Braga Santos was, with some kindred spirits, one of the founders of the Juventude Musical Portuguesa (Portuguese Musical Youth) following the models started in France and Belgium.
His Fourth Symphony, dedicated to J.M.P., was completed in 1949. It roughly follows guidelines similar to as those governing his Third Symphony completed a year before. This sizeable piece falls into four substantial movements still globally adopting the cyclic structure. The first movement opens with a long, slow introduction leading into a vigorous Allegro con fuoco roughly in sonata form. The following Andante has a song-like quality, the central section Allegretto tranquillo briefly recalling Gregorian chant. The Scherzo is another joyful animated dance interrupted by a slower folk-like Trio reminiscent of Sibelius. The dance is then resumed and the movement ends assertively. The fourth and by far the most substantial movement opens with a slow introduction, another brass chorale. Timpani launch the final dance which gains considerable momentum cut short by a short timpani cadenza leading into the Epilogue (Hymn to Youth). (Originally it seems that the hymn was purely orchestral and was rewritten some time later to fit the words of Vasconcelos Sobral's poem Hino à Juventude.) The choir joins in and carry the symphony to its rousing apotheosis.
Braga Santos' Sinfonia No.4 em mi menor Op.16 is yet another example of this composer's youthful, sunny lyricism. The music again radiates a communicative optimism expressed in colourful musical terms. It is one of the most optimistic pieces of music I have ever heard and one we should hear more often in our troubled century. Like its predecessor, the Fourth Symphony is superbly scored throughout.
This 1978 Rumanian recording still sounds pretty well. Silva Pereira secures a very fine performance and gets committed support from his Rumanian forces who sing and play with utmost conviction.
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