«Luis de Freitas Branco (1890–1955) may not be well known, but the notes tell us that he is Portugal’s leading composer of the first half of the 20th Century. Aside from studying in Berlin and Paris, he basically spent his life in Lisbon. He became an active musicologist, a teacher and mentor of younger composers, soughtafter lecturer, and music critic, as well as a composer.
Here we have a spectrum of his music from early to late. The Death of Manfred was written in 1905 and 1906 along with his first orchestral work Manfred, Dramatic Symphony for Soloists, Chorus, and Orchestra. This is a single movement work scored for pairs of violins, violas, and cellos, all muted, and an unmuted double bass. It is, of course, a single slow movement based on a feeling of suffering. It is really quite attractive.
The Suite Alentejana 2 from 1927 is the most immediately attractive of the three works here. It is in three movements based on the rich folklore of Alentejo, a region southeast of Lisbon where the composer had a large ranch and did much of his composing. The themes vary from a slow I to a quicker II and a brilliant III, which may remind some of Rimsky-Korsakoff’s Capriccio Espagnol. This is a wonderful folk music suite.
Freitas Branco began writing the symphony in 1930 and finished it in 1944. It is a massive work lasting 46 minutes. I begins with an adagio that reminds some of Bruckner; and it is followed by an allegro that is a majestic orchestral unison, which, in turn, leads into a second theme with a slower tempo. Many other themes are introduced. II is much less complex and is a lento in sonata form. III is in ABA form. The scheme is similar to III of Brahms’s Symphony 1. IV begins furiously and moves to a sonata form, ending with a lento section and a long coda.
Alvaro Cassuto leads the Spanish orchestra very well, and Naxos supplies a decent recording and good notes. People who are willing to be a little adventurous should enjoy this.» – Carl Bauman, American Record Guide (September 2010)
Symphony N.º 3
1. I. Adagio – Allegro
2. II. Lento
3. III. Allegro
4. IV. Allegro vivace
5. A Morte de Manfredo (The Death of Manfred)
Suite alentejana N.º 2
6. I. Preludio
7. II. Intermezzo
8. III. Final
Ireland RTE National Symphony Orchestra
Álvaro Cassuto (dir.)