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Composer Luís Tinoco records four orchestral works for Naxos

July 16, 2012

The Gulbenkian Orchestra, under the baton of American conductor David Alan Miller, has recorded Portuguese composer Luís Tinoco’s first disc of orchestral music. The repertoire includes the symphonic work Round Time, and three works for soprano voice and orchestra: …from the Depth of Distance with poems by Walt Whitman and Álvaro de Campos (one of Fernando Pessoa’s heteronyms); Search Songs with poems by Alexander Search (another heteronym by Pessoa); and Songs from The Solitary Dreamer with a text by Almeida Faria. The three vocal-orchestral works were sung by the Korean soprano Yeree Suh and the Portuguese sopranos Ana Quintans and Raquel Camarinha.

When setting poetry to music, the multifaceted figure of Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935) has marked a regular presence in Tinoco’s work. Pessoa was one of Portugal’s most prominent writers and a unique figure of European modernism. The critic Harold Bloom referred to him in the book The Western Canon as the most representative poet of the twentieth century, along with Pablo Neruda. In spite of his early experience living abroad, after his return to Portugal at age 17, Pessoa never ventured far from his native Lisbon: “Had you been educated abroad as I was, under the influence of a great European culture, you would realize that the great cities are within you”. The abovementioned heteronyms—one of the most fascinating aspects of Pessoa’s output that he described as “possessing distinct influences and phases, grammar and style, biographies and even horoscopes”—allowed him to “travel away” from himself.

Tinoco’s musical starting point for the two works …from the Depth of Distance and Search Songs was to explore this “multiple-personality” dimension of Pessoa’s work and his ability to escape from himself. Pessoa’s character and life also allowed Tinoco to approach universal and inspiring subjects such as dreams, quests, and worlds. Tinoco used both verses originally written in English (Search Songs) and in Portuguese (…from the Depth of Distance).

The other work for soprano voice, set to a text by Almeida Faria (b. 1943) and inspired by a painting of the Portuguese artist Mário Botas, also deals with journeys and dreams. This piece was scored using four arias from the cantata Wanderings of a Lonely Dreamer created by Tinoco and Faria in 2011.

The orchestral piece Round Time is the only pure instrumental work on this CD, and it is a key work in Tinoco’s output. Written in 2002, the piece is structured in a single movement with circular elements (as suggested in its title), thereby creating a sense of continuum through which a series of events is enchained and endowed with visual properties—in a way, as if it were a painting consisting of various panels.

Conductor David Alan Miller commented: “The sessions with the Gulbenkian Orchestra were absolutely thrilling. The orchestra, Portugal’s very best, was in brilliant form, playing Tinoco’s intricate, very challenging music at the highest international level. Three extraordinary sopranos joined us, each a distinctive, original, magnificent vocal artist. With the legendary French recording producer, Pierre Lavoix, at the controls, we were assured the most refined, elegantly balanced sound and recording quality. And ah, yes, the music! The music was absolutely startling in its beauty and expressive character. Drawing inspiration from sources as diverse as French Impressionism and Brazilian Jazz, Tinoco creates a sound world that is uniquely, distinctly Portuguese, equal parts sunshine, saudade and sensuality. I know it’s good when it makes my knees weak. It was an honor to participate in bringing this important and achingly beautiful music to a wider audience through Naxos’ recording.

The works were recorded in June 2012 by Diapason d’Or Award-winning producer Pierre Lavoix at the Gulbenkian Hall in Lisbon. The recording will be released worldwide on Naxos in 2013.

Photos from the recording sessions (with kind permission of Sofia de Macedo):

Yeree Suh (soprano)
Raquel Camarinha (soprano)
Recording “…from the Depth of Distance”
David Alan Miller & Yeree Suh
Recording “Search Songs”
Ana Quintans (soprano) with David Alan Miller
David Alan Miller & the Orchestra Gulbenkian
Gulbenkian Recording


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