Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Fernando LOPES-GRACA (1906 - 1994)
Quartetto de Arcos No.2 (1982)
Canto de Amor e de Morte (1961) (a)
Quartetto de cordas da Oficina Musical de Porto - Olga Prats, piano
 Recorded : Studio Jorsom, October 1989 and July 1987a
STRAUSS CD 870036/PS [33:28]

Lopes-Graça's Second String Quartet of 1985 is an even finer work than its predecessor. Again Bartók is the model, but Lopes-Graça imbues the music with his warmly human, at times slightly ironic, personality. As its predecessor, the Second String Quartet is a beautifully crafted, contrasted, colourful work of substance. It opens with an easy-going Grazioso of great charm followed by a humorously sardonic Burletta. The slow movement, a beautiful Cavatina, is one of Lopes-Graça's most simply moving inventions. The Second String Quartet ends with a joyfully rumbustious Finale that however ends in a tranquil, inconclusive meditation. Lopes-Graça's string quartets are unquestionably beautiful works that vastly repay repeating hearings. They definitely deserve to be better-known.

Beautiful as the string quartets may be (and, again, I believe they are beautiful), Lopes-Graça's piano quintet Canto de Amor e de Morte ("Song of Love and Death") is still finer. This was written in 1961 apparently during a critical period in the composer's life, though we are told nothing about what was obviously a crucial crisis. (Incidentally the composer also made an orchestral version of the piece, proof that he thought that the piece was central in his output.) Canto de Amor e de Morte may be one of his most austere, almost claustrophobic, though still deeply moving pieces. It is also one of his most concentrated works. In fact it is entirely based on a quite simple idea stated in the first two bars : two sets of eight quavers based on middle G, first in unison with octave doubling, introducing two intervals. Both this idea, acting as some sort of ritornello, and the intervals will be of utmost importance for the rest of the music. In contrast to that of the string quartets, the mood here is utterly sorrowful and brooding. Some contrasting, violent episodes disrupt the darkly ruminative character of the music. I have no doubt that Canto de Amor e de Morte is one of Lopes-Graça's most deeply felt works and certainly one of his masterpieces. Again, this superbly crafted, tightly knit work is also a deeply personal statement of strong communicative power.

Both pieces get superb readings by the little-known but highly competent quartet Oficina Musical de Porto and Olga Prats, in the piano quintet. These 1989 recordings still sound pretty good. (A minor quibble, though, about the short playing time!)

However, this release is well-worth investigating and most rewarding for Lopes-Graça is a very distinguished composer whose music radiates a deeply-felt humanity expressed with humility and sincerity in quite convincing musical terms.

Hubert Culot


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