The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Bruno Borralhinho (cello) Luisa Tender (piano)
Composer: Lopes-Graça, Almeida, Fernandes, Freitas, Braga Santos, Branco, Peixinho, Costa & Carneyro
This compilation’s title, ‘Forgotten Page’, refers here to Portuguese cello music of the last century, but could just as well be used for Portuguese music as a whole, which has long struggled to find an identity. Two young performers with a mission to promote their country’s music have filled two discs with 20th-century cello works that they consider worth notice.
Many undoubtedly are: the 1913 Sonata by Luis de Freitas Branco has a passionate sweep and wide range of expression that these performers seem totally in tune with, while the Notturno by Frederico de Freitas, with its soaring melody, is a gem.
Bruno Borralhinho, still in his 20s, a pupil of Markus Nyikos and Truls Mørk and artistic director of Ensemble Mediterrain, is a good vehicle for these diverse works, tender in the first of Joly Braga Santos’s two Árias, dignified and controlled in the Bachian Quasi preludio of Fernando Lopes-Graça and powerful and muscular in the declamatory passages in Santos’s second Ária. His playing is often passionate, and his cello sings out with expressive and natural phrasing, although his tone sometimes has a harsh edge to it, heightened by a rather boomy acoustic, which can render the piano tone over-brash. The rapport with Luisa Tender is especially good in the syncopated jazzy second and fourth movements of Armando José Fernandes’s 1944 Sonata, while Lopes-Graca’s Página esquecida of the title reminds us of Portugal’s claim to cello celebrity in the person of Madame Suggia, for whom it was to have formed the opening of a concerto.