JOLY BRAGA SANTOS (1924 - 1988)
Joly Braga Santos was born in Lisbon in 1924 and died there in 1988, at the height of his musical creativity. Although he composed only six symphonies, he was undoubtedly the leading Portuguese symphonist of the century and, in a way, of all time. Apart from an innate sense for good orchestration, his musical language is based on a strong sense of musical architecture as well as drama, with long melodic lines and a natural instinct for structural development as well as formal coherence. In his own words, he wanted to contribute “toward a Latin symphonism and to react against the predominant tendency, of the generation that preceded me, to reject monumentalism in music”.
Having studied violin and composition at the Conservatory in Lisbon, he became a disciple of Luís de Freitas Branco (1980–1955), the leading Portuguese composer of the preceding generation. Although he was not particularly interested in the Portuguese folklore, studying and composing at the country home of his mentor, in the rural south of Portugal, the Alentejo, he willingly accepted the influence of local folk songs that he considered “of mesmerizing originality and grandeur”.
The first four symphonies followed each other quite rapidly. He composed them between the age of 22 and 27, among many other works. He went abroad to study conducting with Hermann Scherchen and composition with Virgilio Mortari, absorbing influences from the post-war avant-garde, which is reflected in the music he composed from 1960 onwards.