Alvaro Cassuto: Joly Braga Santos Symphony 4, Ireland National Symphony

Labels: ,

Joly Braga Santos Symphony 4
Conducted by Álvaro Cassuto with the Ireland National Symphony Orchestra.

I. Lento - 00:00
II. Andante - 13:49
III. Allegro Tranquillo - 26:05
IV. Lento - 37:08

"The slow introduction of the Fourth Symphony starts with a Brucknerian tremolo, with a solo bassoon playing the main theme. Building up to a quite foreseeable tutti in fortissimo, the music slows down to a halt, prior to the beginning of the Allegro con fuoco. A rhythmic cell, starting pianissimo in the low strings, builds up harmonically by the addition of fourths to a fortissimo, where the woodwind plays the main theme of the Allegro. The strings then take over the theme and, after a short development, we hear a long melody, the second theme of this sonata-form movement. The development is quite clear, with different orchestral sections treated in blocks of sound, leading to a slowing down and a fermata, before the recapitulation. Here the rhythmic cell is introduced by the snare drum and timpani, again with a Brucknerian crescendo with string tremolos. The movement ends fortissimo with no surprises. The second movement starts like a funeral march with an ostinato melody in the low register. The main theme, introduced by the clarinets, is then taken over by the whole woodwind with a strong counterpoint in the strings, and the music develops naturally until reaching an intense accelerando leading to big outbursts of sound. A middle section features muted strings singing a modal monody against the low brass harmonic background. This middle section develops, again by repeats, to a fortissimo, which then subsides to give way to a recapitulation. At the end, the timpani and percussion die away in the distance."

"The Scherzo is clearly influenced by Sibelius, starting with string tremolos and bass pizzicati. The long cantilena of the oboe is based on a development of the initial theme. The natural evolution of the music then leads to a second theme in the woodwind in thirds, over a regular crotchet rhythm in the strings in pizzicato. After a repeat of the initial section we reach a Trio in 5/4 rhythm. Its main theme sounds like a folk-tune, opening a window into the world of the main section of the finale, where we again find music that has a folkloristic colour, although it is not actually based on any folk material. The scherzo and trio is repeated, and the coda leads to a hectic ending of the movement by means of an accelerando. The fourth movement is the most complex of all movements of the symphony, with three main sections a slow introduction, a bi-thematic Allegro and a chorale-like ending. The slow introduction presents the initial theme in the bass, in an ostinato motif which accelerates into the Allegro con brio. Here, the four trumpets playa rhythmic background which is as brilliant as it is technically difficult. The second theme of the bi-thematic finale is a folk-dance in 3+3+2 rhythm This dance is quite incisive in character and it leads to a 5/8 development and, then, to a grandiose Alla breve, melodious section, up to the recapitulation. Here the musical material is presented in much richer orchestral colours. The folk-dance builds up and leads to an abrupt ending over a roll in the timpani. The low brass then prepares the chorale-like Epilogue. This last is the climax of the Fourth Symphony. Like Beethoven's Ninth it has an all-embracing melody of timeless character which the composer called a "Hymn to Youth", dedicated to the Jeunesses Musicales, of whose founding Board of Directors Braga Santos was a member. Braga Santos probably felt that, like Beethoven in his Ninth Symphony, he should have composed a choral finale rather than an orchestral one. Therefore, for a performance of this symphony at a convention of the Jeunesses Musicales in Lisbon; he superimposed on it a four-part mixed chorus. In my opinion, the chorus does not enrich the music, nor does it add grandeur. Quite the contrary, it actually banalizes the originality of Braga Santos' initial concept, and covers the wealth of its orchestration. The work is scored for two flutes and piccolo, two oboes and cor anglais, two clarinets and bass clarinet, two bassoons and contrabassoon, four horns, four trumpets, three trombones and tuba, harp, timpani, snare drum, bass drum, triangle, cymbals and tarn-tam and strings." - Alvaro Cassuto

the above as a playlist