A disc of new Portuguese music proves to be a mixed bag

Matosinhos Quartet: Raízes

The Strad Issue: April 2023

Description: A disc of new Portuguese music proves to be a mixed bag

Musicians: Matosinhos Quartet

Works: Music by Azevedo, Carrapatoso, Lapa and Marques

Catalogue number: NAXOS 8.579114 

The ‘raízes’ title of this enjoyable new CD refers to roots, in this case those of Portuguese folk music on which the four composers featured here have drawn, in new works commissioned by the Porto-based Matosinhos Quartet. The results, however, are rather mixed. There’s quite a lot that’s sunny, rhythmic and tuneful in a breezy style that is almost impossible to date (all four works come from 2016 or 2017). Eurico Carrapatoso’s Llaços, contradanças e descantes, for example, takes inspiration from folk music and dances from north-eastern Portugal in a likeably naive suite of five contrasting movements, throwing together jaunty melodies and chugging rhythms, while Fernando C. Lapa’s Suite mirandesa does much the same thing, lending a playfulness to traditional tunes from a similar region. The Matosinhos players seem in their element in these pieces, playing with plenty of character and enthusiasm.

They seem slightly less at ease in the moderately more modernist music in the middle of the disc. The wave-like figurations in the opening movement of Telmo Marques’s Ilhas afortunadas could be mined for more expression, and the musicians could do with playing up the concluding darkness of the final movement of Sérgio Azevedo’s Popularuskia I, a sudden glimpse of authentic emotion after the frolics that have preceded it. There’s nothing wrong with being ear-pleasingly entertaining, of course, but an opportunity has perhaps been missed in both the choice of music and the performances. Recorded sound is exemplary, however.


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