Paris 1937 is a bold and blisteringly
volcanic piece sounding like an Ornstein-type eruption for the pianola.
It is brief, at almost nine minutes, and comes across as a dissonant
nephew of Milhaud's Scaramouche. The work is based on a failed
ballet Fièvre du Temps and conjures the mood which Lopes-Graça
knew firsthand and the gathering stormclouds of the time in the French
The Elegia is tougher; dissonant in the
manner of Rawsthorne and Gerhard. The notes draw attention to its message
of anti-fascist protest. I find it far more impressive than the notewriter
did. It has the uncompromising character of the Bridge Piano Sonata.
Contrary to what the sleeve-note tells you the next work is the Toccata,
Andante and Fugato which is from the composer's eighty-fifth
year - he died at age 88. It is relentlessly stark and stony.
The four movement Fourth Sonata was premiered
on Radio Geneva. It remains uncompromising but there is reflection (especially
in the wonderful Andante con moto) and humour alongside the body-blows
and severity. The veloce pays its tactful tribute to Bartok's
Allegro Barbaro and to the wartime sonatas of Prokofiev.
Both Valente and Henriques are Oporto-born and both
teach at the Lisbon Conservatory. Notes are in Portuguese and English
with excellent translations (typos still not completely purged - resistence
instead of resistance) by composer Christopher Bochmann.
This is a fine series and long may it continue. Strauss
SA are doing valiant and valuable advocacy work to make the treasury
of Portuguese music not merely a national legacy but a world heritage.
In a nutshell: Lopes-Graça as the percussively
stark Stravinskian of the piano. A rather intriguing collection
of piano music which is well worth hearing. Stand-out tracks are the
Elegia and the Andante and Allegro con brio from the Sonata.
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