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Harry van der Wal
Harry’s classical music corner, April 2017

There is not a single work on this CD which I do not adore, but especially his ballet. Braga Santos wrote this because he needed some money, and did not think much about it. I am happy that Cassuto thought otherwise, and he was dead right, for it’s a gorgeous orchestrated work, that had me all in feathers. But no matter, whatever he touched, it turned into good music. The invention and unbounded creativity is a balm to my ears. His harmonious language is like a warm and light blanket, through which all can be felt and heard.

As a performance, there is nothing to complain. © 2017 Harry’s classical music corner Read complete review

David Hurwitz, June 2013

…the suite arranged by conductor, composer, and friend Álvaro Cassuto reveals the piece as appealingly tuneful and well-crafted…The Three Symphonic Sketches stand somewhere between the Overture and the Variations. They are truly sketches—short, punchy, and characterful—written in a harmonic idiom that’s quite tonal but saturated with appealingly spicy dissonance.

Álvaro Cassuto, as other discs in this series prove, was not just Braga Santos’ friend. He is an ideal exponent of this music. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra accommodates the widely varying range of expression with evident enthusiasm and confident virtuosity. As with most productions from this source, Naxos’ engineering is excellent. This deserves your attention. © Read complete review

Walter Simmons
Fanfare, July 2012

Those readers who have enjoyed the prior Braga Santos releases will not need much prodding to seek out this latest one. However, for those yet to encounter his music, this is probably not the best place to start. I might also add that if you appreciate the music of, say, Respighi and Hanson, I can pretty well guarantee that the music of Braga Santos will appeal to you. The reason that I can make such statements is that Braga Santos had a very distinctive and consistent musical personality…This is music that would appeal to thousands of people if they knew it existed. In fact, I would love to be present were a live performance to take place, just to observe the audience reaction.

The selections offered here range across much of Braga Santos’s composing career. The earliest is the Elegy in Memory of Vianna da Motta, composed in 1948. This is a beautiful, heartfelt threnody inspired by the death of a well-known Portuguese pianist. There is an exotic aspect suggestive of antiquity, as filtered through a ripe, intensely post-Romantic sensibility, somewhat along the lines of Respighi.

Symphonic Overture No. 3…is instantly recognizable as Braga Santos, with its soaring, long-breathed melodies…

…Álvaro Cassuto is deeply familiar with Braga Santos’s music, and has become its most eloquent champion. Here he leads the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in performances that are proficient and wholly sympathetic, capturing the spirit of the music with enthusiasm. I strongly urge Naxos to continue to bring to light the creative fruits of this fascinating, inspiring, and long-overlooked figure. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

Raymond Tuttle
Fanfare, May 2012

…the Elegy in Memory of Vianna da Motta, the Portuguese pianist and composer who studied under Liszt. Though it is youthful, it is more typical of the composer—that is to say, very fine indeed…Braga Santos’s intense, even monumental, but not showy or pompous writing does suggest his American contemporary, as does the approachability of his writing, which nevertheless remains firmly committed to its own era.

The Symphonic Overture No. 3 dates from 1954. Here, Braga Santos marries, as he sometimes would do in his career, folkloric elements to sophisticated orchestral writing. Here, the music has a scenic grandeur…

Braga Santos’s ears were open throughout his career, and these later works demonstrate that he took in what he needed to grow, stylistically, from the musical world around him. An atmospheric and subtle work, the variations use a tougher language, but still communicate to the listener because the composer’s ideas are strong and distinctive, and because his use of the orchestra is so expert.

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra is a step up from some of the other orchestras used in this series—not that any of them were bad, but Braga Santos’s later scores need the refinement that they receive here. There’s no question that Cassuto is committed to this music, and he has the ability to put it across. Excellent engineering is just another reason to give this disc strong consideration… © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

Nick Barnard
MusicWeb International, April 2012

This is the first Braga Santos disc on Naxos and the first time—on disc—the Royal Scottish National Orchestra have played it. Unsurprisingly, this is very assured all round with the orchestra sounding unfussily good. They are caught in healthy sound at the acoustically dependable Henry Wood Hall Glasgow by the reliable team of producer Andrew Walton and engineer Phil Rowlands.

the first work is the Symphonic Overture No. 3. That is a slightly dry title for an instantly appealing work which while consisting of original themes clearly breathes Iberian air. As with so much Braga Santos, there is strong melodic memorability here allied to open and effective scoring. After a slow introduction the main theme flows with an appealing gallant sweep supported by an insistent side-drum and brass flourishes. The essential mood is vivacious and joyful although the big climax a minute or so from the end is impassioned and powerful. There is something faintly cinematic about the music but it sets out to please and is wholly successful.

The earliest work on the disc comes next and is much more austere and indeed sombre. It is the Elegy in memory of Vianna da Motta. José Vianna da Motta was one of Liszt’s last piano pupils. Quite what direct link inspired the Braga Santos composition is not clear but it resulted in an impressive ten minute eulogy. The central section is a powerful lamenting cortege that builds over muffled drums to an assertively emotional climax before sinking back to the musing opening—a lovely cor anglais solo entwined with sonorous violas.

The longest work here receives its world premiere recording. It is a suite assembled by Álvaro Cassuto from the ballet Alfama. It’s well-crafted, easy on the ear music that does the job required of it.

This disc encapsulates the ability of Naxos to produce discs of considerable technical, artistic and musical merit of repertoire even knowledgeable collectors have never encountered before.

this is a high quality disc displaying an impressive range of musical styles. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Lee Passarella
Audiophile Audition, March 2012

Cassuto, Braga Santos’ greatest advocate, has an intimate understanding and sympathy for the composer’s idiom and has the Scottish orchestra playing as if they have more than a bit of Latin blood in their veins. Naxos’ sound is a good match: bright, forward, nicely detailed. This is an excellent place to start exploring the music of Portugal’s finest composer. If you’re like me, you won’t want to stop here. © 2012 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

Rob Barnett
MusicWeb International, March 2012

The conductor Cassuto…writes the very personable and unstuffily direct liner-note. He has been at the forefront of the propagation of Portuguese concert music both within Portugal and worldwide. He knows and can search out its inherent rhythmic zest, poetry and provocative life. The fact that he has done this so successfully with orchestras…serves as testimony to his communicative skills and utter dedication. In this he is aided and most vividly abetted by the larger than life Naxos recording.

Do not overlook Braga Santos but be ready to encounter his two personas: triumphantly lyrical melodist and searingly intense modernist. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Hubert Culot
MusicWeb International, February 2012

Cassuto knows and understands Braga Santos’ music well. He thus conducts impeccable and committed readings of these often quite beautiful works. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra respond with equally committed playing. So, if you have been hooked by Cassuto’s recordings of the symphonies, this generously filled release is for you. It may also be safely recommended to anyone new to Braga Santos’ music, were it only because it offers a fair survey of this composer’s stylistic evolution over the years. I hope that Álvaro Cassuto will continue recording other works by Braga Santos for there are two other overtures, a piano concerto and a handful of shorter orchestral works that still await professional recordings. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, February 2012

The concert begins with his Symphonic Overture No. 3 from 1954. The reserved opening introduces a winsome main theme (WM), which is apparently of the composer’s own design but stylistically related to folk music from the Alentejo region of Portugal. The music then suddenly becomes more energetic and some additional related ideas appear. A sonata form development and recapitulation follow with the overture ending in a glorious high spirited coda based on WM.

The mood becomes more sullen with Elegy in Memory of Vianna da Motta, written in 1948 for the great Portuguese pianist-composer (1868-1948), who had just died. In A-B-A form there’s a deathly Nordic chill about the beginning with its crescendo of grief, and the sorrowful ending. They surround a driving drum-punctuated central episode invoking images of a passing funeral cortege. The overall effect is exceptionally heart-rending.

Named after the oldest district in Lisbon known for its Moorish history, the resultant colorfully scored, twenty-five minute Alfama Ballet Suite (WPR) was well worth the effort! It consists of a mystical introduction that could almost be out of a Miklós Rózsa…followed by eight dance movements.

Dating from 1976, the Variations for Orchestra (WPR) is a good example of Braga Santos’ later style. An intricately complex score, the overall effect is mesmerizing, and bears repeated listening for full appreciation.

This time around Cassuto is at the helm of the Royal Scottish Orchestra (RSNO), and gets memorable performances from his crew. His attention to instrumental detail, phrasing, and dynamics, particularly in the complex last two scores, shows this music off to great advantage. And if you’re not already familiar with them, make sure to investigate his previous Braga Santos releases on Naxos’ sister label Marco Polo (see 8223879, 8225087, 8225216, 8225186, 8225233 and 8225271).

Made at the RSNO Center, Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, the recordings are extremely detailed and well focused across a wide, deep soundstage in an attractively reverberant acoustic. © 2012 Classical Lost and Found Read complete review

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