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Fernando LOPES-GRACA (1906 – 1994)
Requiem palas Vitimas do Fascismo em Portugal (1979)
Magda Kalmar (soprano); Tamara Takács (mezzo-soprano); Attila Fulöp (tenor); Istvan Gáti (baritone); Kolos Kováts (bass); Hungarian State Opera Chorus; Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra; András Kórodi
Recorded : Hungaroton Studios, November 1983
STRAUSS 870010/PS [47:10]

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Fernando Lopes-Graça composed a good deal of vocal and choral music, but generally either to Portuguese poems or to some other foreign languages. His Requiem is his only choral work to set Latin words. Though he was no religious person, Lopes-Graça – as so many composers before him – was concerned by the human and universal implications of the traditional Requiem text. He had been a victim of Salazar’s dictatorship in Portugal, so that he quite obviously welcomed the commission he received from the Department of Culture, the more so as the idea of a Requiem had been lingering in his mind since the 1950s. Lopes-Graça’s Requiem, dedicated to the victims of Fascism in Portugal, could not but be another utterly personal statement on the composer’s part. His setting of the liturgical text is fairly straightforward and cast in a very accessible, mildly dissonant idiom perfectly suited to what is clearly a public statement. Do not misunderstand me, this does not mean that Lopes-Graça wrote down to his audience. His own moderately modern idiom lends itself effortlessly to any given situation.

The Requiem is cast in five sizeable sections of which the second one, Sequentia, is both the longest and the weightiest. The work opens with a two-bar motif stated at the very beginning of the Introitus and frequently recalled later in the piece. The Introitus acts as a weighty, predominantly dark-hued introduction to the second section Sequentia though its final plea Kyrie eleison is murmured almost parlando by the chorus. The following Sequentia is by far the longest and the weightiest section of the whole piece. It opens with an appropriately agitated, heavily treading Dies Irae and warlike fanfares introduce the Tuba Mirum. A climax is reached at Rex Tremendae Majestatis which is followed by a slower section featuring the soloists. The initial mood is resumed at Confutatis Maledictis and calms down in the next section and is still calmer in the Lacrimosa. A last plea from soloists and chorus leads to the final Amen. The Sanctus opens with brass fanfares, gains momentum, then alternates calmer moments and more agitated ones. A central orchestral meditation is cut short by a restatement of the opening material leading into a Shostakovich-like march heralded by the timpani leading to a powerful shout at Benedictus. The ensuing slower section, again featuring the soloists, moves towards a mighty climax though the movement eventually ends inconclusively. The Agnus Dei acts as a calm, meditative interlude though it nevertheless builds up to some climax during the third repeat , with the word Requiem heavily hammered out, before fading away. The concluding Communio opens with a restatement of the opening material of the first movement, gains considerable momentum before giving way to the soloists again. It regains some momentum again before reaching the bright, exalted peroration.

Lopes-Graça’s Requiem is quite unlike those of, say, Fauré and Rutter, and also that of Britten which is an all-embracing work on its own in that it tries to reconcile the temporal events of the war and the mystical, consolatory aspects of some of the traditional latin Requiem. Maybe surprisingly, considering Lopes-Graça’s numerous settings of Portuguese texts, the composer did not feel the need to include words of Portuguese poets, following Britten’s example. The reason might be simply practical but his Requiem has still to become the popular work it should be, for such is the composer’s sincerity and honesty that this beautiful work has a remarkable universal appeal that is its more endearing quality. A great, unjustly neglected masterpiece that should definitely be better known and appreciated.

Hopefully, the present recording by Hungarian forces under the composer’s supervision allows for a fine appraisal of the piece, even if the recorded sound is not the most modern, though still very acceptable. The soloists, chorus and orchestra obviously threw their heart into this powerful, deeply moving masterpiece; and it is to be hoped that this disc will encourage audiences and performers alike to give this marvellous piece another chance.


Hubert CULOT


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