Joly Braga Santos’ Attractive Chamber Music (Volume 1)

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Toccata Classics has amassed an exceptional catalog of interesting and neglected repertoire, and this appealing release certainly fills that bill. If you’ve been following the Naxos/Marco Polo series of Portuguese composer Joly Braga Santos’ colorful orchestral works, then this series of chamber pieces offers the logical next step. The two string quartets are both early-ish, the first being rather amorphously structured but lovely to listen to, the second far more concise and no less melodically seductive. Both take advantage of the composer’s modal harmonic style at the time, reminiscent of Vaughan Williams and Respighi, with a touch of impressionist textural translucency tossed in for good measure.

The String Sextet is a late piece, dating from 1986. It’s fascinating how Braga Santos can use many of the current modernisms, from Bartókian driving rhythms, to dissonant tone clusters and a variety of purely textural sound effects, but still come out sounding like the same guy in the end. It makes a nice contrast to the honeyed sonorities of the two quartets and reveals Braga Santos’ wider expressive (not to mention compositional) range. The performances by the Quarteto Lopes-Graça (and friends) are totally committed as well as timbrally pleasing, and they are very well recorded. I look forward to further volumes in this series.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None

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