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Support us financially by purchasing this disc from
Fernando LOPES-GRAÇA (1906 – 1994)
Nove Danças Breves (1938/48) [23:06]
Variações sobre um tema popular português Op.1 (1927) [5:56]
Piano Sonata No.2 Op.26 (1939) [17:06]
Ao Fio dos Anos e das Horas (1979) [32:34]
Artur Pizarro (piano)
rec. Siemensvilla, Berlin, 11-15 June 2012
CAPRICCIO C5196 [79:13]

The works recorded here span some forty years of Lopes-Graça's composing life. They provide a fine overview of his stylistic progress. A number of his earlier works were deeply influenced by Portuguese folk tunes while later ones explore further territory. His Op.1 Variations on a Portuguese Folk Theme clearly point towards what the composer was to do for many years. This is carried further in a number of his works that partake of a sort of imaginary folklore à la Bartók. Indeed the Second Piano Sonata, completed in 1939, and the Nove Danças Breves, dedicated to the Hungarian pianist Andor Földes, are stylistically closer to Bartók than to Scarlatti. Much the same applies to his first piano sonata and the first suites of his In Memoriam Béla Bartók. Strong rhythmic emphasis is to be found in the thematic material as well as in the many repeated notes or chords. This functions as a springboard and a rock-solid foundation for the music. A nice and telling example of this is to be heard in the first movement of the Second Piano Sonata in which a forcibly hammered-out chord functions as a sort of ritornello. The Nove Danças Breves, composed over a ten-year period, also strongly bring Bartók's music to mind. One may well suppose that Földes, thanks to and probably because of his Hungarian roots, must have enjoyed this music.

The much later Ai Fio dos Anos e das Horas (“About Years and Hours”) is a collection of sixteen short sketches or epigrams that often suggest improvisation. The subtitle is in fact quite clear about what to expect from this substantial work : “From the notebooks of a composer – sixteen short pieces for piano”. It nevertheless is a substantial work both for its actual length and for the remarkably rich imagination and almost seamless invention heard from first to last. It can be compared with Prokofiev's Visions fugitives although Prokofiev's music from that period was much more abrasive than that of Lopes-Graça. This is undoubtedly an important work in Lopes-Graça's output for piano which includes six sonatas (1934-1981) and two concertos (1940 and 1950, rev. 1971). There's also the large-scale cycle In Memoriam Béla Bartók Op.126 (1960-1975) which is structured into eight suites of progressive difficulty along the model of the Hungarian composer's Mikrokosmos, 24 Prelúdios.

Fernando Lopes-Graça was a significant composer who played a substantial role in his country's musical history. He left a vast and hugely varied output of which still too little is known. Thanks to this disc and some other recently released ones things are now changing for the better. It is to be hoped that more are to come.

Arturo Pizarro's playing is remarkably assured, full of character and perfectly in tune with the music which he audibly loves. Add to this that his beautiful playing is caught in a superb and natural recorded sound and it is clear that this release is a must for all Lopes-Graça fans. I hope that Pizarro and Capriccio will be persuaded to record more of it soon. If Lopes-Graça's music is new to you I really think that there cannot be a better place to begin.

Hubert Culot

A recent discography
In Memoriam Béla Bartók Op.126 – Numérica NUM 1145
Six Piano Sonatas – Numérica NUM 1124
Piano Concertos No.1 and No.2 – Naxos 8.572817
Orchestral music – Naxos 8.572892
Music for string quartet and piano – Vol.1 – Toccata TOCC 0253