“For a time, composer Joly Braga Santos occupied a space in Estado Novo Portugal similar to that of Joaquín Rodrigo in Spain, writing attractive tonal works in a style somewhat insulated from contemporary developments. Through about the end of the 1950s he wrote music akin to that of Rodrigo or that of the English pastoral school, with skillful orchestration, a profusion of little tunes (there is nothing here that leaves you tapping your feet like Rodrigo does, but the four Renaissance-flavored miniatures are charming), and light folk influences. Then Braga Santos went to Italy in the 1960s. Conductor Álvaro Cassuto saves the best for last here: Braga Santos did not turn into an avant-gardist, but his music took on an edgier feel. The Piano Concerto, Op. 52, is a brusque, concise work that would make any audience sit up and take notice, and deserves full-scale addition to the standard repertory. Although Cassuto, a close friend of Braga Santos, doesn't mention it, it seems as though Shostakovich served as a model here (and that would fit with the experience of living in a dictatorship). Sample the first movement, with its large, tense percussion section. The finale brightens a bit. Croatian pianist Goran Filipec, a specialist in virtuoso repertory, is competent, and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic sounds great in its home hall, the Friary in Liverpool. Recommended for the piano concerto alone.”
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