Freitas’ Silly Girl, On Naxos, Is No Joke

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 8

Frederico de Freitas (1902-80) was a Portuguese nationalist composer who wrote some very attractive music, on evidence here. He was best known for his ballets, two of which are included on this disc. The Silly Girl’s Dance is a colorfully scored work about—you guessed it—a silly girl who dances. Okay, it’s not going to win any awards for the thrilling story line, but what matters is that the music really is enjoyable—spiky and rhythmic, a bit like Roussel, or perhaps a sort of Portuguese Copland. The Wall of Love, in contrast, is more lyrical and intimate, while Ribatejo is a brief (eight minutes) but festive tone poem.

Probably the best piece here is the Medieval Suite, a six-movement celebration inspired by, but not based on, early Portuguese music. Although the tunes are all original, the use of modally inflected harmony adds an evocative feeling of timelessness, and the scoring is particularly sensitive. This is one of those pieces that deserves to become a concert favorite, but probably never will get the chance.

As with previous issues in this ongoing series of Portuguese music, the performances under Álvaro Cassuto aren’t likely to be bettered. This is all the more remarkable when you consider that all four works were recorded in just two days, a “rehearse and record” scenario that’s also a tribute to the professionalism of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. They could not have known this music beforehand, but they play it with impressive confidence. The sonics are a bit dull on top as compared with other issues from this source, but otherwise very good. Worth collecting.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None

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