Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Opus Ensemble plays Contemporary Portuguese Music
Antonio Victorino D’ALMEIDA (b 1940) Rock ‘n’ Roll Op 108
Alejandro Erlich OLIVA (b 1948) Oito Estampas Portuguesas
Clotilde ROSA (b 1930) Contornos
Eurico CARRAPATOSA (b 1962) Sete Epigramas a Francisco de Lacerda
Laurent FILIPE (b 1962) In Memoriam
Sergio AZEVEDO (b 1968) Flow My Tears by John Dowland instrumentation by Azevedo
Sergio AZEVEDO (b 1968) Ricordo
Opus Ensemble
Ana Bela Chaves viola
Olga Prats piano
Alejandro Erlich Oliva Double Bass
Recorded September and October 2000, Estudio Jorsom
STRAUSS SP 4350 [57.58]

Song is the thread that binds this invigorating disc together. Whether it’s the insistent "rock and roll" of D’Almeida or Oliva’s affectionate harmonization of old Portuguese melodies or else Carrapatoso’s inventive fusion of idealised Azorean songs and his own creations, this is a release that sings with life. Ironically it also sings of death.

D’Almeida’s Rock ‘n’ Roll, like other pieces on this disc, summons up the ghostly presence of the fourth, missing member of Opus Ensemble, the oboist Bruno Pizzamiglio, who died of cancer in 1997. Over a now arco, now pizzicato bass pattern a rocking rhythm is set in motion which exploits elements of neo-classicism in its search for the transfiguration of what its composer calls hope and coherence. It is a little piece of no more than five minutes’ duration but one that bursts the bonds and teems with interest.

The dextrous Bass player of the ensemble, Oliva, contributes eight traditional Portuguese songs, essentially limiting himself to harmonization and an intriguing use of the trio medium as a means by which both to explore and amplify the little songs. These are by turns lyrical, beguiling, affectionate, skittish and expressive. In the third song, Vai-te embora, o papao, for example, a vamping piano leads to dancing string contributions, the two lines entwining affectingly, leading onward, strongly, to the song’s close. Elsewhere felicities of colour and sonority abound – pizzicatos and emphatic piano introductions, high lying viola writing, dark and light tonalities, cannily exploiting the double bass’s sonority. This is writing for the trio from the inside by a musical colourist of discretion and imagination. Clotilde Rosa’s Contornos is another tribute to the group and its late oboist; reflective, ruminative and occasionally urgently impassioned it turns incendiary before thinning to single lines and ending its journey in elegiac reflection, part-resolved, part unresolved. Rosa’s skill in exploring the unusual trio combination is manifest, as is her evocation of states of feeling and expression.

Eurico Carrapatoso offers seven melodies, alternating his own with popular Azorean tunes. His own stabbing, thrumming and mildly discordant pieces fuse remarkably effortlessly with the languid and reflective native melodies to create a suite both mutually dependent and ironically detached. The opportunity has given him licence to pile on ostinato after ostinato, to assert his own allegro against the Azorean tunes’ natural lento-largo. The result is fresh and exciting. Filipe’s In Memoriam is once again dedicated to Pizzamiglio and to all victims of cancer. Beginning bleakly with a piano crash and musing string figures the hobbled trio try to find a way through the thickets, weighed down by an insistent piano note, obsessively ticking away, Gradually first the viola, then the double bass embrace a new figure and slowly, after more figuration, the trio dances the tango. It is an exhilarating moment and one freighted with meaning and curiously moving – the tango as both liberation and celebration of a lived life. Finally Azevedo, who has composed Ricordo, which is partly based on Dowland’s Flow my Tears, which precedes it, played simply and without elaboration. It’s a tough piece, exploiting the tonal potential of the trio to optimum effect. The viola plays stratospherically high, the double bass throbs, the piano contributes a hypnotic ripple of sound; there is a very bad edit at 4.36 which disturbs and impedes the fractious final quarter of the piece before a kind of stasis envelops everything in silence.

The performances are superb, the sound good, the notes are by the composers themselves, and the music is always quiveringly alive.

Jonathan Woolf


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