Scrolling through the section for Portugal of any recorded music catalogue can be rather dispiriting. A few of our national composers are played by mostly foreign musicians or we find national performers playing foreign composers. For example, three Portuguese orchestras (Nova Filarmonia, Orquestra Sinfónica and Orquestrado Algarve) released on 20 May though Naxos (8579130) a compilation conducted by Álvaro Cassuto of works by seven composers only one of whom , Manuel Joly Braga Santos, is Portuguese.
However, the same label (Cat. 8579105) preceded this CD six months ago by issuing the strangely titled “Bows Up“ which features earthy, energetic playing by the Lisbon´s Camerata Atlantica of Sinfonietta for Strings and Music for Strings (dedicated to Béla Bartók) by Sérgio Azevedo ; António Fragoso´s Concerto Romântico and the Concerto for Strings in D minor by Braga Santos which seems to echo the work of English Vaughan Williams. Led by violinist Ana Beatriz Manzilla the ensemble´s performance has a contagious air of enthusiasm which has led me to play this CD multiple times ; especially suitable for sultry summer evenings in the garden!
Refreshing too was the recital given by Portuguese pianist Paulo Oliveira in his debut recording also issued on 20 May (Cat. ODRCD429) with the title “Iberian Impressions” in which he cleverly links recent works by Portuguese and Spanish Composers Armando Fernandes, Isaac Albéniz, Pedro Blanco, José da Motta and Xavier Montsalvatge. Born in northern Portugal, Paulo Oliveira studied under Sequeira Costa and is now a senior tutor at the national academy for orchestral studies in Lisbon. His style is competently adventurous and bears some comparison to that of the late Nelson Freire to whose pinnacle of fame this young musician may well ascend.
Admirers of the great guitarist João Torre do Valle have issued a memorial CD (Cat. SPA11617684) which is a compilation of recordings made during his long career. Known affectionately by his peers as O Zina, he never made a studio recorded album, preferring instead to exercise his incredible skills at both public and private locations to which he had been invited. Included are tapes of his appearances as soloist with the Landesjugendorchester; intimate harmonies with Jorge Fernando, Fernando Alvim and Rui Silveira; performances at the Fundação Portuguesa das Comunicações and the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos. A great tribute to a kindly, highly skilled musician sadly missed.
Lastly, and in complete contrast, I recommend your audition to “Radio Kriola: Reflections on a Portuguese Identity” which dates from July 2018 (Cat. EUCD2802). Fourteen songs such as Canto de Pescador, o Caminho, Ninita, Yoru and Ondja are performed with amazing vitality by Catarina dos Santos who interprets the colours, rhythms and, of course, differences which contrast the styles of Brazil, Angola, Cape Verde and Portugal. Ideal jazz for summer parties !