quartet.

The Sonata para violoncello e piano, completed in 1913, is quite comparable to either the string quartet of the First Violin Sonata, in that it again strictly adheres to the cyclic constructed inherited from Franck. From this point of view, the Cello Sonata is still more tightly argued than either of the aforementioned pieces. But again, Freitas Branco's heartfelt lyricism makes one completely forget any formal or structural considerations and merely enjoy the music. This again is a warmly Romantic piece, much in the same way as, say, Frank Bridge' Cello Sonata or York Bowen's. There is much to relish here, particularly so in this beautifully assured and committed reading by Miklós Perényi and Jenö Jandó.

Franck has often been mentioned in these reviews of Freitas Branco's early music because he really was an important influence on many composers of Freitas Branco's generation and on somewhat older ones who directly worked with Franck, but Freitas Branco's music has its own character, what I have already referred to as 'sunny lyricism' which is certainly one of its most endearing qualities. These fairly early pieces reflect the enriching experience of Freitas Branco's early maturity.

Very rewarding indeed, quite enjoyable and well-worth having.

Hubert Culot



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