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Fernando Lopes-Graça (1906-1994) is not widely known outside his native Portugal but he was an able composer with a keen interest in his homeland’s folk music. In the booklet, Ivan Moody provides much background material, not least on the composer’s communist sympathies and opposition to the Salazar regime, which landed him in prison. (In 1979, he composed a substantial Requiem to the victims of Fascism in Portugal, issued by Portugalsom Strauss, which has recorded a good deal of his music.)

On the evidence of the concertos on this splendidly vivid recording from Naxos, Lopes-Graça’s music is of middling stature. The First Concerto vividly exhibits its strengths and weaknesses: an appealing, tonally based style (some later works did negotiate with atonality), skilfully and colourfully orchestrated with catchy melodic ideas. These are heard to best advantage in the alternately meditative and intense central Andante; in the outer movements, the structures are simply too long for the material.

The Second Concerto is more consistently successful, tauter in structure, darker in profile. Whereas the first at times sounds like Khachaturian, in the second, Lopes-Graça seems more his own man, with touches here and there of Prokofiev and the lighter Shostakovich. The central Andante con moto is an ‘evocation of Ravel’ built clearly on the model of the Adagio assai of the Basque’s G major Concerto. Eldar Nebolsin and the Porto Symphony Orchestra play both works with virtuosity and commendable gusto, making the best possible case for them under Matthias Bamert’s strong direction.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica


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