Luis de Freitas Branco was a pre-eminent figure in Portuguese music of the first half of the twentieth century. This first disc of a four-volume series of Freitas Branco' orchestral works features the First Symphony, in which the influence of Cesar Franc
This first volume in a projected series of Freitas Branco orchestral works nicely outlines his three principal styles. First, in the symphony, there is the influence of Franck and his school. This is so pronounced, particularly in the finale, that the result risks caricature. There is no need to describe the music in any further detail: if you love Franck's Symphony in D minor, then you'll also enjoy this work. It's a very, very good copy, closer to its model in sound and structure than many of the works of Franck's immediate contemporaries (Chausson, for example, or Dukas). If you forget the fact that the symphony was composed in 1924, you certainly would think you are hearing a French piece from the 1890s.
The Scherzo fantasque also betrays a French influence, this time of the impressionists, or perhaps Dukas, in its piquant use of a smallish orchestra with plenty of colorful percussion. Suite Alentejana No. 1 reveals Freitas Branco as an ethnic nationalist, recalling Falla, particularly in the ebullient concluding Fandango. It's a lovely work--but then all of this music is certainly worth getting to know, especially when the performances are this sympathetic and well recorded. Álvaro Cassuto is of course familiar to collectors from his series of orchestral works by Joly Braga Santos (one that I hope is ongoing--there's still come good stuff there). He's not only an authority on the Portuguese school, but he projects his knowledge of the composers and their various idioms with unfailing enthusiasm and stylishness, making this latest release an easy recommendation. -- Classics Today, David Hurwitz, August 2008