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18th-century Portuguese Love Songs
Songs listed at end of review
Sandra Medeiros (soprano), Joana Seara (soprano)
David Gordon (harpsichord), Taro Takeuchi (guitar), Zak Ozmo (guitar)
L'Avventura London/Zak Ozmo
rec. January 2012, All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London
HYPERION CDA67904 [71:02]

This Cinderella of a disc plays to Hyperion’s strengths: tasteful but not stultifying, fascinatingly unusual and unfailingly eloquent musical judgements. Perhaps it is my failure of imagination – it usually is – but who else would have thought to get behind a project to record 18th-century Portuguese Love Songs. It rapidly reaps rewards if you apply yourself to this mix of vocal and instrumental tracks.
 
Here is music in which Mozartean style (try A minha Nerina) meets poignant and even playful folk-song. Often one can see the time contour stretching forward towards Bizet’s Carmen and onwards to Portugal’s native composers of the 20th century including the folk-inflected works of Pedro de Freitas Branco. The folksiness encountered is not that of a Haydn where sophistication predominates - rather a voice that is in touch with the rough realities of street and field. In this the music is helped immensely by the two Portuguese sopranos, Sandra Medeiros and Joana Seara, who are also early music specialists in their own right.
 
Ganinha, minha Ganinha is all beguiling coloratura and easy-on-the-ear melodies with guitars and sparse percussion. Tempo que breve passaste is slightly more operatically inclined. In Silva Leite’s Tocata do Sr Francisco Gerardo the two guitars are confident yet quiet in their animatedly intense conversation. Foi por mim, foi pela sorte plumbs the depths of despair – a trilling voice sings with natural empathy of the depths of melancholy. Onde vas linda Negrinha has Medeiros and Seara in music that breathes the Atlantic sea breeze. There are even lightly jazzy moments from the harpsichord. Avondano’s Minuet IV is a jolly Bachian gigue while his Minuet VI is an interesting fusion of Bach and Mozart – a tangy moderation between a slightly regretful mood and dance music. The instrumental É delícia ter amor has drums in chamber mode in this tango-ish piece –– one can imagine a bandoneon joining in with the flute and harpsichord. Você trata amor em brinco takes us back to the two sopranos in a recorder-led indulgence in sweet melancholia. There’s more Mozartean stuff in Sobre as asas da ternura from Medeiros and Seara. We’re taken back to an instrumental with de Seixas and his impetuously rushing harpsichord piece: Toccata No 8. Sombre moods and melancholic lamenting arch over Que fiz eu à natureza?
 
Cuidados, tristes cuidados, sung by Medeiros and Gordon, is all sorrows and regretful sighs. This contrasts with José Maurício’s É amor a lei suave where sorrow is somehow tempered by contentment. Finally Os ‘me deixas’ que tu dás returns us to Sandra Medeiros and Joana Seara with a jazzy coolness and a hint of bandoneon culture. Not for the first time are we treated to the ecstatic entwining of these two delightful voices – pleasing individually and irresistible in combination.
 
The disc is well annotated, as is Hyperion’s well entrenched practice, and the original words are printed with translations into English.
 
This disc is packed full of the charming and the poignant. Surprise yourself. I doubt that anyone with heart will be disappointed.

Rob Barnett

Contents list
 
ANONYMOUS
Ganinha, minha Ganinha [3:05]
Sandra Medeiros (soprano), Joana Seara (soprano)

António da SILVA LEITE (1759-1833)
Tempo que breve passaste [7:40]
Joana Seara (soprano)
 
António da SILVA LEITE
Tocata do Sr Francisco Gerardo [1:58]
Taro Takeuchi (guitar), Zak Ozmo (guitar)
 
ANONYMOUS
Foi por mim, foi pela sorte [5:21]
Sandra Medeiros (soprano)
 
António da SILVA LEITE
Onde vas linda Negrinha [3:42]
Sandra Medeiros (soprano), Joana Seara (soprano)
 
Pedro António AVONDANO (1714-1782)
Minuet IV [2:31]
 
ANONYMOUS
A minha Nerina [3:19]
Joana Seara (soprano)
 
ANONYMOUS
É delícia ter amor [2:14]
 
Marcos António PORTUGAL (1762-1830)
Você trata amor em brinco [5:20]
Sandra Medeiros (soprano), Joana Seara (soprano)
 
António da SILVA LEITE
Minuete [1:51]
Taro Takeuchi (guitar), Zak Ozmo (guitar)
 
Marcos António PORTUGAL
Já, já me vai, Marília [4:06]
Sandra Medeiros (soprano)
 
José MAURÍCIO (1752-1815)
Sobre as asas da ternura [4:37]
Sandra Medeiros (soprano), Joana Seara (soprano)
 
Carlos de SEIXAS (1704-1742)
Toccata No 8 [2:00]
David Gordon (harpsichord), Zak Ozmo (guitar)
 
José MAURÍCIO
Que fiz eu à natureza? [6:41]
Joana Seara (soprano)
 
Pedro António AVONDANO
Minuet VI [1:47]
 
Marcos António PORTUGAL
Cuidados, tristes cuidados [4:47]
Sandra Medeiros (soprano), David Gordon (harpsichord)
 
José MAURÍCIO
É amor a lei suave [3:58]
Sandra Medeiros (soprano)
 
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Sonata in F minor Kk466 [3:21]
David Gordon (harpsichord)
 
ANONYMOUS
Os ‘me deixas’ que tu dás [2:44]
Sandra Medeiros (soprano), Joana Seara (soprano)

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