Matosinhos String Quartet Raizes Naxos

Raízes (‘Roots’) – Portuguese Chamber Music
Eurico Carrapatoso (b.1962) 
Llaços, contradanças e descantes (2016)
Telmo Marques (b. 1963) 
Ilhas Afortunadas (2016)
Sérgio Azevedo (b.1968) 
Popularuskia I (2001)
Fernando C. Lapa (b.1950) 
Suite Mirandesa (version for string quartet) (2017)
Matosinhos String Quartet
rec. 2020, Portugal
Naxos 8.579114 [49]

These premiere recordings of Portuguese music of the last two decades cosy up to our ears through the agency of the Matosinhos String Quartet consisting of Vitor Vieira (violin I), Marco Pereira (violin II), Juan Carlos Maggiorani (viola) and Jorge Alves (cello). There are no popular ‘sweeteners’ to dilute the savour: just four works by composers from Portugal, all written in the two years 2016 and 2017. They range in duration between 12 and 14 minutes and each is divided into movements (between 4 and 5). The result is that no stretch of music is longer than four minutes with most being quite a bit shorter. They are all played with conviction and engagement. Just what you might expect from an ensemble who commissioned these works. With the exception of a few moments in the Azevedo, all four are relaxed and often light of heart. The Matosinhos’ ‘design remit’ was directed towards music inspired by “melodies, dances and stories from Portuguese traditional folklore”. The movements reference Portuguese composers or songs or dances.

The work by Eurico Carrapatoso is all serenity and night skies in its first and third movements. It is rather like Finzi in Introit and In Terra Pax. Its contemplative almost Bach-like serenity personifies the introspective. Then again, there’s a chuckling and shivering second movement. The finale (V) dances in confidence with much euphoric feet-tapping. The latter is rather akin to the middle movement of the Moeran Violin Concerto.

Telmo Marques’ Ilhas Afortunadas has movements titled around the theme of local seas and the islands, The ocean is at peace and glitters in the dazzle of the sun while allusions to the mythologies surrounding the Azores and Madeira cajole or charm their way in. An unstable rhythmic dance smiles its way through the second movement. The third movement sports a typically Iberian atmosphere matched up with slippery writing for the strings.

Sérgio Azevedo’s Popularuskia I is, relatively speaking, the oldest work here. It references international and local composers we might conceivably have heard of. The five movements are titled in memory of two such: Joly Braga Santos (1924-1988) (I and II) and Fernando Lopes-Graça (1906-1944). The Braga Santos movements are lyrical and bask in contentment. The second canters along, blazing with life. The penultimate movement memorialises Bartók (1881-1945), a composer much entwined around folk music. It rushes and then halts as if having lost its way and then gathers itself to reference the toughest aspects of the Hungarian’s later quartets. It also carries the rhythmic and mood DNA of the Ravel quartet’s first movement. The last movement “Ó ó menino ó”, is marked “for my dear friend Eurico Carrapatoso”. It is slow, malcontented and sloughed in a brown study, recessive and melancholic.

Fernando Lapa’s Suite Mirandesa is deployed across four movements playing for 11 minutes in total. The fourth is folksy along the lines of the round dances in works by Fretas Branco, Braga Santos and Milhaud’s Suite Provencale. The sound of village dances and the rustic harmonium abound. The third movement, “Cum ró-ró”, sounds for all the world like a not completely static lament. The Finale has a dance-like mien but with dreamy moments interpolated. It ends in an almost arbitrary petering out.

This Quartet’s main metier is the contemporary string quartet in Portugal. They have premiered more than forty works in that category but they do not overlook the core repertoire and have also presented the complete quartet works of Mozart and Mendelssohn. 

The liner-notes in English only are by Rita Carreira. 

Rob Barnett

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