Frederico de FREITAS (1902 – 1980)
The Silly Girl's Dance (1941) [22:18]
The Wall of Love (1940) [13:41]
Medieval Suite (1958) [25:49]
Ribatejo (1938) [8:27]
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Álvaro Cassuto
rec. Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Scotland, 16 August 2012 (The Wall of Love, Ribatejo) and 17 August 2012 (The Silly Girl's Dance, Medieval Suite)
NAXOS 8.573095 [70:15]
Frederico de Freitas was a multi-faceted musician: composer, conductor and founder of the Lisbon Choral Society and teacher at the Centre for Gregorian Studies in Lisbon. He has a quite varied and sizeable output to his credit although little of it is known today. Many years ago a lot of his music was available mostly recorded in Eastern Europe (Hungary) and released onto CD by Portugalsom. In this connection, please refer to Rob Barnett's global review of some of those CDs, published here a few years ago.
As far as I am concerned, de Freitas's music was completely unknown to me until I received this disc for review ... and a nice surprise it proved. This composer's music is straightforward, often folk-inflected, colourful, tuneful and brilliantly scored. The four scores of his recorded here are all attractive and immensely enjoyable. Music such as this may not plumb any great depths but it is refreshingly free from pretension and is happy to be itself.
Both The Silly Girl's Dance and The Wall of Love are ballets composed in the early 1940s and they share a number of characteristics. On closer examination the personality of each score is nicely suited to the ballet's argument, fairly simple in both cases and thus calling for easy-going, often folk-inflected music of great charm. Both scores are full of nice instrumental touches. Take, for example, the little tune played by the piccolo at the outset of The Silly Girl's Dance. This eventually functions as a recurring motif throughout. Both scores are also made up of contrasted episodes so that the music moves on drawing on a seemingly inexhaustible melodic and instrumental fund. The music is also clearly of its time and place so that one may be forgiven for spotting some influences such as Stravinsky, Milhaud - though with slightly less dissonance - and Spanish composers as well as coincidental echoes of Chabrier in Ribatejo; none the worse for that.
The substantial Medieval Suite is a somewhat different proposition in that it was inspired by what the composer described as “the fragrance of Medieval Portuguese poetry”. This was composed after the completion of the composer's opera A Igreja do Mar (“The Church of the Sea”) when the composer felt the need to write something simpler and lighter. The suite, however, is not as simple and as light as one might have expected. It also includes some real little gems such as the fourth movement Cantar de Amigo which is both beautiful and deeply moving.
Álvaro Cassuto has already recorded a good deal of Portuguese music with his complete recording of Braga Santos' symphonies and miscellaneous orchestral works and of de Freitas Branco's four symphonies and other orchestral works as well while not forgetting a superb release entirely devoted to orchestral works by Lopes-Graça. He now continues with yet another composer whose attractive and highly enjoyable music clearly deserves to be heard. As I mentioned earlier in this review, de Freitas' music may not plumb any great depths but it is far too good to be ignored.
Cassuto and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra are obviously on the same wave-length and the orchestra clearly enjoys itself in these colourful, unpretentious but entertaining scores.
I have already returned to this lovely disc of refreshingly enjoyable music repeatedly, were it only as an antidote to the grey skies over our heads and in our hearts. Do not hesitate: go for it and you will feel much better.
Lovely, refreshingly enjoyable music …go for it and you will feel much better.
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