Monday, July 8, 2013

Fernando Lopes-Graça Piano Concertos: Portuguese Gold

Lopes-Graca: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
Eldar Nebolsin, piano
Orchestra Sinfonica do Porto - Casa da Musica
Matthias Bamert, conductor

Fernando Lopes-Graça (1906-1994) was passionate about the folk music of his native Portugal. And like his contemporary Bela Bartok, he collected it, studied it, absorbed it, and synthesized it into his own music.

His two piano concertos reflect that passion. Both have strong folk rhythms to them. The first piano concerto even has a folk ensemble-like passage lead by an out-of-tune violin. But that roughness soon gives way to some sophisticated music-making. In Lopes-Graça's first piano concerto from 1940 I hear echoes of Khachaturian and Stravinsky (specifically "The Firebird"), but blended in a unique fashion. Lopes-Garça may have several influences, but he's his own man with his own voice.

Lopes-Graça started his second piano concerto a few years after the first, although it was not published until 1950. Here the music seems more influenced by Bartok and Shostakovich. The second concerto sounds more lyrical and expansive (especially in the second movement) than the first.

Highly recommended.

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