“This CD released by the Etcetera Records label opens a small, but delicate window on French chamber music of the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The program opens with the Trio for piano, violin and cello op. 3 which, composed by Ernest Chausson in 1881 and performed for the first time on 8 April 1882 at the Société Nationale de Musique in Paris, is a work in four movements with a cyclical structure in which the composer shows an excellent mastery of the techniques and of the compositional forms despite in some passages there is a lyricism, perhaps a little rhetorical, although intense. Two works by Eugène Ysaÿe complete the program: the Poème Élégiaque for violin and piano Op.12, inspired by the tragedy Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, and the Méditation-Poème for cello and piano Op.16 which, composed in 1910, is one page rhapsodic in character.

These pieces are excellently performed by Bruno Monteiro (violin), Miguel Rocha (cello), João Paulo Santos (piano). In the Chausson Trio the three artists find a perfect harmony that allows them to give the impression of listening to a single instrument with different timbres. In particular, João Paulo Santos, on the piano, accompanies without ever overwhelming them, Bruno Monteiro and Miguel Rocha, who, both endowed with a solid technique, but also with an expressive way, perform these pieces with great attention to phrasing and dynamics. Particularly beautiful is the performance of the Poème by Monteiro, as is the performance of the Méditation-Poème by Miguel Rocha of absolute value.”

GB Opera, Riccardo Viagrande

“On the Belgian label Etcetera Records, founded by David Rossiter and Michel Arcizet, every detail is revealing. In Bruno Monteiro's new album, the interpreter, accompanied by two musicians of excellent musical qualities – cellist Miguel Rocha and pianist João Paulo Santos – interprets the Trio for piano, violin and cello in G minor, op. 3, by the French composer Ernest Chausson (1855-1899), the Poéme Elégiaque for violin and piano, op. 12, and the wonderful Meditation-Poème for cello and piano, op. 16, by the Belgian composer and conductor Eugène Ysaÿe.

Monteiro, with Rocha and Santos, puts the listener in front of a multiplicity of sounds, in which it is possible to recognize, for a better understanding of the historical moment, the music of two composers with a poetic sensibility and a very rigorous idiomatic pattern.

The Trio for piano, violin and cello in G minor, coldly received at the premiere, is a work in four movements (in fact, the result of the advice of César Franck) and we find the cyclical themes of the violin - Monteiro's lyricism is a dazzling journey - in addition to a deep harmonic ambiguity and rhythmic force, which sustains the four movements.

Ysaÿe's sound poetry, reflected in the Poéme Elégiaque - dedicated to Fauré - and in the Meditation Poème, is inherent to these two purely romantic chamber pieces. The author seeks darkness through scordatura; he seems to have been inspired by Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and by Chausson's music.

Rhapsodic in nature, Ysaÿe, who formed his own quartet in 1894, composed the Meditation-Poème with a singular (rather than conventional) notation to indicate changes in meter. Rocha and Santos, cello and piano, display an energy of dramatic intensity, dark and sober.

A recording of a high artistic and musical level.”

Sonograma Magazine, Josep Bosch

“The Sonata No.1 for Violin and Piano was written by Luís de Freitas Branco (1890-1955) in 1908 when the composer was only 17 years old and studying at the National Conservatory in Lisbon. He was to become one of the great Portuguese composers of the Romantic era. The work won first prize in a composition competition in the Portuguese capital and does not deserve the neglect that it has received. This very fine sonata is in four movements and rather forward looking in its melodic and harmonic content. Monteiro and Santos’s ensemble work is excellent and the violin tone is attractive. Ravel’s (1875-1937) Sonata No.2 (1927) fares better in performance, especially the Blues movement. Occasionally the violin tone reminds one of Mischa Elman and this can be heard in the Sonata No.2 for Violin and Piano Fantasia by Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887- 1959). He composed four violin sonatas and this second one, consisting of three movements, was composed in 1914 and exhibits a fantasy like style as suggested in the title.”

Stringendo Magazine (Australia), Andrew Lorenz

CHAUSSON – AN INTIMATE PAINTED PORTRAIT

“Bruno Monteiro knows how to handle things. Whenever the Portuguese violinist releases a new album, the dynamics in his performance speak volumes. Energetic, proud and sincere, something you want to wake up to and that positively influences your mood during the day. This time he managed to surprise us with music by Ernest Chausson and Eugène Ysaÿe. A permanent companion of music is the pianist João Paulo Santos and this time also the cellist Miguel Rocha. A Belgian label – Et'cetera – and also a Belgian composer. Beautiful!

Ernst Chausson (1855-1899) grew up in a loving Parisian family, where music did not play the main role. Still, a teacher gave him a love for the Fine Arts and he soon couldn't choose between music or literature. Ultimately, it was music that gained when he began studying piano at fifteen, despite being also very talented as a painter. He may have started out in law school, but he ended up at the Paris Conservatoire. He composed works for piano and chamber music, orchestral works and opera. The connection with the virtuoso Belgian violinist Ysaÿe? Ysaÿe premiered her Poème for violin and orchestra in 1896.

Chausson was known as a shy personality who had a great love for beauty and nature. He liked to be surrounded by artists from all kinds of fields, such as Monet and Duparc.
His trio for piano, violin and cello in G minor opus 3 opens this CD and can surely be considered one of the most beautiful pieces of the late 19th century period, despite the work being received coldly by the Société Nationale de Musique. It was not published posthumously until 1919.
The nice thing is that you can hear all these dynamics, as if you were diving into a painting. Tone colors are heard and even a little pointillism is allowed on a dreamy background. As if feeling the energy of that cultural period.

Ysaÿe started her career at a very young age. He made his public debut at the age of seven and studied at the Brussels Conservatory with Wieniawski and later in Paris with Henri Vieuxtemps. He was known for his beautiful vibrato, romantic tics and warm sounds. In addition to his most famous works, he also wrote two musical poems that you can hear here. The rather somber Poème Élégiaque was dedicated to Gabriel Fauré. This is exactly what challenged Chausson to write his own Poème. The Méditaton-Poème was written in 1910 but not published until 1921. The violinist-composer always wanted to make sure that only the best would be published. The work was dedicated to the cellist Fernand Pollain and has a rhapsodic character.

This album addresses music that may not be known to the masses, but that is very much worth putting on the map and being tasted and appreciated.”


Cultuurpakt, Veerle Deknopper

A hothouse Franco-Belgian programme astutely programmed and beautifully performed

“This is an astutely programmed disc that draws on connections and nuances between Chausson and his slightly younger contemporary Ysaÿe – who famously premièred the Poème - both of them devotees of Franck. It was Franck who tutored the young Chausson, and certainly there are strong imprints of the older man’s cyclical procedure and hothouse atmospherics in Chausson’s 33-minute Trio.

This is a work, long ignored for decades, that has increasingly received recordings. Bruno Monteiro (violin), Miguel Rocha (cello) and pianist João Paulo Santos form a formidable trio and marry long-term structural goals with moments of expressive piquancy to generate the necessary dramatic light and shade in a work as youthfully intense as this. It’s noticeable that they avoid excessive tempi, such as one can find in the Trio Solisti’s effort on Bridge or in elements of the Fidelio Trio’s recording on Resonus, where both the opening movement and slow movement are pressed quite hard – at least in relation to the Etcetera team’s performance. By contrast the Portuguese trio convey the fluidity of the first movement’s dramatic peaks and troughs through wistful and assured exchanges and a sculptural firmness that repays repeated listening. The slow movement’s Scherzo gains through fine control of momentum and mood, Bruno Monteiro floating his tone with admirable refinement, Miguel Rocha matching him in sophistication of tone production, anchored by the consistent excellence of pianist João Paulo Santos. The fluctuation in expressive density of the slow movement is beautifully realised, and the elasticity of the finale’s melody lines are conveyed at a fine tempo, with playing of power and ardour, not least from the hard-working pianist.

The two selected works by Ysaÿe act as fine commentaries in themselves on the bigger and more emotively outgoing Chausson Trio. Both, in fact, were later to be orchestrated for string soloist and orchestra in which form they have often been encountered on disc. In the Poème Élégiaque, the violinist’s G string is tuned to F, which vests it with a dusky, melancholic quality. Not only does it emphasise the mournful qualities of the music but it also sounds positively viola-like in places. It was his first tone poem and evokes the Lekeu-like, Wagnerian plangency of the fin-de-siecle Belgian school to which Monteiro responds with fulsome instrumental address. Both he and Santos prove adroit in the expressive potential of the music, lightening the mood when required or darkening and deepening the twilit atmosphere in a notably balanced reading. A competing version, though very differently coupled – Vierne, Franck and Lili Boulanger - is on Hyperion, finely played by Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien (review). For the orchestrated version, you have the Fuga Libera box (FUG758), where it’s played by Tedi Papavrami (review) or the CPO 777 051-2 (review), to cite just two examples.

Méditation-Poème can also be found in that Fuga Libera box, where it’s played by Gary Hoffman. It shows Ysaÿe’s command of the rhapsodic but also his employment of the chromatic, ripely coloured, that enriches the music rather than stifling or throttling it. Too astute and shrewd an executant-composer for that, Ysaÿe gives the cellist some eloquent lines to spin, to which Miguel Rocha responds with ardour, splendidly matched by João Paulo Santos.

This programme gives numerous opportunities for individual and collective strengths and comes with notes from the violinist and an excellent recording supervised by José Fortes. The hothouse is in good hands in this release.”

Musicweb International, Jonathan Woolf

Recording: ****/****
Performance: ****/****

“(…) All of that is made more so with the performance here. The opening movement is given its due well, but the central movements bring out the ensemble´s interation well in the scherzo. There is much lyrical writing here as well which is beautifully performed both by Monteiro and Rocha. The phrase and articulation are matched equally well. The piano impassioned harmonic interjections add the proper energy and forward momentum.
(…) Monteiro provides a quite impassioned performance (Ysaye) with rich tone, especially in the lower registal sections. The technical demands of the piece also make this attractive. The arc of the work is also well captured here.
(…) The Meditation-Poeme for cello and piano, Op.16 will be another delightful discovery for people unifamiliar with Ysaye´s music and makes for an interesting comparison to his other earlier work. Again, the harmonic palette is most striking here with its flirtations with a sort of impressionist-romantic blend of sound.
For those you enjoy exploring rare chamber music, this release will be well worth seeking out especially for the rarer Ysaye. An interesting pairing that works well to introduce listeners to two important composers from this era of French/Belgian music.”

Cinemusical, Steven Kennedy

“The composer Ernest Chausson studied with Massenet and Franck and is considered an important link between the late romantic tradition of Wagnerian character and Impressionism. Composed in 1881 in Montbovon, Switzerland, his Piano Trio reveals Chausson's lyrical qualities as a composer. It is influenced by César Franck's tonal language; Franck's Piano Quintet of 1878/79 may have been a concrete model. Even then, Chausson was independent enough to create a work that can be considered one of the most elegant and beautiful piano trios of the late 19th century. The musicians Bruno Monteiro (violin), João Paulo Santos (piano) and Miguel Rocha (cello) are among the leading chamber musicians of Portugal. They interpret Chausson's work with brilliance and passion without sentimentalizing it. The two Poèmes by Ysaÿe for violin or cello and piano are a nice bonus.”

Rondo Magazin (Germany)

“Some of you may know the work of violinist Bruno Monteiro from his record albums, others from his many personal appearances, and yet a few more from my several reviews of his previous CD’s. For those who aren’t quite familiar with him yet, let me remind you. The weekly Expresso describes him as “one of today's most renowned Portuguese musicians.” He is internationally recognized as an eminent violinist.” Fanfare says he has a “burnished golden tone” and Strad comments on his having “a generous vibrato” producing radiant colors. Music Web International refers to his interpretations as producing a “vitality and an imagination that are looking unequivocally to the future” and that reach an “almost ideal balance between the expressive and the intellectual.” Gramophone praises his “unfailing assurance and eloquence,” and Strings Magazine notes that he is “a young chamber musician of extraordinary sensitivity." So, yes, he is very, very good.

Joining Mr. Monteiro on the present album is pianist Joao Paulo Santos and cellist Miguel Rocha. Together, they make some very, very good music.

The program begins with the Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello in G minor, Op. 3 by French composer Ernest Chausson (1855-1899). He wrote the piece early in his short career, while still in his mid twenties and just after studying music with Jules Massenet and Cesar Franck. Chausson did not produce an abundance of music during his brief lifetime--thirty-nine published works in all--but they were all imaginative, original, and enchanting. While he is probably best known for the Symphony in B-flat, the symphonic poem Viviane, and the Poème for violin and orchestra, his Trio is certainly another piece to be reckoned with. Indeed, it is considered by many listeners as one of Chausson’s best small-scale chamber works.

The Trio opens with a lyrical, gently rhythmic introduction before turning to a more-animated theme. The three players here maintain a strong chemistry, the violin taking the lead, with the accompanying piano and cello alternating and intertwining in cyclic variations or patterns of spirals. The performers are uniformly vibrant in their interpretation, with Monteiro’s violin an impressively solid mainstay throughout. The second movement also starts gently, then picks up a head of lighthearted steam as the instruments pursue one another around the score. It’s all quite delightful, actually, and leads into the third, slow movement. Here, it’s the piano that takes the forestage, with the violin and cello then joining in a plaintive call. It’s a lovely, poetic interlude that recalls the music of some of Chausson’s acquaintances--Massenet, Franck, and Faure in its graceful, flowing tones. It also displays the talents of Monteiro, Santos, and Rocha and their ability to smoothly meld into one. Then the Trio ends with a sprightly animated and playfully spontaneous finale that wraps up the whole work in fine fashion, the players ready to take their well-deserved bows.

Accompanying the Trio are two short pieces by one of Chausson’s contemporaries, Belgian violinist, conductor, and composer Eugene Ysaye (1858-1931). Fans called Ysaye “the king of the violin,” and, in fact, Chausson considered him to be the best interpreter of his work he’d ever heard. On the present album we have the Poeme Elegiaque for Violin and Piano, Op. 12 (later orchestrated but here done in its original form with Monteiro and Santos) and the Meditation-Poeme for Cello and Piano, Op. 16, with Rocha and Santos. They’re both sweet, enjoyable pieces, the Meditation a little more melancholy than the Elegy, and both played with a fine, delicate poise.

Producers Bruno Monteiro and Dirk De Greef and engineer Jose Fortes recorded the music at Igreja da Cartuxa, Caxias, Portugal in September 2021. As with most small-ensemble recordings, this one is relatively close, providing good, clear detail. Yet there is a mild hall resonance to add warmth to the sessions. As we might expect in the Violin Trio, the violin is the dominant but not overpowering sound.”

Classical Candor, John Puccio

Five stars: A disc full of delights and surprises, of subtle shades, of revelations. A superb disc on all levels

"An ideal coupling here, two composers capable of the heights of beauty. I very much enjoyed these players’ disc of Lekeu in Fanfare 43:1, back in 2019, and this is an apt sequel, both in repertoire and in performance standard.
Dating from 1881/2, Chausson’s Piano Trio in G-Minor, op. 5 blazes with a white-hot intensity. It is a joy to listen to, not least because of Bruno Monteiro’s ability to play so in tune. Cellist Miguel Rocha is an eloquent partner, while Joāo Paulo Santos's strength is to convey that intensity without ever resorting to virtuosity (the piano part sounds fiendishly difficult). The booklet annotator (Monteiro himself) is right to mention the shadow of Franck over this music, and not just in terms of the cyclic nature of the piece; and yet Chausson has his own, magical voice. We hear that voice in songful form in the contrasting moments of the second movement Scherzo. Fascinating to hear this performance, so disciplined and yet so pitch perfect to Chausson’s vocabulary. João Paulo Santos gets his chance to shine in the long cello lines of this movement, and shine he does, delivering effortless legato. As a song without words for cello and violin, this movement has few peers. It is remarkable to place this work: Chausson was only 26 years old at the time, having attended classes by both Franck and Massenet, and yet Chausson paints on such a vast canvas, and Monteiro, Rocha, and Santos relish every minute. There is no sense of hurry at all in the “Assez lent” slow movement. In contrast, the finale is marked “Animé" and it certainly trips along with a remarkably Gallic tinge. The slightly dry acoustic of the recording enables the dotted rhythms to really spring, while Santos’ way with the grander statements is perfectly scaled. This is true chamber music, through and through.
While the coupling on the excellent Trio Wanderer performance also works well (the Ravel Piano Trio, Fanfare 23;4), the move to Belgium and Eugène Ysaÿe is spectacularly thought-through, and well timed (in that a significant number of Ysaÿe releases seems to have come my way in various formats of late, not least Sherban Lupu’s amazing Ysaÿe "adventure" with the G-Minor Concerto plus some short pieces—Fanfare 45:3—plus some notable live concerts in London). If there is a flowering of interest in Ysaÿe’s music, it is most definitely to be welcomed. The Poème Élégiaque is gloriously melodious, and what a pleasure it is to hear Monteiro's throaty lower register (the G-String is tuned down to F in this piece, and the whole lower register sounds incredibly intense and poignant so that when Ysaÿe moves to middle or high register it literally feels like it is another instrument responding). The piece flows effortlessly, and while it is violin dominates (and Monteiro is every bit as accurate and expressive as he is in Chausson‘s Trio), one should not miss the subtleties Santos brings to the piano part. As the piece progresses, we move into the fiendishly difficult territory one naturally associates with Ysaÿe, and Monteiro is absolutely the equal of any challenge, be it registral or in terms of stopping. For a piece with such a title, this work is remarkably wide-ranging emotionally, and Monteiro and Santos embrace the composer’s world with supreme assurance. On Hyperion, Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien offer an excellent alternative (coupling it with the Franck and Vierne Violin Sonatas and Lili Boulanger’s Nocturne), and there is no doubting the supreme Hyperion recording quality to boot; but Monteiro has a particular intensity that is compelling. It was this very piece that inspired Chausson to write his own, now much more famous, Poème for violin and orchestra, op. 25.
The Méditation-Poème that follows tightens the screw somewhat, and Rocha is magnificent, playing with the utmost dignity and sophistication, while Santos relishes his opportunities in the limelight here. The way Ysaÿe returns us to a place of tranquillity is so skilful, and with Monteiro and Rocha in charge, the listener finds a place of deep, slightly perfumed, rumination. Sanos plays with just the right vibrato, expressive without over-egging the pudding; the delicate ascending scales near the close are superbly managed, too.
A disc full of delights and surprises, of subtle shades, of revelations. Definitely one for the Wants List shortlist. A superb disc on all levels."

Fanfare Magazine, Colin Clarke

Finely poetic: Ernest Chausson's early Piano Trio alongside works by his contemporary, Eugene Ysaÿe

****

“(…) Chausson's Trio uses a cyclical theme in the manner of his friend and teacher, Franck. This is introduced over a rocking piano figure at the outset of the first movement. This movement is substantial (over ten minutes) yet begins in a remarkably elegiac manner before becoming faster and more turbulent. As with much later 19th century writing for piano trio, the work requires sensitive handling in the piano and this Santos does very well. Throughout there is the sense of give and take between the three and the piano never feels over done. It helps that both Monteiro and Rocha are well able to bring out their own passionate moments in a fine manner, yet each can be discreet too. This is a performance that moves between quiet sympathy and intense passion. The slow movement has a lovely transparency to the opening, with an introduction that feels quite thoughtful before we launch into the perky main section. Here the wry humour and poetic elements take us a little distance from Franck. For the opening of the slow movement, the piano has a long solo, reiterating the cyclical theme and as the other instruments join in there is a quietly intense poeticism that reminds you of Faure, even though the structure is more Franck. An example of the synthesis that Chausson brought to his music. With the finale, we bring the cyclical structure to a close with a large-scale movement that has a perky energy to its rhythmic impetus.
Throughout the performance, I enjoyed the sympathetic give and take between the players and the sense of poetry that they bring to the music. Though a large-scale romantic work, the fevered moments are kept under control and we can enjoy the poetry that we find in Chausson's smaller works.
Ysaÿe's Poeme Elegiaque is another large-scale piece, a single movement lasting nearly 15 minutes. Ysaÿe was inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and musically by Wagner, but also by Chausson, Franck and Faure. The work does very much live in a similar world to the Chausson. The violin's G string is tuned down to F, giving a slightly huskier, darker sound to the piece. We have a flowing, poetic violin over a throbbing piano. This is very much free rhapsody, and whilst Santos' piano is wonderfully sensitive, the focus is on Monteiro's violin. There are moments when the piece seems to almost break its bounds, as if Ysaÿe really wanted to write a work for violin and orchestra.
Ysaÿe's sense of free rhapsody also comes across in his Mediation-Poeme, and here he emphasises things by showing the changes of metre via a single number written above the score rather than conventional time signatures. It begins in haunting and darkly poetic style, a real poetic meditation. And even when things hot up, Rocha and Santos keep that sense of free rhapsody alongside poetic meditation.
(…) I enjoyed this disc immensely, the three instrumentalists all conquer the challenges of the instrumental writing without even making a meal of it. Throughout, the three remain sensitive to the poetry of the pieces, and the trio in particular has a lovely intimate give and take between the three players.”

Planet Hugill, Robert Hugill

*****

“Ernest Chausson had failed at the Prix de Rome in May 1881. In July he went to Switzerland with his family, where his piano trio was composed. It has been said that the composition was a kind of act of defiance in response to his defeat at the Prix de Rome.
This assumption is fully confirmed in the Portuguese trio’s passionate, highly emotional interpretation. The first movement sounds truly defiant and agitated. The Scherzo is very well differentiated by the three musicians, and the movement sounds as if it questions some of what was said in the first. Lyrism and vitality are perfectly balanced here.
Chausson himself described the Andante as ‘dreamy’. Chausson’s teacher César Franck had found the movement too extended, but Chausson was confident enough of it not to change much. Just how right that was is shown in this interpretation, which alternates between melancholy, somberness, quiet confidence and powerful effervescence. In the final movement, too, Monteiro, Rocha and Santos play with great intensity and contrast, sometimes vital, sometimes sensual, showing us a more combative Chausson.
Ysaÿe’s Poème élégiaque for violin and piano is dedicated to Gabriel Fauré. The performance of the rhapsodic-romantic work is technically brilliant, and the Duo Monteiro-Santos balances passion and tenderness very sensitively. In the quiet parts their interpretation is touchingly interiorized and poetic.
The Méditation-Poème is also performed with great rhetoric and tension. Rocha’s cello tone is utterly seductive, his phrasing a pure joy.
And so this is a CD played by dedicated musicians with technical excellence and, above all, depth and expression, with a wide range of sonorous timbres, an unerring sense of nuance, and an unflagging inventiveness.
Sound engineer José Fortes cared for a very natural and optimally balanced sound.”

Pizzicato Magazine, Remy Franck

“(…) What these performances demonstrate is the great technical precision of the ensemble, combined with an impressive vision of the very different characteristics of these three works. It thus awakens the unmistakable suggestion of an idiomatic sound that inspires and - how could it be otherwise - invites repeated listening. The tempos are well chosen, the execution is alternately energetic and sensual and the contrasts are not exaggerated. They invite. Also the melancholy atmosphere in the Méditation-Poème is hit. The collaboration between these three Portuguese musicians is, in a word, exemplary.
The recording made by José Fortes is also very successful: the balance is excellent (always difficult in a trio with piano), in a perfectly dosed mixture of clarity and sound. Congratulations also on the fact that both the piano tuner and the page turner are clearly mentioned. I don't see that often!”

Opus Klassiek, Aart van der Wal

“(…) As the Etcetera Web page observes, “this Trio is the first of four great chamber works left to us by Chausson.” He began work in the summer of 1881, after having learned that the composition he had submitted for the Prix de Rome had failed to win any level of the prizes being awarded. To be fair, a visit to Amazon.com will reveal that there is no shortage of different recordings of this trio. Nevertheless, as far as I can tell, this recording was my own “first contact” with Opus 3.
The Trio is followed by two duo compositions by Eugène Ysaÿe. The Opus 12 “Poème élégiaque” was composed for violin and piano. It is followed by the Opus 16 “Méditation,” originally scored for cello and orchestra and performed on this album by cello and piano. Both of these pieces are longer than ten minutes in duration, making them at bit too lengthy for encore selections. However, for those of us that know Ysaÿe primarily (if not entirely) for his Opus 27 set of six solo violin sonatas, these tracks provide two highly engaging journeys of discovery. They distinguish this album from any of the earlier recordings of the Chausson trio and are well worth the value of an encounter with Ysaÿe from a different point of view.”

The Rehearsal Studio, Stephen Smoliar

Five stars: Music and performances of the highest order

“(…) This is playing for which no superlatives exist to describe it. If it doesn’t elevate Chausson to the level of one of the very greatest of French Romantic composers and his Piano Trio to one of the very greatest works of its type from any period and of any national origin, I don’t know of any power on Earth that can exceed what these three indescribably magnificent artist-musicians have done here to accomplish that. This is playing so beautiful, so sensitive, so in touch with this music that no words can adequately explain it or do it proper justice. I can only say, listen and behold a miracle. (…).
Bruno Monteiro acquits himself with gorgeous tone and technical flair in the violin piece, and Miguel Rocha invests the cello piece with a good deal of color and character, maintaining his poise through the score’s most difficult passages.
Pianist João Paulo Santos, who gets to play in all three works on the disc, displays impressive finger work throughout and is a most responsive and sensitive chamber music partner in both the Chausson Trio and both Ysaÿe numbers.
Sometimes mysterious, at other times magical, but always miraculous, this performance of the Chausson will transport you to places you’ve never been and from which you won’t want ever to return. It deserves the most urgent recommendation.”

Fanfare Magazine, Jerry Dubins

*****

"A most interesting and worthwhile release. The main work is the Ravel Sonata (the only known one until some years ago), which is, however, not truly one of his better works, although it could hardly have been composed by anyone else. Yet it does not entirely overshadow the remaining works, in particular the Sonata by de Freitas Branco (1890-1955). The work itself dates from 1907, when the composer was still a very promising teenager. It is remarkably advanced for the period – a kind of mixture of Ives and early Bartók, leavened with Iberian sensuality – and a very worthwhile ‘find; for those looking for out-of-the-way repertoire which does not insult the listener. It certainly is not wholly outshone by the works of the two famous composers with which it is coupled on this very well played and recorded disc. Bruno Monteiro is an admirable artist, a truly fine violinist, and he is superbly partnered here by João Paulo Santos. The booklet notes and presentation are immaculate: this disc is strongly recommended."

Musical Opinion, Robert Matthew-Walker

"The violinist Bruno Monteiro and the pianist João Paulo Santos show their commitment to the music of their country through the Sonata for violin and piano nº. 1 (1908) by Luís de Freitas Branco, who was also Portuguese, trained in Berlin and Paris and in whose catalog we also find four Symphonies and a Violin Concerto. Of clear French affinity, it was written at the age of seventeen, during his student phase, and provoked mixed reactions for being considered modern, in addition to being compared to that of his admired Cesar Franck. The elegant sobriety of Sonata no. 2 by Maurice Ravel (1927), his last chamber work, dedicated to Hélène Jourdan-Morhange and premiered by George Enescu and the composer himself on piano. In line with a continuous poetic evocation, this recording ends with Sonata n. 2 “Fantasia”, by the Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos (1914), published in 1993. As the violinist points out in the introductory text that accompanies this record and in which he addresses the listeners, it is the richest work of the four he composed (the last one disappeared). As a whole, it represents a pleasant listening experience made up of a choice of works and an approach that can be assumed as a program for a violin and piano recital, in which the great variety of nuances and colors and the wide melodic contours allow the performers to convey their taste for the chosen repertoire."

Revista Ritmo, María del Ser

***(*)

"(...) The quality of the violin's timbre, the vibrant intensity of the lyricism and the quality of the dialogue with João Paulo Santos highlight the sonatas."

Classica FR, Jacques Bounnaure

BRANCO, RAVEL, VILLA-LOBOS Violin Sonatas Bruno Monteiro (violin), João Paulo Santos (piano) Et'cetera Records. 70'

RATING: 10/10

“The expressionist painting Frau, eine Blumenschale tragend by the German painter August Nlacke (1887-1914) on the cover is an excellent illustration of the colourful, fresh, powerful and surprising content of this CD. Subposed violin sonatas by the Portuguese Luís de Freitas Branco (1890-1955) and the Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) flank the famous Violin Sonata by the Frenchman Maurice Ravel (1875-1937).
Freitas Branco's first violin sonata depends a lot on the French school, its opening measures and cyclical form even recall that of César Franck. However, the work soon unfolds into an original piece full of optimism, passion, poetic lyricism and temperament. These characteristics also apply to Villa-Lobos's Second Violin Sonata, which of its four violin sonatas probably fits best into this balanced program. Bruno Monteiro's confident violin is charged with energy, shifting a tight, fierce sound with a smooth cadence. Sometimes he boldly articulates something against the notes, which sounds absolutely sick to my ears, but is an expression of absolute freedom, spontaneity and surrender to the music. João Paulo Santos accompanies him with an equally personal, completely equal, refined and technically sublime signature. It is clear that both Portuguese music and other works work – as the booklet says “they have performed many times in concerts”: it is a way of playing perfectly balanced at the highest level. The recording technique keeps violin and piano in exemplary balance across a wide dynamic spectrum. This masterful Portuguese-French-Brazilian mix is too good.”

Luister Magazine, Frank Hougee

CD OF THE WEEK

Discovering Freitas Branco's sonata

Alongside the violin and piano sonatas by Ravel and Villa-Lobos

“At the age of 45, Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro has been developing an intense career in the chamber music scene. Alongside the pianist João Paulo Santos, he forms a fully matured duo over 20 years of existence and many recordings.

What characterizes them is their restlessness, always looking for new repertoires or works that have remained hidden by time and today rarely or never attend concert halls or recording studios. So, for example, they dedicated an album to the Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff, who died in 1942 in a concentration camp during the Second World War. Another was dedicated to pieces for this lineup by Igor Stravinsky. In “20th century expressions”, they perform pieces by Szymanowski, Bloch and Korngold.

The duo has just released an album on the Etcetera label with three sonatas for violin and piano, the best known of which is that of Maurice Ravel. But attention naturally shifts to the sonatas signed by Villa-Lobos (his sonata Fantasia, no. 2) and that of the Portuguese composer Luis de Freitas Branco.

Branco was born in 1890 and died in 1955, so he was a contemporary of Villa and Ravel. In the text that he signs in the booklet of this week's CD, Monteiro considers it "strange" that the sonatas by Villa and Freitas Branco are "still little known to music lovers, as they reflect the undeniable talent of two major composers, one Portuguese and the other Brazilian, who were, in their time, masters of their art”.

In the tastings, therefore, I will concentrate on the sonata by Freitas Branco. He composed it at the age of 17, in 1908 and was still studying at the National Conservatory of Lisbon. The sonata won first prize for composition in a competition in the Portuguese capital and caused, according to Monteiro, “controversy”. And he explains: “The sonata itself, in relation to what was being done in Portugal at the time, constituted a true revolution, as it presents unusual constructive tendencies and formal language”.

Monteiro goes into the details: the originality is reflected in the use of “modulatory freedoms, dissonances that were far from peaceful in the ears of the most conservative intellectuals of the time”.

Radio Cultura FM of São Paulo, João Marcos Coelho

“ (…) It is therefore not surprising that he (Bruno Monteiro) chose for the album, which coincides with the 20-year partnership of the two musicians, one of the most successful and accomplished in this period, in an excellent ensemble work that has already given rise to countless recitals and close to ten and a half magnificent albums, all of them risking works that are less present in the repertoire, by composers more and less interpreted (…)

Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos honor, from the first to the last moment, each of the chosen works. And after so many and different approached universes over 20 years, there can be no doubt that both, together, are interpreters of choice in the repertoire for violin and piano.

The text by Bruno Monteiro that accompanies the disc edition is a precious support for listener.

In the recording of this album, the work of sound engineer José Fortes stands out.

The edition is by Etcetera, founded in the 1970s and, since the beginning, one of the most demanding record companies, in the construction of its catalogue.”

Jornal de Letras, Maria Augusta Gonçalves

*****

“With a vast repertoire from Bach to Corigliano and more than a dozen recordings, violinist Bruno Monteiro (Porto, 1977) has just released a new album, where he explores a trio of sonatas by Luís de Freitas Branco, Ravel and Heitor Villa-Lobos. Accompanied by the pianist João Paulo Santos in a program performed in a torrential way and with a lot of panache, Monteiro starts the enterprise with the first Sonata composed by Freitas Branco when he was 17 years of age. In recitals and recordings, Monteiro and Santos are longtime accomplices and their understanding has gained wings, the concertation work between the two soloists is notorious. Very early and during a fruitful adolescence company in terms of creation, Freitas Branco had written songs, the dramatic symphony "Manfred" and the symphonic poem "Antero de Quental". For freeing himself from traditional patterns, his first sonata was not appreciated by the ears of the more conservatives and academics of the time, it is tempting to think how his innovative spirit pestered a very lethargic environment that could almost be the one covered by the expression later created by Fernando Pessoa to feature an "Oligarchy of the Beasts". The scholars and attentive listeners hear in this admirable work of youth "a constant addition of new elements that contribute to endless, non-repeating music active, in perpetual becoming." Many maties and expressive depth in interpretation of the second sonatas by Ravel and Villa-Lobos, the Brazilian musician who also faced the indifference, in 1914, of his piece considered in Paris as devoid of explosive news. "Woman with a Vase of Flowers" is the production of a painting by August Macke chosen for the cover of this beautiful recording, able to satisfy the most demanding chamber music ‘gourmets’.”

Expresso, Ana Rocha

“Violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos have already passed through here, with a CD dedicated to works for violin and piano by Igor Strawinsky. They recently released a new album with the simple but effective title 'Violin Sonatas'. The duo recorded the first sonata by De Freitas Branco, the second by Ravel and Villa-Lobos.

In the booklet that accompanies the CD, Monteiro is surprised by the obscurity of the sonatas by De Freitas Branco, one of the most important Portuguese composers, and by the Brazilian Villa-Lobos, better known, but not thanks to these sonatas. That sonata by Freitas Branco, for example, not only won an important prize, but also caused a great stir in 1908, when he was only seventeen years old. And indeed, it is a cross piece that goes against the conventions of a violin sonata and sounds remarkably modern, certainly before 1908. Particularly special are parts two and four, clearly inspired by folk music, the pleasantly upbeat 'Allegretto gosso. ' and the lively but atmospheric 'Allegro con fuoco'.

Villa-Lobos wrote four violin sonatas, of which only the first three are available. The second that the duo plays here and that the composer wrote in 1914 is considered the most colorful. That beginning alone, the 'Allegro vivace scherzando', in which we clearly hear Brazilian rhythms, makes this sonata worthwhile. The third movement, 'Molto animato e final', is also special, especially for the violin part. The use of musical movements other than artistic music became more than usual in those years and we can also find it in Ravel's second violin sonata completed in 1927, a much more famous piece than the other two on this album. The second part is not called 'Blues (Moderato)' for nothing and the two musicians play it with the necessary sadness and a good dose of melancholy.

Monteiro and Santos clearly have an affinity with these three pieces, they play them regularly in recitals and you hear that clearly. In addition, the two have already accumulated many flight hours together. The passionate and smooth interaction makes a beautiful album.”



Nieuwe Noten, Ben Taffijn

Passionately-entertaining and original music, lovingly presented in a powerfully-successful reading from both performers.

“Back in June 2016, I reviewed an attractive CD of Portuguese Piano Trios, featuring works by Costa, Carneyro, and Azevedo. Since then, I have had no further dealings with the popular holiday destination situated on the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula – well, save for the occasional glass of its world-famous fortified wine.

This new release on the Dutch/Belgian ETCETERA label of three Violin Sonatas, has now introduced me to another fellow-countryman, composer Luís de Freitas Branco, as well as the two Portuguese instrumentalists who perform on the CD. Violinist Bruno Monteiro has been heralded as one of his country’s premier violinists, and his extensive repertoire includes the vast majority of Violin Sonatas from the Baroque to the twentieth century. Frequently he is accompanied by pianist João Paulo Santos, and it is this partnership we hear on the present CD.

With all the artistic skill of a new-born, I rarely, if ever, comment on a CD’s artwork, except where text appears difficult to read because there’s insufficient contrast with the background colour. However, that is certainly not the case here, where the cover image, by German painter August Macke (1887-1914), really stands out from the crowd, with its predominance of eye-catching green. The only slight incongruity here, however, would seem to be that, while Macke was an Expressionist, the music on the CD leans decidedly more in the direction of Impressionism.

Monteiro has written the sleeve-notes himself, and they provide an interesting and informative insight into the composers recorded here, and their music. He begins by saying that he and Paulo Santos have performed the three Violin Sonatas on this CD many times in concert, and ranks all three very highly, despite the fact that the two by Branco and Villa-Lobos respectively, are still little known by music lovers generally. Although clearly having a vested interest in these two composers – the former Portugal-born, and the latter Brazilian – Monteiro expresses the hope that the ‘interpretations presented here will contribute to greater appreciation for these works’.

Luis de Freitas Branco was born in Lisbon into an aristocratic family who for centuries had had close ties to the Portuguese royal family. He had a cosmopolitan education, learning the piano and violin as a child, and began to compose at a precocious age. His studies took him to Berlin and Paris, where he worked with Engelbert Humperdinck among other composers. He later returned to Portugal and became professor of composition at the Lisbon Conservatory of Music in 1916, and where he became a leading force in restructuring musical education in the country. During the 1930s he increasingly encountered political difficulties with the authorities and was finally forced into retirement from his official duties in 1939. He continued to compose, however, and to pursue his research into Portuguese early music.

He composed his Sonata No 1 for Violin and Piano in 1908, when, at the age of seventeen, he was a student at the National Conservatory in Lisbon. Not only did it win first prize in a composition competition held in the city, but it also generated a fair degree of criticism since its content was considered almost revolutionary at the time, when compared with the more conservative-sounding works by his contemporaries. As Monteiro informs us, this reception was further exacerbated by comparisons made between Branco’s first sonata, and César Franck’s work for the same combination, which appeared some years earlier, in 1886. Franck’s sonata made significant use of cyclic form – where a theme or motif occurs in more than one movement as a unifying device, with, or without any kind of thematic metamorphosis. But again there was nothing sinister intended in sharing the same compositional technique, since Branco, at the time, was very close to Désiré Pâque, a Belgian composer, organist, and academic who lived in Lisbon for some years, and from whom Branco received lessons and advice.

The sonata is in four movements, and there is certainly more than a passing resemblance between its opening Andantino and the corresponding movement from Franck’s sonata. I did find that the violin seemed especially close-miked, though this hardly had any detrimental effect on the sound overall, and, of course, did physically amplify Monteiro’s take on the already-passionate nature of the writing. The ending is quite magical, as the movement comes to its hushed close on a D major chord from the piano supporting a delicately-sustained top A on the violin.

The second movement certainly lives up to its Allegretto giocoso marking, as it is so full of fun and good humour throughout. Monteiro and Santos’s invigorating reading definitely goes for the jugular, so to speak, and, even if there were slight blemishes along the way, it’s the spirited performance that carries everything along with it, rather like a fast-flowing river – a highly-enjoyable two-in-a-bar scherzo-equivalent in ternary form, that ends with real panache.

Harmonically-speaking, there is almost something ‘Tristanesque’ about the piano chords at the start of the Adagio molto, but this is short lived, and leads into a warmly-romantic melody heard first on the violin, over an arpeggio-type accompaniment from the piano, who later has its own quasi-Impressionistic moment to shine somewhat, before allowing the violin to conclude the movement in calm reflection. Again I feel that while the apparent close-miking of the violin has, of course, captured every nuance and subtlety in the playing, sometimes being too ‘up close and personal’ is not always the best vantage point. Indeed, I have since listened to other examples of Senhor Monteiro’s duo-recordings, where the playing has sounded somewhat balmier in the higher register. Nevertheless, it’s still a lovely movement, and the emotional heart of the sonata as a whole.

Bruno Monteiro describes the finale as ‘the most complex and varied in terms of thematic material’. Marked Allegro con fuoco there is more than sufficient ‘fire’ in the performance here, from its resolute, yet eminently restless opening. Branco makes greater demands on his players, as the writing is noticeably more virtuosic for both protagonists, but equally more impassioned, as he revisits themes from the preceding movements. He returns to the finale’s opening, from which he fashions a most impressive finish, virtually guaranteed to get the audience on their feet, straight after the final flourish.

The middle sonata on the CD – Ravel’s Sonata No 2 in G major – will, no doubt, be the best-known, even among non-violinists, and the composer’s biographical details are already well documented elsewhere. Suffice it to say, however, its gestation period was quite long, since it was first sketched in 1922, but only began to be put together the following year, until its completion in 1927. Its first performance was given by fellow-composer George Enescu on the violin, and Maurice Ravel at the piano.

As Monteiro says in the commentary, the first movement (Allegretto) does have quite a pastoral feel to it, especially the melismatic single-line from the piano with which it opens. Unlike the lush textures of the Branco, Ravel’s writing is much sparser, but this does allow the composer to compare and contrast the individual timbres of the two instruments to somewhat greater effect. Bizarrely, though, while Branco and Monteiro are fellow-countrymen, even if the former’s writing-style is not overtly Portuguese as such, for me Monteiro does come across more convincingly in the tessitura of the Ravel thus far.

The following movement – Blues (Moderato) – attempts to mimic the distinctive sounds of the banjo, and saxophone, and there is also a tad more dissonance in the writing, though this does succeed in spicing up this essentially ‘cake-walk’ type of movement. Needless to say, both players rise to the challenge here most effectively.

The finale – Perpetuum mobile (Allegro) – is the shortest movement, but a real tour de force which Monteiro and Santos clearly relish playing, and which is very much communicated in the performance. Both instruments share greater virtuosity here, and it’s conceived as a ‘duo’, not ‘duel’, it would still be fair to say that the violin does tend to emerge the overall ‘winner’.

Heitor Villa-Lobos started his musical training with his father, and quickly learned to play the guitar, cello, and clarinet. After his father’s death Villa-Lobos earned a living for himself and his family by playing in cinemas and theatres in Rio de Janeiro. Although he wanted to study medicine, his love for music and for education were unevenly matched, preferring to spend time with local street musicians, where he could familiarize himself with, and get to play as many different musical instruments as possible. Between the age of eighteen to twenty-five, he travelled around Brazil, and various African Caribbean nations, assimilating every indigenous musical styles he came across, all of which helped him to produce his first-ever composition, his Piano Trio No 1 in 1911.

After he returned to Rio in 1912, Villa-Lobos tried briefly to restart his erstwhile studies, but his love and passion for music soon changed his thoughts about resuming any kind of formal education. For the next ten years or so, he spent most of his time as a freelance cellist and composer, until he eventually gained international acceptance in 1919, when he composed his Third Symphony (A Guerra), which was mostly government-supported.

Between 1923 and 1930, Villa-Lobos found himself as the centre of attraction in the musical world of Paris, where, with generous funding and numerous commissions, he indulged his passion for composing, despite his failing health. Ultimately he returned to Brazil and in the 1930s totally involved himself in expanding public music education, travelling throughout the country, offering his services as a mentor/adviser. In 1944 he visited the United States to orchestrate many of his works, before returning to Rio the following year, where he co-founded the Brazilian Academy of Music, and where he remained until his death in 1959.

The CD concludes with Villa-Lobos’s Sonata No 2, also called Fantasia, the manuscript of which dates from September 1914. It is believed that the premiere actually took place later in November, and it was certainly played during the composer’s first Parisian sojourn in October, 1923, and where it was received with some indifference. The Courrier Musical et Théâtral described it at the time as ‘neither brilliant, nor bad’, which no doubt prompted the composer to make some alterations, and add material to the finale, the amended version eventually being published in 1933, along with the Third Sonata.

The work opens with an exciting, and energetic Allegro vivace scherzando, though you might well be forgiven for thinking that there’s something wrong with the disc, when all you can hear is the piano. In fact Villa-Lobos assigns the first theme to the piano alone, and the violin doesn’t make its appearance until just after a minute has elapsed. The syncopated rhythms and harmonic language at the opening very much confirm the composer’s Brazilian roots, and, according to Monteiro, the work is one of the most nationalistic in Villa-Lobos’s output. Lyricism is certainly not ignored, though, and combines with a good deal of virtuosity from both players, to make this one of the most engaging movements on the CD thus far, and nowhere more so than here in its major-key Coda.

The ensuing slow movement – Adagio non troppo, later Moderato – is the second longest track on the CD, and, as with Branco’s earlier example, again provides the emotional centrepiece of Villa-Lobos’s Sonata. As Monteiro puts it so aptly, it consists of an endless succession of melodies, save for a short, agitated episode in the middle section. He goes on to say that, without a doubt, it is very ‘French’ in its harmony and structure, which is a clear reference to its frequent nods in the direction of musical Impressionism, whose two leading figures – Debussy and Ravel – both hailed from La France. Here Monteiro is very much in his ‘sweet-spot’, where his warm, full-bodied tone at times almost suggests a cello-like richness, and where his use of portamento is particularly apposite.

The finale opens with a short, somewhat-rather-trite melody from the piano, but the violin soon takes it over, and, together both players work it up to a temporary climax before arriving at a calmer section towards the middle of the movement. Virtuosity and passion then return, as melodies are busily passed between the two instruments, in such abundance that the listener can scarcely keep up. Once the runway is in sight, so-to-speak, the music builds, with the help of the composer’s well-timed stretto, (acceleration), which culminates in a stunning finish, the approach to which both players have measured out with absolute precision, and definitely given their absolute all in the process.

Not including this new release from the Monteiro/Santos Duo, I counted only two CDs that offer the Branco Sonata. Somewhat predictably, Ravel’s Sonata fares considerably better, with more than thirty-five different recordings available, while recordings of the Villa-Lobos are some four times more plentiful than the Branco. Given that the other two versions of Branco’s Sonata No 2 are on CDs exclusively devoted to the composer’s chamber music, which is also the case with Villa-Lobos’s Sonata No2, this new release label could certainly provide a viable alternative for listeners specifically on the lookout either for the Branco or the Villa-Lobos, or perhaps even for both – and you’ll still get the Ravel as a bonus.

In summing up, the works on the CD seemed to divide conveniently into three. Based on the music itself – and I am a self-confessed Romantic – I have to say I enjoyed the Branco most of all. In terms of the actual performance per se, I’m more drawn to the Ravel. As for the Villa-Lobos, I strongly feel that this embraces the best of both worlds, so to speak - passionately-entertaining and original musical, lovingly presented in a powerfully-successful reading from both performers. Apart from my slight concern over miking, at the start of my review, the recording overall has captured the music’s attractiveness as well as the quality and verve of the playing, and is a good-looking product aesthetically.

Violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos emerge as an empathetic and skilled ‘duo’ throughout – two artists, but more importantly, two good friends simply making music together – surely what chamber music should all be about.”







MusicWeb International, Philip R Buttal

“This program by violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos brings together two little-known works of turn-of-the-century Romanticism by a Portuguese and a Brazilian composer, along with a more familiar work from the same period by Ravel. The Branco sonata created some controversy when it was published in 1908; the composer was only 17 at the time, but the piece won first prize in a national competition despite discomfiting many in the Portuguese musical establishment with its forward-thinking harmonic vision and odd structure. The second violin sonata of Villa-Lobos is less challenging stylistically but certainly a virtuosic piece, while Ravel’s second sonata serves as something of a soothing palate cleanser between them. Monteiro and Santos play with empathy and passion.”

CD Hot List, Rick Andreson

7/10

Bruno Monteiro (b. 1977) is today one of the main Portuguese violinists. He was a Gulbenkian Foundation scholar at the Manhattan School of Music, later with Shmuel Ashkenasi in Chicago, and had masterclasses with Yehudi Menuhin, among others. For a long time he has performed alongside the pianist and conductor João Paulo Santos, a student of Aldo Ciccolini. In particular, his complete recording of Stravinsky's music for violin and piano has recently received the highest international acclaim.

When we talk about the Ravel violin sonata, we always refer to his second one, which was written between 1923 and 1927 and quickly became world famous and popular because of the blues in the middle movement. The Portuguese manage to give a technically and musically solid performance. (…) the blues is absolutely fascinating; and here, too, Monteiro is allowed to taste his portamenti in a stylistically appropriate way (…).

The Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) wrote four violin sonatas, the last of which is probably lost. The second, Sonata Fantasia (1914), consists of three complete movements and is one of the first compositions in which Villa-Lobos incorporated elements of indigenous folk music (?). The highlight is the varied and heartfelt second movement, which picks up on impressionistic moods. Monteiro and Santos' interpretation of the work, particularly elaborate and rewarding in terms of the piano setting, proves to be highly emotionally involved; the great bow remains full of tension. (…)

Comparative recordings: [Freitas Branco]: Alessio Bidoli, Bruno Canino (Sony, UPC: 194399959923, 2021); [Villa Lobos]: Emmanuele Baldini, Pablo Rossi (Naxos 8.574310, 2020).

Klassik Heute, Martin Blaumeiser

“Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro introduces us to Lisbon composer and music critic Luís de Freitas Branco (1890-1955), a leading figure in Portuguese culture in the 20th century. In no way does its eclectic, tonal, polytonal and atonal style make it any less interesting. Some of his works shows both the inspiration of late Romanticism and Impressionism.

The virtuoso pianist João Paulo Santos accompanies Monteiro in a repertoire that includes three masterful sonatas for violin and piano, a repertoire that the two musicians have presented in several concerts.
Born into an aristocratic family, Freitas Branco composed Sonata no. 1 for violin and piano in 1908, when he was just seventeen. The piece is written in four cyclic movements, with dissonant themes coming and going between the four movements.

On the other hand, Maurice Ravel debuted Sonata no. 2 for violin and piano in G major in 1927 - with him on piano and George Enescu as soloist - and dedicated it to his close friend, violinist Hélène Jourdan-Morhange, who unfortunately was unable to premiere the piece due to health problems. In this sonata, the piano part is the center of attention - Ravel wanted to individualize the two instruments - and Santos expresses himself with very sifted sounds. Monteiro's language is captivating, respecting the evocations of the French composer.

By the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, the two Portuguese artists interpret Sonata no. 2 for violin and piano, called Fantasia, composed in 1914. It is worth mentioning its expressive range, Brazilian syncopated rhythms and technical construction, which preserves the structural freedom of fantasy. Harmonic sophistication accompanies the incomparable melodies with which Monteiro moves us through a pure voice of clear tones; a smooth aesthetic that contrasts with the impressive stretto of the last movement.”

Sonograma Magazine, Núria Serra

Monteiro and Santos, two Portuguese artists at the servisse of Ravel, Villa-Lobos and De Freitas Branco

“Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos are the interpreters of this recording made in Lisbon at the end of December 2021 and which features a repertoire with music by Luis Freitas Branco, Maurice Ravel and the Brazilian composer par excellence Heitor Villa-Lobos.

Luís de Freitas Branco (1890-1955), a full-time contemporary of Villa-Lobos, wrote his first violin sonata at the age of seventeen, when he was a student at the Lisbon National Conservatory. A young artist who presents a work in which the seventh and ninth intervals, dissonances and free modulations accompany melodies rich in lyrical nuances. Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos are two extraordinary interlocutors of this score written in four movements and that responds in the “Initial Andantino” to a bitematic sonata structure with a second theme of modulating character and that offers a wide range of colors from the performers. A very colorful "Scherzo" gives way to a passionate melody of the third movement - very rich in chromatics that Monteiro captures perfectly - to open the doors to the last movement, agitated, vigorous, passionate and virtuoso.

If interpretively there is only one work that can rarely be heard in our latitudes, in Sonata n. 2 by Ravel, the version stands out for its suggestive character, as well as for the way in which they express the pastoral theme as the character that Monteiro imprints on the staccati of the second theme. The second movement takes us to the blues, with a piano that successfully fulfills its role as a rhythm and percussion instrument, and the third movement virtuosity, a perpetuum mobile with great arpeggios, tests the virtuosity of both instrumentalists.

As the program's conclusion, Sonata no. 2 by Villa-Lobos, a true fantasy structured in three movements full of imagination and writing skills. The radiant first movement, with syncopations and opposing rhythms, confronts a second lyrical theme beautifully exposed by Monteiro. In slow motion, rich in harmonies that deliciously emerge from the piano, they caress extremely lyrical and expressive melodies. The color reappears with all its character in the final dance, a movement in which both performers display all the rhythm and musical cohesion already evident in all the works.”

Revista Musical Catalana, Lluís Trullén

“Let us begin with a refresher on the participants, Bruno Monteiro, violin, and Joao Paulo Santos, piano. According to his biography, Mr. Monteiro is "heralded by the daily Publico as one of Portugal’s premier violinists” and by the weekly Expresso as “one of today's most renowned Portuguese musicians.” He is internationally recognized as an eminent violinist, whom Fanfare describes as having a “burnished golden tone” and Strad says has “a generous vibrato” producing radiant colors. Music Web International refers to his interpretations as having a “vitality and an imagination that are looking unequivocally to the future” and that reach an “almost ideal balance between the expressive and the intellectual.” Gramophone lauds his “unfailing assurance and eloquence” and Strings Magazine notes that he is “a young chamber musician of extraordinary sensitivity."

Monteiro’s accompanist, the Spanish pianist Joao Paulo Santos, is a graduate of the Lisbon National Conservatory, completing his piano studies in Paris with Aldo Ciccolini. For the past forty years he has worked with the Lisbon Opera House, first as Chief Chorus Conductor and more recently as Director of Musical and Stage Studies. He has also distinguished himself as an opera conductor, a concert pianist, and a researcher. Together, Monteiro and Santos make an outstanding team and make outstanding music.

On the present album, they offer three sonatas for violin and piano. The first, by Luis De Freitas Branco (1890-1955), perhaps the least well known of the composers represented on the program. De Freitas was a Portuguese composer, professor, and musicologist who played an important role in the evolution of Portuguese music in the first half of the twentieth century. Among his most-important works are four symphonies, a violin concerto, and any number of shorter pieces, including the selection we have here, the Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano, written in 1908 when the composer was only seventeen years old and a conservatory student in Lisbon. It created a bit of stir in the musical world because of its somewhat revolutionary (i.e., modern) tendencies. Let’s say, its cyclical form and occasional dissonances were not as easy on the ears as most of its Romantic predecessors.

The opening movement is an Andantino, a little faster than an Andante, which itself can be fairly slow. Whatever, the Andantino is the closest thing in the sonata to being in the purely Romantic vein, at least the way Monteiro and Santos play it. It is sweet and lyrical and amply demonstrates both musicians’ sensitive style. The second movement brightens things up considerably: a light, playful romp. The composer marks the third movement Adagio molto, very slow, and the two players give it an extra degree of delicacy. It’s quite beautiful, rapturous, actually. By the finale, an Allegro con fuoco, things take a decidedly modern turn, although Monteiro and Santos modulate the conflicts to keep it in line with the honeyed flavor of the earlier movements.

Next up, we get the Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano in G major, completed in 1927 by French composer Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). Monteiro and Santos consider it important because two of Bela Bartok’s sonatas influenced it and because it was the final chamber work Ravel would write. When it premiered, it featured George Enescu on violin and Ravel himself on piano. It sounds typical of Ravel, full of dreamy impressionism, which Monteiro is especially keen on communicating. Yet the violinist never lets it become swoony or sentimental. The second movement is titled “Blues,” obviously patterned after the American jazz idioms becoming so popular in the day. Monteiro and Santos pull it off with an easy assurance. There seems little beyond their range. The third and final movement is a “Perpetuum mobile,” an allegro that wraps up the proceedings in a kind of whirlwind fashion. Again the players are letter perfect in their handling of the mood and flavor of the piece.

The final selection is the Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano Fantasia by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959). It apparently got a lukewarm reception in its first performances but picked up enthusiastic support a few years later after some revision and its publication in 1933. Like much of Villa-Lobos’s music, it is rich, vibrant, and charmng throughout, and Monteiro and Santos give it its due. Their playing is spirited yet refined, vivacious yet sensitive, and always colorful. This piece wraps up another enchanting album by a pair of gifted musicians.

Producers Bruno Monteiro and Dirk De Greef and engineer Jose Fortes recorded the music at ISEG Concert Hall, Lisbon, Portugal in December 2021. You couldn’t ask for better sound. Both the violin and the piano are about as realistic as being in the room with them. Crisp definition, exceptional clarity, yet smooth and natural, the sound is first-class in every respect.”

Classical Candor, John J. Puccio

“Can it be inferred from the performances on this CD that the two musicians have performed these three sonatas for violin and piano on the concert stage many times before? I dare not say it like that, but what I know for sure after listening to it is that both are completely in tune with each other and that – in addition to the fabulous technique – the interpretive freedom they demonstrate sets this music on fire. And understanding that neither the content nor the form of these sonatas, each a masterpiece in itself, will be affected by this. This can be called a first-rate achievement.

Interestingly, these three wonderful pieces receive little or no attention in the world of everyday music, because only Ravel's Violin Sonata is regularly on the schedule of many duos. As far as I'm concerned, this dark image can be extended unreservedly to discography, because in this domain too the harvest is decidedly scarce. Is the saying 'unknown makes unloved' true? What is unknown is not to be loved in any case, but the fact that the violin sonatas by the Portuguese Luís de Freitas Branco (190-1955) and the Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) are pieces from the 'normal' repertoire ' is out of the question for me, so take the chance with this new album!

Violinist Bruno Monteiro excels in passionate and richly varied tones, in a speech in which strictly clear lines dominate, which he alternately unfolds with energy, softness and lyricism. His technical mastery is perfect, the panorama extremely evocative. The phrases sound spontaneous, the intuitive nature of their execution brings an enchanting multicolor as well as adventure. In short, we are dealing here with a top violinist.

But there is much more to enjoy, because Monteiro's extremely sensitive playing can also be found in his musical partner, the pianist João Paulo Santos, who combines poetics, temperament and finesse with the same naturalness and fluidity and, like Monteiro, guarantees a true personal stamp on this music. He does not associate the cantabile playing with fondant, the tone also maintains its concise character in the lyrical passages, while in the forti the sound remains noble, full of many nuances and particularly well-crafted color combinations. Thus, his approach to these scores is as idiomatic as Monteiro's, and his sense of structure also guarantees direction and purpose.

The fact that the two Portuguese musicians dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to the music of their compatriot Luís de Freitas Branco is, in itself, very commendable. In this sense, we can learn a lot from such engagement, which is musically so convincing that it puts this composer's work in the most beautiful and warm imaginable sun. Dutch musicians even fail hopelessly when it comes to their connection to Dutch composers; and certainly not since yesterday. And so I don't even think initially of composers from a fairly recent 'year', like Peter Schat, Jan van Vlijmen, Kees van Baaren, Rudolf Escher or Hans Henkemans, but even a little further back in time, Matthijs Vermeulen, Willem Pijper and Hendrik Andriessen. Not only she, narrow escape - except that. Fortunately - completely unexpected - there is also good news to share: the release of piano works by Louis Andriessen, Leo Smit, Willem Pijper, Jan Wisse, Hans Henkemans, Theo Loevendie and Joey Roukens by the piano duo Lucas
and Arthur is scheduled for later this month.

Monteiro also gave an excellent explanation and José Fortes signed a recording that does not reveal any details, but also excels in sound. As far as I'm concerned, piano technician Fernando Rosado can also fully share in that absolute joy of sound.”

Opus Klassiek, Aart van der Wal

ROMANTIC WITH STRINGS, TESTED FOR LATINS, PASSIONATELY MATCHED

“Each musician has its favorite pieces, pieces that should not be missing from any concert and with which h or she is inextricably linked. This is the case with violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos. It would therefore be a shame not to capture this personal story in a beautiful recording. Their roots are central to this concept. It is the music with which you anchor yourself to the ground to conquer the world simultaneously.
More famous composers such as Luis de Freitas Branco and Heitor Villa-Lobos are linked to Maurice Ravel, who was often inspired by the Latin sound of his generation.

Sharp
Freitas Branco (1890-1955) was only seventeen years old and studying at the Lisbon Conservatory when he wrote his first sonata for piano and violin. The new musical language that the work spread immediately attracted the general public, it even quickly won awards. It is a cyclical work in four parts, as introduced by César Franck. He probably came into contact with Franck's music thanks to the Belgian composer Désiré Pâque, who taught him in Lisbon. It is a work with rough edges, sharp scherzo nooks and crannies and passionate melodic passages.

The expressive
Ravel (1875-1937) took much longer to compose his second sonata for violin and piano. The first outlines were drawn in 1922, it was not considered completed by the composer until 1927. He dedicated it to his good friend Hélène Jourdan-Morhange, who did not attend the premiere due to health problems. The artists were Ravel himself on piano and George Enescu on violin. It is said that for this sonata in G major, Ravel found the mosteds with Bartók, for their typical expressive character. It is a piece that has a constructive effect. Small nuances and staccatos ensure its moves more and more into a pronounced third movement. Then follows a beautiful conciliatory movement, sweet and warm.

The passionate
Villa-Lobos, Brazilian composer par excellence, wrote no less than four sonatas for the two favorite instruments of our interpreters. However, the last sonata was lost. The second, Fantasia, would be the richest of the four – consisting of three parts. That's why she fits the spirit of this album better. The work was written in early 1914 and was supposed to premiere in the same autumn. The reception from the general public was not immediately convincing, but neither was it disapproving. Villa-Lobos made some adjustments and republished the work in 1933, together with his third sonata. The result is full of life and traditions. Latin rhythms and lyricism will immediately impress you, along with some references to French romanticism. The language of passion with touches of the language of love. The apotheosis speaks for itself, with a great stretto.

This album is perfect for the time of year. The first rays of sun fill our hearts, we want to move and feel butterflies. We would like to share that sentiment as well. And what could be better than the right music at the right time.”

Cultuurpakt,Veerle Deknopper

****

“Luis de Freitas Branco (1890-1955) studied in Berlin and Paris, among others with Paqué and Humperdinck. He is best known for the orchestral recordings that Alvaro Cassuto conducted for Naxos.

As in his symphonies, the Portuguese composer also shows an affinity with French music in his chamber music. Like the Scherzo Fantastique, his first sonata, both composed at the age of seventeen, is reminiscent of César Franck, whom he admired. But violinist Bruno Monteiro emphasizes Freitas Branco’s independence. He finds a lot of passion in the sonata, more dance-like as well (for example in the strongly accented 2nd movement), and he plays the whole composition with very lyrical intensity.

In Ravel’s violin sonata, too, Monteiro and his highly reliable partner show themselves to be imaginative performers.

Villa-Lobos composed his Violin Sonata No. 2 in 1914, and it features a very elaborate piano part that Joao Paulo Santos plays with excellent rhetoric. Bruno Monteiro plays with great refinement and fine eloquence. His technique is up to the many demands and his playing sounds free and spontaneous.”


Pizzicato Magazine, Remy Franck

Monteiro Ventures into Less Familiar Repertoire

“According to my records, I have been following recordings made by violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos since I wrote about their Brilliant Classics album of the complete music for violin and piano composed by Karol Szymanowski in April of 2015. Since that time Monteiro has led me into domains of repertoire about which I knew little, if anything. His latest album, released by Etcetera Records, amounts to a “sandwich” of “familiar meat” enclosed by two “slices” of the unfamiliar.

This is the second album he has recorded after moving from Brilliant Classics to Etcetera Records. As I had observed when I wrote about his first Etcetera release of music for violin and piano by Igor Stravinsky, this is a bit disadvantageous for those interested in Monteiro’s recordings. According to Google, these albums are available on the Web only through the Etcetera Web site. Fortunately, an Etcetera Web page for purchasing Monteiro’s latest album shows up on a Google search. However, Etcetera is based in Belgium, meaning that payment is in euros; and, given that pandemic conditions still prevail, it is unclear how efficient delivery will be.

This is unfortunate, since the album is a delightful journey of discovery. The “familiar meat” of the “sandwich” is Maurice Ravel’s second violin sonata in the key of G major, a composition that continues to receive far less attention than it deserves. It is followed by another “second sonata,” this one composed by Heitor Villa-Lobos in 1914. (The composer actually called this composition a “sonate-fantaisie.”) The Brazilian Villa-Lobos is complemented by the opening selection by the Portuguese composer Luís de Freitas Branco, the first of his two violin sonatas, composed in 1907.

The Villa-Lobos sonata is likely to be as much of a journey of discovery as is the Freitas Branco sonata. He had recently married the pianist Lucília Guimarães; and, since he had not learned to play piano himself, he was probably influenced by both her technique and her style. That said, the music is unlikely to remind most listeners of the more familiar works in the Villa-Lobos catalog, making the composition an engaging journey of discovery.

The Freitas Branco sonata, on the other hand, is more difficult to classify. He studied music in both Berlin and Paris; and his best-known teacher (at least according to his Wikipedia page) was Engelbert Humperdinck. My own first encounter with the first measures of this music left me wondering if he had been familiar with César Frank’s A major violin sonata. Nevertheless, Freitas Branco definitely forges his own path while respecting the overall framework of a four-movement sonata; and Monteiro’s performance left me curious about what other pieces are lurking in this Portuguese composer’s catalog.”

The Rehearsal Studio, Stephen Smoliar

“Luís Maria da Costa de Freitas Branco (1890 – 1955) was one of the most skilful and influential Portuguese composers of the 20th century. In his Violin Sonata nº 2 from 1928 he shows strong neoclassical influences, but also very cadenced and it is not for in vein that his current countryman makes a warm appeal for him here and shows that we are dealing with a very lively music that is best moments are in the Andante. Midnight will be announced in the final. There is also no lack of melancholy.

Ravel's 1928 Sonata for Violin in G is given the necessary intensity in this energetic sound, but the parodic effects of the slow movement do not escape their attention, and the same applies to the pizzicati. It gives the music some emotion.

Villa-Lobos's Sonata Fantasy nº 2 is a very original and personal work, but relatively unknown by the Brazilian from 1914.

This turned out to be an interesting recital with those sonatas that are rarely or never heard on stage here, but which we can now fully enjoy on CD thanks to the very well-finished and spontaneous interpretations of Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos.”

Musicalifeiten, Jan de Kruijff

Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro brings together three major early 20th century violin sonatas, each late-Romantic, each different in style but creating a highly satisfying recital

****

“This disc from two Portuguese musicians, violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos on the Etcetera label features three major violin sonatas from the first half of the 20th century, by the Portuguese composer Luís de Freitas Branco, the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos and the French composer Maurice Ravel. One sonata almost unknown, one not as well known as it should be and one quite familiar, yet the three make a highly satisfying programme and bring out interesting elements in each other.

Born in Portugal of an aristocratic family, Luís de Freitas Branco was one of the major Portuguese composers of the early part of the 20th century and his output includes four symphonies and a violin concerto. His Sonata no 1 for Violin and Piano was written in 1908 when he was just 17 and still a student at the National Conservatory. It went on to win a competition in Lisbon, but also to generate some controversy partly because of the composer's harmonic language. Whilst it sounds typically late-Romantic to us, it was significantly different to the relatively conservative musical style prevalent in Portugal at the time.

The work also generated comparisons to Franck's sonata partly because Freitas Branco's work uses the same ideas of cyclical form as the Franck. And listening to the work you can hear distant thematic links. Yet, the opening Andantino also brings out hints of the slow blues in the Ravel sonata. Monteiro plays with a lovely sweet-toned line and with a fascinating use of portamento in this movement. The perky scherzo has a folkish cast to its material, whilst in the slow and thoughtful Adagio molto Freitas Branco gives us some superbly rich harmonies. The long finale begins vigorously with a highly chromatic violin line, yet as this movement develops we get suggestions of the earlier material giving us a complex movement with a clear summation of the cyclical form.

Maurice Ravel's Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano was his final chamber work. It took some achieving, Ravel was writing it sporadically from 1922 to 1927. It was written for his friend, Hélène Jourdan-Morhange but illness prevented her from playing it and the premiere was given by Georges Enescu with the composer at the piano.
The first movement Allegretto is the largest and most complex of the three movements. There is an elegant spareness to Ravel's writing which the two performers bring out and for all the overall pastoral feeling there are some interestingly spiky moments to the music as well. The second movement is perhaps the most well known, marked Blues (Moderato); for all the bluesy harmonies and banjo effects, this is still very much Ravel and Monteiro's performance keeps the music firmly in the classical concert hall. In the concluding Perpetuum mobile finale, the two performers dazzle but also bring out the feeling that Ravel was somewhat channeling Stravinsky, yet we can also hear typically Ravelian turns of phrase.

Heitor Villa-Lobos wrote four violin sonatas, though the final one has disappeared. His Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano dates from 1914 (though it would not be published until 1933). Villa-Lobos called it a Fantasia though its three movement structure is quite classical. At the time, Villa-Lobos had not yet visited Paris, had not discovered Stravinsky and was making his living mainly as a cellist in orchestras and cafes. As such, his handling of the structure of the sonata is enormously confident.
The opening movement begins with a long piano exposition, before the violin comes in. There is a certain folk-influence in the melodic material and in the rhythms that Villa-Lobos uses but all contained in a highly structured context. This is complex movement with tension developing towards the end and surprisingly sudden ending. The slow movement is more purely lyrical with Monteiro reveling in the series of lovely melodies that Villa-Lobos produces. For the finale the piano again takes the lead, and for all the showpiece nature of some of the writing it is clear that his is very much a duo sonata, and the two bring out highly varied moods of this movement.

There is perhaps a slight sharp edge to the recorded sound, that takes the ear a little time to get used to, but that my only gripe. This is challenging repertoire, Monteiro plays throughout with a lovely sweet toned line, but with no lack of virtuosity when required. He and Paulo Santos clearly love this repertoire and the two make this into a highly satisfying recital.”

Planet Hugill, Robert Hugill

Five stars: An explosion of joy, infectious, and frothy; a jazz-based imagination of the highest order

“Fascinating to have the opportunity to hear a chamber piece by Portuguese composer Luís de Freitas Branco (1890-1955) after the warm welcome Fanfare gave to his symphonies on Naxos (Fanfare 32:4, 33:1 and 34:2). The composer studied with Englebert Humperdinck in Berlin and Grovlez in Paris. In 1916, he became a Professor at Lisbon Conservatory, heading the composition masterclass from 1930. He was a composer who was involved in politics, opposing the persecution of musicians in France and Germany, a stance that led to his removal from teaching posts from 1939 to 1947. Brother of the conductor Pedro de Freitas Branco, recordings of Luís' music also exist on the Portugalsom Strauss label featuring a variety of Hungarian orchestras.

Interestingly, this recording coincides with a recording of the complete violin sonatas plus piano trio by Freitas Branco on Sony featuring Alessio Bidoli on violin, Bruno Canino on piano and with Alain Meunier on cello: release due March 25, so sadly not available for comparison purposes here, but if you find you like the first sonata that would surely be the logical next stop. There is however a Naxos recording of the first two violin sonatas released 2011 by Carlos Damas and Anna Tomasilk. The Violin Sonata No. 1 was written in 1908 (making the composer a mere 17 years old at that point, and a student in Lisbon’s National Conservatory). It is a work that has, with some justification, been compared to Franck’s Violin Sonata in that it not only shares a use of cyclic form but also a fragrant chromatisicm, certainly in the opening Andantino.

It is good to welcome back Bruno Monteiro and João Paolo Santos, who impressed so much in a disc of Lekeu (Brilliant Classics). Santos fully relishes the romantic gestures of the first movement, while not overwhelming his violinist, both players revelling in the sense of space Freitas Branco creates. The second movement, Allegretto giocoso, is as giocoso as one could want. This is a Scherzo (albeit in duple meter) with a simply wonderful bridge passage back into the A1 section. There is something almost Gallic in the music’s carefree nature; and all credit to Monteiro and Santos for maintaining that gait to ensure maximal contrast to the long, high cantabile lines of the Adagio molto (a lyricism echoed in contrasting passages in the finale). The work is superbly constructed and succeeds all the more thanks to Monteiro and Santos’ powerful and considered performance. The Naxos performance by Dumas and Tomasik is just as fine: affectionate in the first movement (a fine recording, capturing Damas’ lovely tone), but perhaps not quite capturing the liveliness of the Scherzo. Honours are evenly spread in the finale, although Monteiro and Santos capture the veiled lyricism of the Adagio molto considerable better. On balance, the present release wins out, but bear in mind the Naxos also contains the Second Violin Sonata and the Prelude for violin and piano.

The Ravel obviously enters a far more crowded field, nut Monteiro and Santos offer a performance of much light and shade, Monteiro and Santos present the bare textures of the opening Allegretto well, with some markedly characterful piano contributions later on in the movement. Rarely have the pizzicato chords of the opening of the “Blues” come across so well, and it is here that, in spinning his bluesy line, Monteiro comes into his own before the “Perpetuum mobile” begins its inexorable course. A fine performance.

Finally, Villa-Lobos' Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano, “Fantasia”. Was composed in 1914 but not published until 1933. It immediately bears the composer’s imprint, not only of Brazilian rhythms but in its harmonic sophistication also. The central Adagio non troppo is a dream of a song without words for violin; the finale, “Molto animato e final,” unfolds naturally and beautifully.
If a disc of the three Villa-Lobos Violin Sonatas is required, probably better to pick the Naxos (Emmanuele Baldini and Pablo Rossi) over the Gega (Njagul Tumangelov and Bojdar Noev), but even there I find the Naxos recording somewhat muted on re-acquaintance. But, after all, it is the programming of this Etcetera disc is what makes it.

A most enjoyable programme, well delivered and recorded: all composers receive performances of much merit.”

Fanfare Magazine, Colin Clarke

“Igor Stravinsky, Music for Violin and Piano” by Bruno Monteiro (violin) and João Paulo Santos (piano), by Etcetera. Great! (Recommended CD)

“Acclaimed by the newspaper “Publico” as one of the most important violinists in Portugal and by the weekly “Expresso” as one of the most respected Portuguese musicians today, Bruno Monteiro is now also internationally recognized as one of the main violinists of his generation. He also makes an excellent duo with João Paulo Santos.

By highlighting the lesser-known Igor Stravinsky, the program on this CD offers an excellent service to the repertoire. The ballet “Pulcinella”, orchestrated for a modern chamber orchestra with soprano, tenor and baritone, marked the beginning of Stravinsky's neoclassical period. Stravinsky based his composition after all the 18th century music of Domenico Gallo, Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer, Carlo Ignazio Monza and Alessandro Parisotti, previously attributed to Pergolesi. Scores were found by Diaghilev in libraries in Naples and London.

The ballet debuted in May 1920 at the Paris Opera, directed by Ernest Ansermet. The dancer Léonide Massine wrote the libretto and the choreography, and Pablo Picasso designed the costumes and sets. The ballet was commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev. Stravinsky based 3 of his other works on his ballet: “Suite d'après des thèmes, fragments et morceaux de Giambattista Pergolesi” for violin and piano (in collaboration with Paul Kochanski) (1925), “Suite italienne” for cello and piano (in collaboration with Gregor Pyatigorski) (1932/1933), and as recorded here “Suite italienne” for violin and piano (in collaboration with Samuel Dushkin) (1933). Later, Jascha Heifetz and Piatigorsky made another arrangement for violin and cello, which they also called “Suite Italienne”.

The ballet “Le Baiser de la fée” (“The Fairy´s Kiss”) in one act and four scenes, was composed in 1928 and revised in 1950 for George Balanchine and the New York City Ballet. The 4 scenes are Prologue, Une fête au village, Au moulin: Pas de deux - Adagio - Variation - Coda - Scène and Epilogue: Berceuse des demeures éternelles. Based on the short story “Isjomfruen” (“The Ice-Maiden”) by Hans Christian Andersen, the work was a tribute to Tchaikofsky on the 35th anniversary of the composer's death. Stravinsky developed several melodies from the first piano pieces and songs by Tchaikovsky in his score. The ballet, commissioned by Ida Rubinstein in 1927, was choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska and opened in Paris in 1928.

The Divertimento of “Le Baiser de la fée” was initially a concert suite for orchestra, based on ballet music. Stravinsky edited it in collaboration with Samuel Dushkin in 1934 and revised it in 1949. In 1932, Samuel Dushkin and the composer created the version recorded here for violin and piano, with the same title. Another passage from ballet was arranged for violin and piano by Dushkin under the title "Ballade". However, the latter did not receive the composer's consent until 1947, after the French violinist Jeanne Gautier (1898-1974), wife of Joaquín Nin (1879-1949), played the arrangement. The Duo Concertant for violin and piano is dedicated to Samuel Dushkin. Together, they debuted it for Berlin Radio in October 1932 and recorded it the Duo in April 1933.
Bruno Monteiro gave his first recital at the age of 13 and his first concerts with orchestra, at the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos, in Lisbon, at the age of 14. Since then he has played concerts in all major centers of Portugal, with a repertoire of composers from Bach to Corigliano, including important Portuguese composers. He performed internationally in Spain, France, Italy, Holland, Germany, United Kingdom, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Israel, Denmark, Philippines, Malaysia, South Korea and the United States. Monteiro has performed in prestigious venues such as the Palacio Cibeles and the Casa de America in Madrid, the Musikverein in Vienna, the Bucharest Cultural Center, Sofia´s Bulgaria Hall, the Philharmonic Hall in Kiev, the Felicja Blumenthal International Music Festival in Tel Aviv, the Kennedy Center of Washington and the Carnegie Hall of New York. Since 2002 he performs in a recital with João Paulo Santos.

Fanfare Magazine praises Monteiro's polished gold tone, The Strad claims that his generous vibrato produces radiant colors and Gramophone Magazine speaks of his infallible certainty and eloquence. Exactly. Together with his partner, João Paulo Santos, this is a very special edition of Igor Stravinsky's works for violin and piano. In addition, this new recording is the most authentic collection ever released. It is the intelligent and fully musical approach of this talented violinist and his admirable partner that impresses.

Technically impeccable, the violinist's playing is imaginative and rhythmically accurate, so that the different tunnings were worked with great clarity. The recording is excellent with the right distance between violin and piano. Stravinsky's music radiates in these performances by Monteiro and Santos. There is certainly virtuosity, but also a sense of intimacy and soft sound. Due to the technical and expressively excellent performances and a good sound recording, this Etcetera release is a very good and highly recommended CD. Informative notes by Bruno Monteiro himself, in the accompanying booklet, complete this publication.”

Stretto Magazine, Michel Dutrieue

“This is a fine traversal of Stravinsky’s output for violin and piano from two of Portugal’s most distinguished chamber musicians. It is particularly welcome because it eschews fireworks for their own sake. Virtuosity is there, certainly, but what I particularly value here is a sense of intimacy, of mellowness of sound, which is the more surprising since it was recorded in the Cartuxa church in Caxias (just outside Lisbon), hardly an intimate space.

There is a sense of unhurriedness about these performances that makes one consider them in a different light. Even in the more ostentatiously vivacious movements, such as the Tarantella or the Scherzo of the Suite italienne, there is a concentration on the depth of the sound rather than an interest only in musical sparks flying, and the fine balance between violin and piano also contributes greatly to this. It is necessary nonetheless to point out a few technical highlights, such as Bruno Monteiro’s gorgeous harmonics in the Sinfonia and the light, flowing touch in the Scherzo from the Divertimento based on The Fairy’s Kiss or, on the part of João Paulo Santos, the deftness of the cimbalom-like repeated notes in the ‘Cantilène’ and the chuntering barrel-organ imitation in the ‘Eglogue I’ from the Duo concertant.

Following a beautifully shaded account of the Three Pieces from The Firebird (in particular the sparkling Scherzo), we end with the ‘Danse russe’ from Petrushka, which screws the inexorable fairy-tale tension up to the maximum, almost as though resuming the entire scenario in one piece. A very fine recording."

Gramophone, Ivan Moody

*****
“This fine record is strongly recommended. Several violinists of the years purporting to contain Stravinsky´s music for violin and piano, but which almost invariably have eneded up with “most of it”, and whilst one or two arrangements (either by Stravinsky by his close colleagues – especially Samuel Dushkin) may conceivably be added to the collection, this new recording stands as the most completely authentic collection to have ever been issued. It is splendid recorded; the performances have that special combination of chamber-musical intimacy with virtuosity where required allied to the more’public’, outward-looking character that early and relatively early (almost all this repertoire dates from c. 1910-35) by the Russian genius implies. It is the intelligent and profoundly musical approach from this gifted violinist and his admirable partner that is so impressive. Technically flawless and interpretatively adroid, this is one of the Records of the Year so far as I am concerned."

Musical Opinion, Robert Matthew-Walker

*** S (Extraordinary Sound)

“Stravinsky's meager work for violin and piano is the result of the collaboration of the Russian composer with Samuel Dushkin, the Polish violinist for whom he wrote his Concerto and protagonist of the Pulcinella (Suite Italienne) ballet arrangements and the Fairy´s Kiss (Divertimento), as well as the only original work written for these instruments, the Duo Concertant. The album that Monteiro and Santos offer us includes these works, in addition to other transcriptions of The Firebird and Petrushka. The duo stretches out and undertakes a Divertimento with a lot of grace and refinement, while in the Duo the concert violinist Monteiro combines his poignant and astringent touch (Cantilene) with the lyricism that he extracts from the Egloge. The delicious miniatures of the last mentioned ballets close an irregular set, globally correct. The sound quality is excellent."

Revista Ritmo, Jordi Caturla González

Gentle and Tender Stravinsky 'The two players are an excellent duo: Bruno Monteiro on violin and João Paulo Santos at the piano.'

"Igor Stravinsky was a prolific composer in all kinds of music genres, yet his chamber music is not generally well known. His chamber music production belongs to two different periods of his life and career. Firstly, when he moved to Switzerland during World War I and, especially after the war, when he transferred to Biarritz, where he developed a quite close collaboration with violinist Samuel Dushkin (1891-1976). Most biographers state that Stravinsky was unlikely to have written a string concerto had it not been for his publisher who introduced him to Samuel Dushkin. Secondly, when in the United States after World War II, he had a short-lived flirt with serialism and composed the experimental Septet in 1953.

As noted by musicologist Richard Whitehouse, the main reason for Stravinsky's interest in this violin and piano combination was out of pragmatic, indeed commercial considerations. Although commissions were still forthcoming in the period following World War I, the need to support his family as well as the inaccessibility of his Russian estate led him into becoming an active commercial musician. He sustained a secondary career as a well-paid pianist too. Dushkin proved an adaptable as well as a willing collaborator. He and Stravinsky worked intensively on the Violin Concerto premiered in Berlin in October 1931. The success of this work encouraged the composer to seek a longer-term partnership, not least when his concert engagements as a solo pianist were limited and his orchestral appearances diminishing due to the economic depression. The outcome was a program whereby Stravinsky and Dushkin toured England and France in 1934, America in 1935 and elsewhere until the composer's emigration to the United States in 1939.

This CD encompasses almost all the violin and piano music he wrote during his collaboration with Dushkin, namely Suite Italienne for Violin and Piano, the Divertimento for Violin and Piano The Fairy's Kiss, Duo Concertant for Violin and Piano, Three Pieces for Violin and Piano from Firebird and Danse Russe for Violin and Piano from Petrushka. Thus, it is not an anthology or a selection but a complete recording of a very special period of Stravinsky's artistic life. In those years, he was in transition from what is generally named his Russian period to what is generally named his neoclassical period. In these violin and piano works, the careful listener can hear influences of both periods. For instance, the first three pieces owe a lot to his interest in and love for Pergolesi, while the last two compositions are full of Russian colours and flavours, also because they're based on works from his previous Russian period.

The two players are an excellent duo: Bruno Monteiro on violin and João Paulo Santos at the piano. They are both Portuguese and have major international careers. Santos is a well-known conductor too and is closely associated with the Lisbon Opera House.

Originally made in 1925 and given the somewhat fanciful title of Suite d'après des thèmes, fragments et morceaux de Giambattista Pergolesi, the Suite Italienne opens with an Introduzione. Its melodic poise and piquant harmonies set the tone for what is to follow.

Next comes a Serenata. Its essentially vocal quality translates naturally to the violin, while the energetic Tarantella features some notably incisive interplay between the two instruments. The heart of the suite comes with the Gavotte. Its theme is a link between the Baroque and the Modern eras.

The Scherzino places no mean emphasis on phrasing and intonation. The final two movements unfold continuously: the Minuetto builds from its chaste beginning to an eloquent climax. The Finale sets off at an energetic pace and exudes engaging humour on its way to an effervescent conclusion.

With Suite Italienne, the Duo Concertant is Stravinsky's only other original work for his partnership with Dushkin. The opening Cantilene is notable for a particularly close integration of the instruments, drawing a great deal of impetus from the contrast between its seamless violin lines and detached piano chords, prior to the quiet though uncertain close.

There follow two movements that are entitled Eglogue. The first of these is a study in pungent harmonies and rhythms, while the second features gently undulating violin phrases and pensive responses from the piano. The Gigue has the feel of an oblique take on the Tarantella dance-measure, with the violin's frequent changes of rhythmic emphasis.

After this, the final Dithyrambe feels the more understated in its inwardness. For all that it reaches the work's climax.

The other pieces are substantial arrangements made with Dushkin. The Divertimento is taken from Tchaikovsky's ballet Le baiser de la fée (The Fairy's Kiss). The adagio (Pas-de-deux) is charming.

The Three Pieces for Violin and Piano from Firebird and Danse Russe for Violin and Piano from Petrushka are paraphrases of the two ballets - pleasant but not on a par with the originals.

In short, this is a gentle and tender Stravinsky in his partnership with Dushkin."

Classical Music Daily, Giuseppe Pennisi

“As time wears on, people tend more and more to forget the details of a celebrity’s life and remember only the highlights. So it may be with Igor Stravinsky, whom most folks might only know for his three early, revolutionary ballets, The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911), and The Rite of Spring (1913). But the man lived a very long time (1882-1971), lived in both Europe and America, and passed through several musical stages in his lifetime, from the avant-garde to the neoclassical to his final, serial years.

The items presented on the current album are from Stravinsky neoclassical period, around 1920-1950 or so. The specific musical numbers are the Suite italienne for Violin and Piano (1925), the Divertimento for Violin and Piano from The Fairy’s Kiss (1932), the Duo Concertant for Violin and Piano (1932), Three Pieces for Violin and Piano from The Firebird, and the Danse Ruse for Violin and Piano from Petrushka (1933). In fact, according to a booklet note, the program included here is the same one that the composer and pianist Samuel Duskin presented as a single concert many times across Europe in the 1930’s.

The violinist is Bruno Monteiro, whose work I have reviewed before. According to Monteiro’s biography, the Portuguese violinist is "heralded by the daily Publico as 'one of Portugal's premier violinists' and by the weekly Expresso as 'one of today's most renowned Portuguese musicians.' Bruno Monteiro is internationally recognized as a distinguished violinist of his generation. Fanfare describes him as having a 'burnished golden tone' and Strad states that his 'generous vibrato produces radiant colors.' Music Web International refers to interpretations as having a 'vitality and an imagination that are looking unequivocally to the future' and that reach an 'almost ideal balance between the expressive and the intellectual.' Gramophone praises his ‘unfailing assurance and eloquence,’ and Strings Magazine summarizes that he is 'a young chamber musician of extraordinary sensitivity.'"

Monteiro’s longtime collaborator is Spanish pianist Joao Paulo Santos, a graduate of the Lisbon National Conservatory and student in Paris of Aldo Ciccolini. For the past forty-odd years Santos has worked with the Teatro Nacional de S. Carlos, the Lisbon Opera House, first as Chief Chorus Conductor and more recently as Director of Musical and Stage Studies. He has also distinguished himself as an opera conductor, concert pianist, and researcher of less-known and forgotten Portuguese composers.

Together, Monteiro and Santos make a formidable team. Now, as to the music, if you’re not a serious Stravinsky aficionado, you may be surprised. These selections are among his neoclassical period, as I mentioned, starting with the Suite italienne. If it sounds familiar, it ought to. It comprises a part of the composer’s Pulcinello Suite of a few years earlier. As always, Monteiro uses his violin as a second voice, the instrument singing radiantly, and Santos’s unaffected accompaniment flawlessly highlights the violin’s lyrical message.

The rest of the program follows suit. The music and the playing are elegant and refined as befit the period. The Divertimento on The Fairy’s Kiss is generally lighter, airier, and sprightlier than most of the other pieces on the disc. Yet the music’s rhythms continue to thrust it forward, and Monteiro makes the most of its continuously fluctuating contrasts. (At various times I thought I was listening to Honegger’s steam train or Leroy Anderson’s waltzing cat.) The music is fun, and Monteiro and Santos appear to be having a good time with it. Even the Adagio has its lighthearted moments.

The Duo Concertant seems to me the most serious music on the agenda. Also, it is perhaps the most “modern” of these neoclassical pieces in its sometimes strange and haunting variables. The Firebird music hardly needs explanation, but as performed here, it takes on a more melancholy aspect than usual. Monteiro in a booklet note calls it an “ethereal” or “magical” quality. Whatever, it is fascinating. The Danse Ruse, drawn from Petrushka, that concludes the program is energetic without being boisterous and rounds out the proceedings with a fine flair.

Producer Bruno Monteiro and engineer Jose Fortes recorded the music at Igreja da Cartuxa, Caxias, Portugal in November 2019. The solo violin sound is clear and resonant, quite realistic. The piano accompaniment is equally good, if a tad close. Still, it’s some of the best violin and piano sound you’ll find on any recording, so all is well."

Classical Candor, John Puccio

Chamber music by Stravinsky played with imagination

*****
“The Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro and the pianist Joao Paulo Santos turn to a little played repertoire, the chamber music of Igor Stravinsky. And yet, in this programme, we are also very close to the composer’s ballet music.

The Suite Italienne uses mainly themes from the ballet Pulcinella, which in turn goes back to Pergolesi, just as Le Baiser de la Fée refers to Tchaikovsky.

At the same time, the works have a reference to Samuel Dushkin, a violinist who had ordered a Violin Concerto from Stravinsky, which the composer was reluctant to accept because he did not really feel at home with the genre. However, over lunch together, the two of them came to an agreement. Stravinsky wrote not only his Violin Concerto for Dushkin, but also the Duo Concertant. And Dushkin assisted him with the transcription of the music from the ballets, because, after the success of the Violin Concerto, Stravinsky wanted to tour with his friend Samuel with music for violin and piano. The tour consisted of concerts in Königsberg, Ostrava, Hamburg, Paris, Budapest, Milan, Turin, Rome and other cities.

In the transcribed ballet music Bruno Monteiro shows that the music is actually far from the orchestral original and probably closer to what Stravinsky may have had in mind when composing at the piano. The violinist’s playing is immensely imaginative and rhythmically precise, so that the moods are worked out very sharply. Especially when it comes to irony or burlesque, the performance is very characteristic and spicy. The violinist’s sharp and agile playing is a perfect match for this repertoire, just as his rhythmic accuracy makes the sequence of contrasts coherent.

The Duo Concertant is de facto a highly original five-movement sonata, of which Stravinsky said that he tried to create « a lyrical work of musical condensation ». Nevertheless, there are plenty of sharp interactions in this masterpiece, which Monteiro plays expressively. After the ravishing gigue he lets the slow Dithyrambe intensively blossom in all its austere beauty.

With technically and expressively outstanding performances and a good sound recording, this Etcetera production is highly recommendable."

Pizzicato Magazine, Remy Franck

The violins of Stravinsky

“ (…) It is in this universe that the new album by violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos moves, a universe that is necessarily challenging, due to the intrinsic nature of the works and the joint work of both musicians, which has now been close to two decades, with a dozen albums and a vast repertoire, so unique and diverse, ranging from Schulhoff, Szymanowski, Korngold or Lopes-Graça, to Schumann, Grieg or César Franck. (...)

The composer brings together the impossible: austere rigor, which prevents the interpreter from proceeding with any 'game' over time, and the lyricism that the very structure of the first and last movements requires. Monteiro and Santos are experts in combining the temperaments that the composer seems to define, opening the way to the understanding of a demanding work (Duo Concertant), which grows in technical difficulty, especially in the Giga, and which ends in a deep reflection, refering to the Violin Concerto.

The Suite Italienne, from "Pulcinella", which opens the CD, has different transcriptions by Stravinsky and Dushkin himself. Monteiro and Santos choose to play the version of the violinist, from 1934, adding a 'Scherzino', in favor of the clarity of the speech and the apprehension of the work, in the timbre and rhythmic spectrum. In particular, the Tarantella of the third movement stands out, with its percussive effects, in which Santos' piano and Monteiro's violin cleverly emphasize Stravinsky's demanding language. (...)

Monteiro and Santos also surpass the hard test of the three pieces of "Firebird", in a path that is made of introspection and meditation, until the Scherzo, where virtuosity, after all, is a point of honor.

Finally, as an 'encore' of the recital, the "Danse Russe" of "Petrushka" appears, the sequence that determined the composition of the ballet by Diaghilev, transcribed as a demonstration of what violin and piano are capable, together, in its best. The two interpreters honor the determination.

Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos not only offer a tour of Stravinsky's essential works for violin and piano. They also make it possible to see how this path was taken in understanding the capabilities of the instruments and how transcriptions were essential in the process. In practice, they do not forget how Stravinsky assimilated all the styles he dealt with, and built an immense work that remains capable of surpassing itself."

Jornal de Letras, Maria Augusta Gonçalves

Gentle and tender performances of most of Stravinsky’s music for violin and piano

“(…) To all these works the Portugese violinist Bruno Monteiro brings his thoughtful and rather introspective approach, well supported by his compatriot and longterm chamber music colleague João Paulo Santos. They are given a sympathetic chamber-music acoustic which well suits their interpretations. (...) The recital on Hyperion by Anthony Marwood with Thomas Adès – here showing himself to be no mean pianist – includes all of these and one or two other things, but replaces the Suite italienne with the earlier and rarer suite from Pulcinella, which Stravinsky made for Kochanski. That means it spills over to a second disc, but the two are priced and packaged as one. However, if you prefer the later and arguably better version of the Pulcinella suite and are happy to forego the extra items, this version will do very well."

MusicWeb International, Stephen Barber

Artistic Quality: 10; Sound: 9; General impression: 9;

“In Stravinsky's chamber music for small orchestras, like his Suite Italienne or his Divertimento, we love the light handling of classical diction, the explicit humor from a cosmopolitan and modern perspective. As much as Stravinsky further developed the colors of the orchestra, he also liked to group the composition material into smaller versions - and his rarely heard versions for violin and piano come largely from his own pen.

Playful and with incredible technology

If you want to face all of Stravinsky's sensual spirit with a solo instrument, you need maneuverability, you need to master a dazzling range of expressions - violinist Bruno Monteiro definitely leaves nothing to be desired and he can count on pianist João Paulo Santos as a sovereign partner!
Courageous, enthusiastic about playing and blessed with amazing technology, both immerse themselves in the adventure. This consists of nothing less than grouping the variety of orchestral colors in the violin and piano duo. Where larger ensembles call for the variety of colors of all the instruments involved, Bruno Monteiro alone evokes a no less luminous palette of changing line styles, dedicated accents, pressure to change strings, flagolets or the opposite. Sometimes this seems almost radical, but it always serves the plausibly object. The character of the song can be experienced again, but it remains true to itself.

Bold sound prints

With a wide line, Monteiro puts the introduction of the Suite Italienne in a corner and also develops enough style and variety of dance in the following movements. Bold sound impressions, researching harmonic adventures, a more subtle interaction of light and shadow herald a new era in the subsequent The Fairy Kiss Divertimento. Even more expression and courage for dissonance breathe the spirit of a new present and uncertain future at the Duo Concertant.

It is no wonder that the three pieces of the Firebird Suite form an equally multifaceted concentrate. Flagolet effects without vibrato, hard percussive impulses and repetitive motor skills - all this is what Monteiro calls strings, while the piano scales keep everything running like a perpetual motion machine. Clear the stage for the grand finale, Petruschka's "Danse Russe"! Here, too, the violin is heavy, harsh and never softened and in soft speech with its partner on the piano. At that moment, one can think that Stravinsky composed all this for these two experienced chamber musicians from Portugal."

Klassik Heute, Stefan Pieper

"In the 1930s, Igor Stravinsky wrote several works for violin and piano, in collaboration with violinist Samuel Dushkin. Sometimes this was a new piece, but much more often it involved adaptations (or parts of) pieces that Stravinsky had previously composed for a different formation. Violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos recently recorded many of these works for Et'cetera.
The oldest piece is the 'Suite Italienne', of six movements, for which Stravinsky used parts of his 'Pulcinella' ballet. In 1925, he wrote the first version for violinist Paul Kochanski; in 1932 the second - now for cello and piano and in 1933 the version we found on this album. By the way, this is the version that is most performed. The basis of the piece is the Commedia dell'arte and in the music attributed to Giovanni Pergolesi a century ago. It was Sergei Djagilev who asked for an adaptation to Stravinsky. The music is obviously danceable, with a nod to the Renaissance, but according to the story there is also clearly a sad tone. An atmosphere that Monteiro and Santos know how to achieve.

'Divertimento', also from 1932, based Stravinsky’s ballet music for 'Le baiser de la fée' or in English 'The Fairy Kiss' of 1928, combined with pieces from' Humoresque, opus 10 'and' Nocturne, opus 19 ', both by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Stronger than the Italienne suite, in part because Stravinsky was not attached to the Renaissance pattern here, this piece has a clear dramatic tone. In addition, the strong pace stands out, for example, in the 'Danses Suisses'. Stravinsky also adapted parts for his violets 'L'Oiseau de Feu' and 'Petroesjka' for violin and piano. The most impressive is the calm 'Prélude et Ronde des princess', the first part of the three-part suite he touches. Based on L'Oiseau de Feu.
Along with Stravinsky, Dushkin also debuted the 'Duo Concertant' on October 23, 1932. the only piece in this series that Stravinsky did not build on existing work. In "Cantilene", the two instruments clearly follow their own path, to complement each other beautifully in "Epilogue I". Again, a powerful rhythm, which is a particular challenge for the violinist, that Monteiro knows exactly how to deal with. Also special is 'Gigue', loosely based on Bach."

Nieuwe Noten, Ben Taffijn

CD of the Week

“(…) Violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos form one of the most qualified duos that Portugal has produced in recent decades. Since 2000, they have covered the vast classical, romantic and modern repertoire.
Their most recent adventure - which was on this album released in the Netherlands about two months ago - reproduces what would be one of those recitals by the duo Stravinsky-Dushkin. If you listen to the Introduction to the Italian Suite, you will be immediately captured by the beauty and accessibility of this music, which is pure thin biscuit designed for the masses."

Rádio Cultura de São Paulo, João Marcos Coelho

“This recording is the chronicle of the Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro who, through the scores of Igor Stravinsky, rediscovered a sonorous paradise. Accompanied by Lisbon-born pianist João Paulo Santos, Monteiro analyzes the music of the Russian composer with a selection of works for violin and piano. Many of them are transcriptions of the great ballets written and premiered in the first decades of the last century. Starting with The Italian Suite, of which there are three scores with significant differences, based on themes, fragments and pieces by Giambattista Pergolesi, dating from 1925. The suite contains, with the exception of the brief Scherzino, a transcript of five of the eleven movements of the orchestral suite extracted from Pulcinella, from 1922. The version performed in this album contains six movements in a different order from the original, with the addition of a Scherzino. This version is still the most played for its variety of different movements, which stand out for the cleanness of the melodic line. Bruno Monteiro brilliantly expresses this stylistic purity enriched by a wonderful rhythmic impulse.

The Fairy´s Kiss, written in the spring of 1932, is a tribute to Tchaikovsky. In fact, for this work, Stravinsky composed his Divertimento, with the theme of the ballet Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty. In this sense, Stravinsky said the opposite: the 1934 orchestral suite (The Fairy's Bes suite) is essentially an orchestration of Divertimento. Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos instill character in this work and give it almost enigmatic power. In fact, they give great depth to the very distinguished Stravinsky, who was nothing more than a great fascination for dance.

The Concerting Duo is a work that contrasts with the other two due to the austerity with which the composer builds the five movements. We highlight the Dithyrambe which, as is known, was an ancient Greek hymn sung and danced in honor of Dionysus. The composer recreates a bucolic world of very pleasant sounds.

Following are the Three Pieces of Firebird, KC 10, which are small miniatures, transcribed for violin and piano from the music of the aforementioned ballet.

Danse Russe is also a virtuoso piece, transcribed in 1933 from the Petrushka ballet (1911), with revisions by Dushkin.

The two musicians brilliantly created a musical performance that generates a virtuoso circle between orchestration and transcription."

Sonograma Magazine, Carme Miró

Five stars: A recital of Stravinsky’s works for violin and piano to savor

"On at least five previous occasions I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing releases by violin and piano duo partners Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos. Nor am I alone among Fanfare’s contributors to have received a reliably steady stream of the duo’s albums featuring the players in an almost dizzying array of repertoire, ranging from French composers Saint-Saëns, Chausson, and Franco-Beligan Lekeu; to Portuguese composer, Fernando Lopes-Graça; to the German contingent of Richard Strauss and the Schumanns, Robert and Clara; to Czech, Erwin Schulhoff, and Pole, Karol Szymanowski.
Yet, as wide-ranging as Monteiro and Santos’s musical odyssey has been, it still comes as a bit of a surprise that the next stop on their journey together should have been Stravinsky, and here’s why. Those who know their Stravinsky well are surely aware that the composer’s original works for violin and piano are so few they can be counted on two fingers of one hand; and one of those works, the Themes, Fragments, and Pieces by Giambattista Pergolesi (1925) isn’t included on the present disc, Still, it does get counted as one of the two, only because it’s a work Stravinsky originally scored for violin and piano. In the strictest sense of the word, however, it is not an unqualified original work, in that its musical material was already extant and recycled by Stravinsky from his 1920 ballet, Pulcinella.
Indeed, Stravinsky got more mileage out of Pulcinella than most folks get from a retreaded tire. To ensure his copyrights in perpetuity—or at least in his lifetime—Stravinsky was wont to republish scores of the same works with only minor changes, or to publish ostensibly “new” works that were stitched together from pre-existing ones.
The Suite italienne for violin and piano is such an example of this practice, and it’s only one of the composer’s Pulcinella-derived works—the last of them, actually—and it’s four times removed from its original source material. The first spinoff came two years after the ballet premiered in Paris under Ernest Ansermet in May of 1920, and it was an orchestral suite in 11 movements drawn from the ballet in 1922.
The next recycling came in 1925 with the above-cited Themes, Fragments, and Pieces by Giambattista Pergolesi, which was originally scored for violin and piano at the request of violinist Paul Kochánski.
Next, in 1932, cellist Gregor Piatigorsky collaborated with Stravinsky to arrange a suite of pieces in five movements from Pulcinella for cello and piano, a work that was published under the title Suite italienne. Of course, there’s nothing like a little redundancy to add confusion to the mix, and so shortly thereafter, in 1933, Stravinsky arranged the Suite italienne for violin and piano for violinist Samuel Dushkin, publishing it with the same title as the cello version. Thus, the title appears twice in the composer’s work catalog.
But here’s the kicker. The cello and violin versions are not the same work, for Stravinsky changed the order of the movements, dropped one movement from the violin version that was in the cello version (Aria) and added two new movements to the violin version that were not in the cello version (Gavotta con due Varizioni and Scherzino).
Suite italienne—Cello Version Suite italienne—Violin Version
Introduzione Introduzione
Serenata Serenata
Aria Tarantella
Tarantella Gavotta con due Varizioni
Minuetto e Finale Scherzino
Minuetto–Finale
Monteiro and Santos perform the violin and piano version as it’s shown in the righthand column, a work four generations removed from its original source in the ballet, Pulcinella.
Much the same is true of all but one of the works on Monteiro and Santos’s album. It’s not their fault. For whatever reason, Stravinsky just didn’t favor violinists and pianists with much original duo music, although most of the violin and piano arrangements are his.
The year 1932 gave birth to another such offspring, the Divertimento for Violin and Piano, a four-movement work, this one made up of numbers from Stravinsky’s 1928 ballet, The Fairy’s Kiss, which, in turn, was based on pieces by Tchaikovsky. But Stravinsky wasn’t done with The Fairy’s Kiss. For after the Divertimento for Violin and Piano arrangement, just as with Pulcinella, he extracted an orchestral suite from The Fairy’s Kiss in 1934, publishing it with the same title, Divertimento.
There’s no disguising the Three Pieces from The Firebird or the Danse Russe from Petrushka with abstract formal titles, such as Suite or Divertimento. They are exactly what they say there are.
And so that leaves the Duo Concertante, also from 1932. As far as I know, it’s Stravinsky’s one and only originally composed work for violin and piano that is not drawn from one of his ballets and is therefore an entirely new and independent work. It, too, was written for Samuel Dushkin.
Turnabout being fair play, however, the Duo Concertante underwent transformation in the opposite direction, when it was choreographed by George Balanchine for a ballet of sorts to be performed by two dancers at the 1972 Stravinsky Festival. Stravinsky had no knowledge of Balanchine’s use of his work, nor could he have approved or disapproved of it, having died the year before.
Despite the fact that there’s so little truly original music for violin and piano duo by Stravinsky—i.e., not arranged from pre-existing sources—players have had to rely on recording programs similar or even identical to this one, made up of the composer’s own arrangements of numbers from his ballets. Ray Chen and Timothy Young, for example, offered an enthusiastically received program by Robert Maxham in 35:1 that differed from Monteiro and Santos’s program only in substituting the Themes, Fragments, and Pieces by Giambattista Pergolesi in place the Suite italienne.
Isabelle van Keulen and Olli Mustonen went them one better, putting out a two-disc set on Philips that included additional pieces in collaborative arrangements by Stravinsky and Dushkin from Mavra and The Nightingale. Stravinsky and Dushkin were, after all, close friends who toured and concertized together, and these short arrangements likely served them as encore pieces, while further familiarizing audiences with Stravinsky’s music.
If, based on everything said above, I’ve conveyed the impression that I don’t find these Stravinsky arrangements for violin and piano all that compelling, even if the composer did make them himself, it’s only because I think they sound better, and I prefer to hear them, in their original settings. That, however, is a matter of personal taste. There is no intent to suggest that violinists shouldn’t play them. Indeed, and to the contrary, I would submit that any violinist who does choose to play them, should only prove as capable of doing so as does Bruno Monteiro.
In the Pergolesi-Pulcinella derived Suite italienne, Monteiro perfectly captures the lilting gracefulness and coy glances of a commedia dell’arte tableau.
The fairy in Stravinsky’s Le Baiser de la fée (The Fairy’s Kiss) is no sugar plum, despite the fact that pieces by Tchaikovsky served as a source for the music. The scenario of Stravinsky’s ballet is based on a very dark Hans Christian Andersen’s short story, The Ice-Maiden. The ballet is not often staged, a result no doubt of its unappealing storyline.
This fairy is one nasty piece of work. She steals an infant from his mother and plants a kiss on his forehead that seals his fate for the rest of his life. Always lurking in the shadows, the fairy stalks the youth as he grows into manhood and falls in love. The fairy dons a disguise to trick the young man into believing she is his fiancée, and by the time he realizes the fairy’s treachery, it’s too late. His fiancée is gone, and the Ice-Maiden drags him off to the Land Beyond Time and Place to remain there with her for all eternity.
The disturbing aspect of the story is its amorality. There’s no reason for or point to the cruelty and suffering visited upon an innocent soul simply to provide a sadistic harpy with an unwitting partner for her sick and twisted game. Tchaikovsky would have been appalled; his fairies are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. I’d be loath to say that Monteiro’s playing in the Divertimento is characterized by cruelty, but there is an iciness to his tone, and in Santos’s touch, that conveys the unmistakable point of this music.
The Duo Concertante, as the album note suggests, is “the chamber music counterpart of the Violin Concerto,” both of which were dedicated to and premiered by Dushkin. Much of Stravinsky’s familiar neo-Classical driving rhythms, angular melodic lines, and sharp dissonance are prime elements in both the Concerto and the Duo Concertante. The latter is performed here by Monteiro with expert skill in the tongue-in-cheek, if not cheeky, clucking and squealing of the second movement (Eglogue I); with moving expression in the lyrically touching third movement (Eglogue II); and with real cockiness in the jaunt of the fourth movement (Gigue).
The concluding movement remains enigmatic in its designation, Dithyrambe, which according to the dictionary, was a frenzied, impassioned choric hymn and dance of ancient Greece. Stravinsky, I’d have thought, would be more mindful of musical nomenclatures, especially in his works of neo-Classical bent, but this concluding movement of the Duo Concertante doesn’t accord at all with the character of its named archetype. To the contrary, it has been described as “tragic,” and as “the most lyrically beautiful music Stravinsky ever wrote.” One can easily believe that, listening to this heartfelt performance by Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos.
For their Duo Concertante alone, I would give this release my strongest recommendation. But I would add that if you also appreciate Stravinsky’s arrangements of his ballet numbers for violin and piano, Monteiro and Santos’s performances are the way to hear them."

Fanfare Magazine, Jerry Dubins

Five stars: Stravinsky’s music shines eternal in these often revelatory performances by Monteiro and Santos

"Stravinsky’s works for violin and piano occupy a world of their own. The composer’s voice is so individual the only parallels to be made are The Soldier’s Tale and, of course, his magnificent and still under-rated Violin Concerto. How wonderful, therefore, to have his complete output for violin and piano on one disc in performances of great assurance.
Perhaps the defining factor of Bruno Monteiro’s Stravinsky is its grittiness; when it comes to the more lyrical moments of the Suite italienne, this works particularly well as there is a sort of emotional distancing Stravinsky would surely have approved of. Almost all of the material for this piece comes from Pulcinella (which itself took music by Pergolesi, presented in a Stravinsky wrapper). The challenges to the violinist in particular in this arrangement are multiple, but the stoppings are particularly tricky. Throughout all of this, Monteiro and Santos remain true to a vital aspect of this piece and, indeed, of Stravinsky in general: rhythm. Monteiro and Santos find real grace in the Gavotte, and a true sense of delight in the variations. The version played of this piece has six movements, performed in a different order from the original, and inserts a spiky Scherzino (not the one from the original suite). Monteiro’s dry staccato is delightful. The Menuetto builds nicely to the finale, which here is gently lilting, almost playful. I admit to a soft spot for Kavakos and Péter Nagy on ECM, where this and the Duo concernant meet Bach (the First Solo Violin Partita and Sonata) but Monteiro and Santos have an integrity all of their own; and, of course, their version is held within an all-Stravinsky program.
The Divertimento, an arrangement by Dushkin in collaboration with the composer of music from Le baiser de la Fée, receives a highly committed performance, fully honouring the contrasts that are a vital part of Stravinsky’s music because of his penchant for block juxtaposition. We might be up against the likes of Mullova, Repin and Judith Ingolfsson (the latter of whose Fauré Sonatas with Vladimir Stoupel I enjoyed so much on the Audite label, Fanfare 40:5). What characterises the best performances is that sense of rock-solid rhythms, of nary a sense of rushing; and Monteiro and Santos are as one on this. They find wit and balletic lightness in Stravinsky’s often spare textures. But they find depth, too, in this very special piece. Monteiro’s way with the repeated gesture is exceptional, often glacial in that Stravinsky-objective way. Alternatives come in the form of Arthur Grumiaux, full-throated in his lower registers, with István Hajdu on Orfeo (a pity the piano is rather distanced for this is fine violin playing) or, in more modern garb, the splendidly fresh Isabelle van Keulen and Olli Mustonen on Philips, while admirers of Lydia Mordkovich will not be disappointed in her Chandos recording with Julian Milford. But Monteiro and Santos stand brilliantly on their own (four) feet.
The Duo Concertant takes us into a very different world. On one level we hear a “purer” Stravinsky, even more distilled; on another, we hear the clear influence of Bach. The concluding “Dithyramb” has a preternatural purity and depth. Wolfgang Schneiderhan’s recording with Carl Seeman of this piece has a real sense of rightness, but Monteiro and Santos match their interpretative strength note for note; though if intriguing couplings appeal, try Eudice Shapiro and Brooks Smith on Crystal Records, where this and the Firebird pieces share disc space with Lukas Foss’ phenomenal First String Quartet.
We undergo another journey to a different kind of fairytale world, a dark fairytale, in Firebird, and it seems even more unsettled in Stravinsky’s arrangement, which sometimes seems more of a deconstruction of the original, fragile and haunting, the spare counterpoint between violin and piano offering the merest skeleton. How pure is Monteiro’s stratospheric register (and how beautiful Santos’ contribution, too) at the end of the “Ronde des princesses”. The “Berceuse” offers held-breath stasis, but with little hint of the luxury scoring of the original while the concluding “Scherzo” breezes its way delightfully to its final, deliciously dismissive gesture.
The Petrushka “Danse russe” is almost offered in the manner of an encore. Both players handle the huge ascent to the opening theme’s return brilliantly and, again, that sense of deconstruction works wonders in reframing the piece for the listener. Listen to the delicious pianistic glistenings of Santos; unfortunately, it is impossible for the piano to imitate the horn crescendos on one chord (the original horn parts are so much fun to play!) but that hardly matters. And again that rhythmic mastery of both is incredibly persuasive.
I have enjoyed several of Bruno Monteiro’s discs previously. His repertoire choices always seem stimulating: for example his recent disc of Lekeu (Brilliant Classics, Fanfare 43:1, part of that disc presented with the current pianist) or, entirely with Santos, a disc of Schulhoff’s music for violin and piano that provided huge joy (Brilliant Classics, Fanfare 40:4), Both were revelatory. This is hardly any less so, and, in bringing lesser-known Stravinsky into the spotlight, it offers a sterling service to the repertoire. The recording is excellent, beautifully present and with just the right distance between violin and piano.
Full and informative notes complete a fabulous release, one that I hope will bring you as much joy as it did to myself. Stravinsky’s music shines eternal in these often revelatory performances by Monteiro and Santos."

Fanfare Magazine, Colin Clarke

A fascinating and highly enjoyable programme

“It sometimes seems as if Stravinsky’s standing in the pantheon of twentieth century composers has slipped since his death, almost half a century ago. Concert performances of the three great ballets are still common, as well as some of the operas, but his chamber music seems to have a less secure place in the repertoire. This CD is valuable not least in redressing some of that imbalance, but also in sterling performances of some charming music.

Stravinsky wrote quite a body of music for violin and piano, not least because of his close working relationship with the violinist Samuel Dushkin. Their collaboration, especially intimate for an eight-year period, in the 1920s and 1930s, covered the period in Stravinsky’s career described – much to his annoyance – as neo-classical, when he drew so consciously on older forms and
composers, including, notably Pergolesi in Pulcinella. For many listeners, music from this period has an accessibility not always found in the serialism of the 1950s, though the ‘shock of the new’ of the three great Diaghilev ballets often obscured the continuities with past composers.

The charming Suite italienne, in six movements, draws principally on themes from Pulcinella, with the exception of the brief Scherzino. The reduced forces draw our attention to the melodic line as well as to the classical elements. The suite is notable both for its variety and for a distinct rhythmical drive which nevertheless captures some of the character of Pergolesi’s epoch.

Divertimento for Violin and Piano The Fairy’s Kiss, from 1932, is a more substantial work. Today, the original title of the 1928 ballet, is more commonly replaced by the original Le Baiser de la fée. The suite heard here, like the ballet, is an extended homage to Tchaikovsky, but also draws on additional works, including the Humoresque from 3 Morceux (Op.9) and the Nocturne from 6 Pieces (Op.19). Interestingly, the 1934 Suite for Orchestra, essentially is an orchestration of the Divertimento, rather than confining itself to the themes of the original ballet.

Duo Concertant is not directly based on a previous ballet, but the five movements demonstrate Stravinsky’s fascination with earlier dance forms. The influence of Bach is strong. Though everything is restrained, even austere, there is a strong sense of the lyrical. The final movement, Dithyrambe, is remarkable, and I have returned to it several times. Overall, I thought this the most significant work on the disc, in its profundity.

The two final works are essentially virtuoso pieces, which would have delighted original audiences. The programme on this release is the programme toured by Stravinsky and Dushkin, over several years – and it works very well as a programme. The Portuguese Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos, neither exclusively chamber musicians, have nevertheless worked together for many years, and their rapport is evident in their confident anticipation and blending of sound. Monteiro’s playing is as pin-point precise as Stravinsky would wish, and his tone has a wiriness and astringency entirely appropriate to this repertoire. There are alternative recordings of the works, notably from Lydia Mordkovich on Chandos (CHAN9756). Especially interesting is a recording of the Duo Concertant, by Stravinsky and Dushkin, in remarkably good sound, from T.E Lawrence’s Record Collection at Cloud’s Hill, available as a download from Trunk Music. Dushkin’s tone is – even in a recording nearly ninety years old – notably more mellow than Monteirom and makes a fascinating contrast.

Production values are high, with good notes by Bruno Monteiro, and a very clear recording."

MusicWeb International, Michael Wilkinson

****

“In 1971, when the man had gone to bury, an anthology called “Stravinsky Joue Stravinsky” was placed on the market, partly devoted to the works for violin and piano that the composer had recorded with Samuel Dushkin. Nothing special distinguished it, other than the sudden confirmation of how very little idiomatic it was, as he was allergic to the instrument's implicit expressiveness, Stravinsky had resisted hostile to compose for violin. However, from 1932, motivated by his German publisher, and always with Dushkin at his side, he imagined himself to dispute the place reserved for the great virtuosos, through recitals whose program the present CD evokes and which one would say had as exponents "Duo Concertant", "Divertimento (The Fairy´s Kiss)" and "Suite italienne (Pulcinella)". As expected, for the time, the style was that of those needless autopsies to the baroque so to the taste of the halls of the chic Winnaretta Singer, where it was never discussed the fact that a quarter of the population was unemployed. Still, in retrospect, there is an undeniable and crucial tension in these short pieces that makes them worthy of note: even the most scrupulous obedience to the canon can prove to be a disrupting factor of the present, they seem to say. In fact, it is enough to juxtapose this kind of indomitable discomfort to which the violinist devouringly indulges and the delicacy and distinction in everything that the pianist choreographically touches to take a portrait of the Great Depression. The edges of their time hitting the smooth surface of history, only once, as I recall, had a violinist swap the bow for the plane (Itzhak Perlman, in 1976) - since then, it is preferable to honor hesitations and irritations in score, that is, except for “Pas de deux” or “Dithyrambe”, which here produces Monteiro's a somewhat barbed tone. In Virgílio's “Bucólicas”, which the “Duo Concertante” alludes to, this reads: “I know poems, and a poet / call me pastors; I don’t believe it / So far nothing I do / It is worthy of Varius or Cinna / Among songbirds swans I am duck. ” As much as they try to convince us otherwise, it is a beautiful description of the violin in Stravinsky's work."

Expresso, João Santos

THE PURE STRAVINSKY – A FIREBIRD´S TESTEMENT

“Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) was born near the Russian cultural metropolis of St. Petersburg and came from a musical background. He was a child at home with his grandparents like Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov when he studied piano with his son at the age of nine. The fact that he started making music at such young age, combined with the advanced age he was allowed to live, strongly influenced his style. He experienced many currents, both musical and political, that were expressed in his music. His life was so rich in impressions that his music also fed on that. But still, it can be a fairytale ballet, a folk dance or an avant-garde piece. Stravinsky's seal is always present, Et'cetera.

The Suite Italienne was written in 1920, when Stravinsky was 28 years old. The young composer had already written a whole series of poetic-inspired songs and ballets when he wrote this suite. He felt the need for another inspiration. He found it at the beginning of the piece. This is also very well heard during the program. A clear influence from Pergolesi. Especially during the second of the six movements - Serenade - one can experience the recognizable passive facet of this influence. Movements three and four (Tarantella and Gavotta con due Varizioni) are more inspired by dance. However, a Stravinsky very different from what one is used to experience when seeing / hearing one of his ballets.

The fact that Monteiro and Santos opted for an audibly austere scenario takes Stravinsky's music back to its origin, to its essence. You hear pure instrumental beauty, along with all the fantasy behind the story. This idea was founded on the collaboration and friendship between Stravinsky and the violinist Samuel Dushkin (1891-1976), a student of Fritz Kreisler and others. The compositions on this album emphasize their joint research for sound. It seems a little bubble of time, a representation of how serene pianist and violinist approach the score and the creation of sounds together, without the theatrical aspect that will occur on the stage afterwards. New World and he dies in the United States at a blessed age.

When viewing the curriculum vitae of the two performing musicians on this album, it is possible to establish the same artistic path, a journey through ancient classical music, to experiment and identify.

Imagine going through an open window this Sunday morning and you will see two musicians working and showing you pure and unadulterated what is happening in their imagination and that makes you dream. You'll find that in this album.

An interesting extra is the cover of a work by the artist Wassily Kandinsky (Moscow 1866-Neuilly-sur-Seine 1944) Developpement and Brun from 1933 that reflects the character of the album. Warm colors that give little hints of old world art, displayed in elegant modern patterns, surrounded by light."

Cultuurpakt, Veerle Deknopper

“Certainly for the Stravinsky adepts, this CD contains familiar material, but for those who are familiar with the great ballets, this album can still be a revelation. As a closer relative with the well-known music, but with a different appearance, for violin and piano, like the Suite Italienne, the five movements that the composer arranged in 1925 from the suite Pulcinella, with 11 parts, based on the music of Pergolesi. The Divertimento from 1932 based on the ballet Le baiser de la Fée from 1928. The Three Pieces from the ballet L'Oiseau de Feu are three-part adaptations, while Danse Russe can, of course, be found in Petrushka. Only the 1931/32 five-movement Duo Concertant remains alone as a model and resembles a sonata for violin and piano.
Like the ballets in their original orchestral form, they are, without exception, very atmospheric pieces that have been assembled here in performances of extremely high musical quality. Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos breathe this special combination of spontaneity, rhythmic precision and poetic expressiveness, but above all this music is about music (objective), exactly as Stravinsky intended. Stylistically and abstractingly, these are the main elements that also stand out in these interpretations. It is also a form of objectification that the composer himself liked to use as a guide for his work. For example, he once observed that the mass of the artist demands that he reveals his inner self and that, according to the same mass, it is only then that the 'noble art' exists. According to Stravinsky, this is denoted by character and temperament, but it has the death of a brother: for no price did he want to be a part of it, much less that his creations could be accomplices in it. Also in this respect, therefore, no knees bent for the public. Making music without problems is exactly what Monteiro-Santos duo clearly seek in these pieces: less is more, what these five works - as could be otherwise - fit then like a glove. The particularly beautiful recording seals this very successful recital. Monteiro provided a clear and concise explanation in the booklet."

Opus Klassiek, Aart van der Wal

“Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro continues to expand his repertoire in unanticipated directions. Those following my writings for some time know that he has previously explored the catalogs of Karol Szymanowski, Erwin Schulhoff, and, most recently, Guillaume Lekeu. His latest album turns to more familiar selections, most of which are not in their usual settings. The album consists entirely of music for violin and piano by Igor Stravinsky; and, as in previous recordings, Monteiro is accompanied by pianist João Paulo Santos. As of this writing, it is currently available only directly through its label Etcetera Records. A Web page for purchase has been created; but, since Etcetera is based in Belgium, the price is in euros. Under current conditions, it may be difficult to estimate how long delivery time will be.
In the accompanying booklet Monteiro observes that much of the content of the CD resulted from an eight-year collaboration between Stravinsky and the violist Samuel Dushkin.
Those familiar with the ballet repertoire will probably recall the episodes behind the excerpts from both “The Firebird” and “Petrushka.” One may miss the rich orchestration, but Stravinsky certainly knew how to distill the essence of his own music. Monteiro consistently captures that essence in ways that will appeal to both concertgoers and ballet lovers.
In “Pulcinella,” however, we see one of the earliest moves away from Russian tradition into what came to be called “neoclassicism.” Under Diaghilev’s influence, Stravinsky thought he was creating a score based on the music of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. Pergolesi was a very popular composer in his day, but he died of tuberculosis at the age of 26. In an effort not to lose his “cash cow,” his publisher hired other musicians to create further additions to the Pergolesi catalog; and these deceptions were not unravelled until musicological research in the twentieth century. Regardless of actual sources, however, Stravinsky endowed eighteenth-century Italian traditions with a bevy of twentieth-century twists; and those twists can be easily relished in Monteiro’s account of them.
The score for “Le baiser de la fée,” throws retrospection into an entirely different light. In this case Stravinsky drew his source material from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and I have to confess that this particular ballet score never really registered with me until I had become familiar with most of those sources. Now this is one of my favorite Stravinsky compositions, and I enjoy recognizing the Tchaikovsky “roots” in Stravinsky’s chamber music version as much as I enjoy them when watching the ballet. I suspect it would be fair to say that this was the portion of the album that evoked some of my fondest memories."

The Rehearsal Studio, Stephen Smoliar

“In 1930, Stravinsky's publisher, Willy Streck, introduced the composer to the violinist Samuel Dushkin (1891 - 1976), which resulted in several valuable compositions. Besides the Violin Concerto, the five works included here (and some more).
The way played here, Pulcinella's six parts from southern Italy sound very funny and baroque, the Divertimento moves between moonlight and robust Russian dance with dark romantic features, the Duo becomes a stained-glass concert with five color parts, it is - not because of the good performance! - Get used to linking the three parts of The Firebird to the original orchestra and Petrushka's 'Danse Russe' is full of speed from both artists.
The duo makes much more than a viable whole of this recital and is therefore quite successful, especially as they don't show Stravinsky as a cool frog and play with radiant intensity fire in these works and choose a generally light touch, like Lydia Mordkovitch, for example. and Julian Milford (Chandos CHAN 9756). The complete works for violin and piano were beautifully recorded on two CDs in 1987 by Isabelle van Keulen and Olli Mustonen (Newton 880206-2)."

Musicalifeiten, Jan de Kruijff

“Only twenty-four years lived the Belgian Guillaume Lekeu, between 1870 and 1894, during which he had time to admire Wagner's music (it is said that he fainted while listening to Tristan and Isolde in Bayreuth) and receive lessons from Franck and D'Indy. The trail of the three can be seen in these two broad, ambitious, affectionate and impetuous works, composed in a romantic key and crossed by a melancholy that gives special strength to the dramatic moments. The same determination that he would have to compose them is shown by these three Portuguese performers, Bruno Monteiro, Miguel Rocha and João Paulo Santos, not well known to us, but with important careers behind them. Together they offer a great portrait of Lekeu, of a young man who, as far as he tells through his music, had a lot of life to give to the world. The Sonata for violin had an extraordinary godfather, Ysaÿe, who premiered it in Brussels in 1893. It is a work that shows good points of contact between the sonorities of the two instruments, violin and piano, besides joining to its cyclical structure (in the middle of the Franckian line) a lyricism that reaffirms, maturing it, purifying it and refining it, the inner story of the Trio, that speaks in first person of intimate thoughts, of a warm and dreamy vision of its own existence. The notes on the record underline Beethoven's influence, expressed from the start in the emblematic tonality of C minor, which was elevated to an expressive category throughout the 19th century, but also in the strength and character of some of his themes, which, however, Lekeu does not develop with the skill, mastery and dexterity of the great classics, as if in many moments of the piece the emotional charge was ahead of the technique, the need for expression ahead of pure musical writing."

Scherzo Magazine, Asier Vallejo Ugarte

Catching Up on Bruno Monteiro´s Recordings

“Readers with relatively long memories may recall the interest I took when Brilliant Classics shifted from providing “reprint” anthologies to producing original recordings. One of the first of these releases was an album consisting of the complete music for violin and piano by Karol Szymanowski. This came out in May of 2015, back when I was writing for Examiner.com. The performers on this album were both Portuguese, violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos. By the time their second album was released, Examiner.com had closed; and I was able to write about them on this site. That second album was another “complete works” release, this time covering Erwin Schulhoff’s compositions for violin and piano.

I have now caught up with this duo by listening to the album they released this past May. This is not a “complete works” program. Rather it samples two compositions by Guillaume Lekeu, a late nineteenth-century Belgian composer that died at the age of 24 but left behind about fifty completed works.

When this album was released, Lekeu was not a stranger to me. Ironically, I had learned about him when violinist Alina Ibragimova and pianist Cédric Tiberghien made their album of the complete works for violin and piano composed by Maurice Ravel for Hyperion Records. Because that content was not enough to fill a single compact disc, they provided an “overture” of sorts in the form of Lekeu’s G major violin sonata, composed between 1892 and 1893. (Lekeu would die on the day after his 24th birthday in January of 1894, having contracted typhoid fever from a contaminated sorbet.) Since Lekeu’s death preceded Ravel’s earliest sonata for violin and piano, his sonata preceded the entire Ravel corpus on the Hyperion release.

I therefore welcomed the opportunity to listen to an album devoted entirely to Lekeu’s music. The first half of the recent Brilliant release consists of an account of that G major sonata by Monteiro and Santos. This is followed by a somewhat earlier composition, a piano trio in C minor composed between 1889 and 1891. For this performance Monteiro and Santos are joined by cellist Miguel Rocha. By way of chronological context, Lekeu had visited Bayreuth to see performances of operas by Richard Wagner in August of 1889; and after his return he began private lessons in counterpoint and fugue with César Franck, who would later die while Lekeu was working on his trio.

There are those that associate Lekeu and his G major sonata with the sonata by the fictitious composer Vinteuil that figures significantly in Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. However, Proust began work on this project in 1909 and was familiar enough with concert performances that any number of candidates for Vinteuil had been proposed. For my part I had not heard of Lekeu when I set about to read Proust, so I was content to think about other composers from the late nineteenth century! (I seem to recall listening to chamber music by Camille Saint-Saëns while reading Proust.)

Taken as a whole, this is definitely an album of discovery. Because I tend to seek significance in chronology, I probably would have preferred to have the trio precede the sonata, rather than follow it. On the other hand the trio is the longer work, and I find that I have encountered a variety of ways in which Lekeu chose to go beyond traditional approaches to structure. The sonata, on the other hand, was the result of a commission by Eugène Ysaÿe; and it tends to be the more accessible of the two pieces on the album. Consequently, there may have been some logic behind the decision of the performers to draw upon the sonata to “introduce” Lekeu to listeners encountering his music for the first time.

Nevertheless, regardless of motives and contexts, each of these two selections makes for a thoroughly absorbing listening experience in its own right."

The Rehearsal Studio, Stephen Smoliar

Intense and Impressive

*****

“Were it not for the model that Mozart established as a 'wunderkind' composer, it would be hard to imagine that a teenager could create music of great intensity and complexity. Nevertheless, this is the legacy that Guillaume Lekeu left in the late 19th century. Only 24 years when he died in 1894, Lekeu composed a striking series of chamber music works, and 2 of them are put on full display in this new Brilliant Classics recording. Featuring a trio of excellent Portugese musicians, the program sizzles with powerfully extroverted passages, all the while projecting an atmosphere of seriousness, even sadness.
This is gorgeous music, and I definitely recommend the disk to all chamber music devotees."

ArkivMusic, Henry S.

“What an ominous date: 1870-1894, 24 years! No war violence here, but complications in a typhus infestation that would prematurely end the life of the Belgian composer Guillaume Lekeu. He admired Wagner, he would have fainted with excitement with a performance by Tristan und Isolde. His studies with César Franck and Vincent d’Indy have audible influence in his works. The Sonata for violin and piano in G major from 1892 shows a precocious master who can write large-scale music in a small line-up. The first part is a world in itself, rich in moods, ingenious in its harmonic development, a grand romantic composition. The slow part is a melancholic song, the third part is "très animé", energetic, with a strong climax at the end. The Piano Trio in C minor is a little earlier, from 1890, more classically oriented. The toiling-searching of the slow part is followed by a fierce Scherzo, but a feeling of powerlessness colors the whole work. The performers play with full dedication. Previously recommended, in the violin sonata, Tasmin Little and Martin Roscoe (Chandos) or Ibragimova and Tibergien (Hyperion)."

Luister Magazin, Hans Quant

***** S (Extraordinary Sound)

“ (…) Through an impeccable sound, the performers of this album succeed in translating everything that is here of life, drama, passion, fluctuating from the most intimate tone to the most exasperated in a fluid and musical way, without excesses or ups and downs. Full recommendation."

"The strength of this music lies above all in its strictly own expressive character and does not tolerate what unfortunately many musicians (even some famous ones) do: the tendency to just 'play'. True art is always crawling under the skin of music and with her the composer and stay away from artifacts, artificialities that violate the expressive and structural concept. Can this be expected from Portuguese performers? Why aren't they too far from Lekeu's music in an idiomatic sense? This may seem at first glance. It is precisely this transboundary nature of Lekeu's music that offers more than enough room for interpretations that - like the music itself - far exceed its own national character. This also happens here: this Portuguese trio perfectly together avoids demotivation, but yes achieves the ideal effect by letting the music "simply" speak , no frills, no agogic accentuation, but therefore the still more moving and impressive. Music that is as overwhelming from very close as from far away.

The fact that this Portuguese triumvirate has given its name to this beautiful but still little known music gives a warm feeling that fits perfectly with the Iberian sun and the pronounced, sun-drenched lyrical landscape, but sometimes too irregular in the distant. The recording lets you hear the smallest details. The name of the piano tuner. Paulo Pimentel is more than justified: he provided a perfectly tuned Steinway. The violinist was responsible for the entire production, which makes a very valuable contribution to hopefully reviving Lekeu. Now is the time."

Opus Klassiek, Aart van der Wal

****
"An emotionally- drenched sonata and trio show us a composer who was mature beyond his short-lived years. Intimate recording of passionate performances only adds to the impact."

BBC Music Magazine, Michael Beek

The best of Lekeu

“ (…) Violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos chose him to continue a discography that already has a dozen notable titles, most devoted to less obvious and immediate composers, in the repertoire: Schulhoff, Szymanowski, Korngold. Looking at the choise, it does not seem like a fluke. It reinforces the testimony of Romanticism by Schumann, Chausson, Grieg, Saint-Saëns or Franck, and looks at the choice of twentieth-century expressions such as Ernest Bloch, Armando José Fernandes or Fernando Lopes-Graça. But what it reveals above all is an excellent interpretation of two more or less rare works - the Sonata for violin and piano in G Major, and the Trio for violin, cello and piano in C minor - on a beautiful recording, to be placed among the first choices of the composer's chamber music. (…)

Chamber production, between the Sonatas for violin and cello, the trio and the Quartet with piano in B minor, and the orchestral production, with symphonic studies and the Adagio for orchestra, some more fragments of unfinished works, allowed about 20 years ago, the five CD edition from Ricercar that brought together musicians such as pianists Luc Devos, Catherine Mertens and Daniel Blumenthal, violinists Philippe Hirshhorn, Philippe Koch and Anne Leonardo, cellists Luc Dewez and Marie Hallynck, organist Bernard Foccroulle, singers as the soprano Greta de Reyghere and tenor Guy De Mey.

This was the first and only published set to date of Lekeu's work. Until then - and after - the recordings were always dominated by the Violin Sonata, accompanied by one or more pieces by the composer, or compositions by his master César Franck. Such is the award-winning version recording of Gerard Poulet and Noel Lee (Arion), the meeting of Augustin Dumay and Jean Philippe Collard, which cross Debussy and Ravel (Erato), or the reference of decades by Arthur Grumiaux and Dinorah Varsi (Philips), the Spiller Trio (Arts), featuring the Piano Trio, and the celebrated recording by Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien (Hypérion), with the complete works for violin and piano, are two albums devoted entirely to the Belgian composer, which stand out in the existing discography. Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos' new album, with cellist Miguel Rocha, obviously joins the group of the elect.

Violinist and pianist, who have years of complicity, with all programs performed in concert, live, before any recording, are perfect in the Sonata in G Major, completed in 1892, perhaps the most demanding for both instruments, and the most mature from Lekeu´s output. Here there is clarity, cleanliness and balance in the dialogue between violin and piano. Monteiro immediately seduces in the opening theme, drawing a long and fascinating melodic line that leads to the heart of the work, with a piano rising in the foreground. The trip culminates in a strong and vigorous re-exposure that requires the maximum of both interpreters. (…)

Once again Lekeu's expression seems drawn to the best of Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos, who find in Miguel Rocha a partner at the same level of demand. Emotion predominates and everything is surpassed by glow. The interpretation of the musicians is extremely intelligent in accentuating the more passionate side of the work, taking advantage of what it’s own "immaturity" may seem. They thus reveal a richer vision that ennobles Lekeu's forgotten Trio. It is generous. But it's also another factor of excellence that characterizes the album."


Jornal de Letras, Maria Augusta Gonçalves

"Like many of the early geniuses, Lekeu was mowed at the age of 24 (died in Angers on 21 January 1894) with typhoid fever, leaving us orphans of a rare and passionate talent whose rich texture, taste for chromaticism, a obviously Wagnerian thought, remains the eternal promise of a forever refused maturity. Yet the two scores discussed here clearly indicate the obvious realization of a dense, intense writing performed despite the French romantic composer at a young age.He also won the 2nd Prize of Rome in 1891 (for his Andromeda cantata to urgently rehearse.) The sense of color, the harmonious flow of modulations and uninterrupted passages shape a particularly opulent and active material, Listening to them, the "Rimbaud" of French music did not usurp his nickname or the relevance of this poetic rapprochement.
Frequently presented as his masterpiece, the Sonata for Piano and Violin in G Major, composed in the summer of 1892, was successfully premiered in Brussels in March 1893 by the famous violinist Eugène Ysaÿe (who was the Sonata's special dedicator). It takes a lot of energy and commitment, but also delicacy to take on this permanent lyricism whose overactivity can obscure the meaning and clarity of architecture. Because also influenced by Beethoven, Lekeu has a passion for form, development, driven by a musical ambition and a perfectionist instinct in every respect. Everything is perfectly connected in this 2-voice Sonata whose expressive acuity shines in an overflowing melodic lyricism, a sense of structure also better balanced, channeled and built in the very seductive and light first "Trés modéré" movement; "Trés lent" central points point to the nuances of a very introspective violin; before the end (Trés animé), openly in love or rampant but always fresh and springy.
Most captivating to our taste, the Piano Trio has the charm of radiant sincerity, though still undecided even clumsy in its writing. It is a little older (composed in 1890), where the influence of the Beethovenian structure is most clearly employed in its more explicit construction, although the first and last moves are full of dense and mixed ideas and harmonic reminiscences that underlie the critiques. Regretting many developments. Ambitious, the scoreboard employs four particularly "talkative" or ... dramatic movements, say the most benevolent. Passionate soul and intricate strength, Lekeu knows how to deploy a boundless intimate imagination as attested by the first movement in which two very contrasting episodes (energetic lent and Allegro) interact, expressing a series of nuanced prolix feelings: pain first, with somber reverie, from the furtive renunciation to the most diffuse depression: all here through the filter of an expert and hyperactive sensitivity, denounces and experiences the failure and repetition of intimate wounds. Trés lent, then the highly syncopated Scherzo, finally the ending, which is also slow, perhaps too long, though harmoniously exciting, believes in the strong genius of the young romantic; the three interpreters make patterns emerge in echoes or opposition; which also refines the violin while controlling the intensity of Bruno Monteiro. There remains the Cello / Piano Sonata (1888), the Piano Quartet (1893), to capture the genius of a young and exciting Lekeu. For future registrations? Next."

Classique News, Hugo Papbst

"In defense of these essential works of Lekeu, three Portuguese musicians put their art, clearly great and noble to the service of the music and they combine to make their playing so impeccable, enthusiastic, passionate and provocative."

Resmusica, Jean-Luc Caron

****
"The tragic brief life of the Belgian composer Guillaume Lekeu (1870-1894) cut short a career that gave every indication of a truly major talent. Because of his early death, his surviving works are very few in number, but all show compositional gifts of unique qualities. We are indeed grateful to Bruno Monteiro, the driving force behind this importante new release for this outstanding new CD of Lekeu´s two major chamber works, in which he is magnificently partnered by João Paulo Santos and Miguel Rocha. The Violin Sonata is virtually on a pair with Cesar Franck´s in terms of originality and consistent quality, and simply does not deserve the neglect which has befallen it. As with the Sonata, Lekeu´s Piano Trio is more than the equal of those by Fauré, and I very much hope this fine new recording achieves the sucess, artistic and comercial, it richly deserves. Bravo!"

Musical Opinion, Robert Matthew-Walker

****
"Lekeu did not have the time to read Proust, but red Mallarmé, who suggested that there are "states of mind" that we only attain by "completely deciphering an object" - that is, when our mediation does not offset the impact of its ambiguities. Remembers this beautiful album that's exactly what Lekeu tried to do with chamber music."

Expresso, João Santos

"The music of Guillaume Lekeu struggles to dominate the repertoire, including that of the artists of the French-speaking world. In this context, we salute the brave initiative of this Portuguese team led by violinist Bruno Monteiro, a musician trained between his native country and the United States. We love his beautiful sensibility in the Sonata for violin and piano, work definitely marked by the interpretation of Philippe Hirschhorn and Jean-Claude Vanden Eyden (Ricercar). The Trio for piano, violin and cello is a fitting complement, especially since it is surrounded here with all the required expression. We are delighted to see Portuguese artists contributing to the international reputation of this Belgian composer."

Crescendo Magazine (Belgium), Pierre Jean Tribot

"Monteiro appropriately plays the work in a most sympathetic manner, his violin sounding soulful and yearning, the piano accompaniment forceful but never interfering with Monteiro's splendidly forthright and emotionally affecting interpretation. While the third movement is clearly more animated than the others, particularly in the first section, the composer going out on a swirl of notes so to speak, the music nevertheless maintains the same mood of tempered sadness we see throughout. And Monteiro is careful to sustain that tone to the end. In all, it's a lovely piece, and Monteiro and Santos show their appreciation with a delicately wrought performance. Monteiro and his friends play it with a full measure of fluid grace, sophistication, and brilliance, never sentimentalizing the plush harmonies. Producer Bruno Monteiro and engineer Jose Fortes recorded the music at Igreja da Cartuxa, Caxias, Portugal in June and July 2018. The violin has a sweet, decorous tone, and its miking sets it back far enough to benefit from the room acoustics. The overall sound for the three instrumentalists is warm and smooth as well, with a natural presence, the several instruments together in excellent balance."

Classical Candor, John Puccio

"They play with such overwhelming fervour and energy that one can become dizzy. This is extremely impressive and stirring..."

Pizzicato, Uwe Krusch

A disc I like the more I listen to it, and one which has my recommendation if you are looking for a disc that solely presents the music of Guillaume Lekeu.

"I have always had a soft spot for Tasmin Little and Martin Roscoe’s 2014 recording of the Violin Sonata (CHAN 10812), and even when compared to the highly praised recording by Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien (CDA67820), this remains my favourite. So, Bruno Monteiro and Joao Paulo Santos have tough acts to follow in this enjoyable performance, their slightly slower tempos do emphasise the sustained passion of the Sonata, however, it is the more impassioned performance of Little and Roscoe which for me still comes out on top, although Bruno Monteiro and Joao Paulo Santos make a good impression and are not that far behind.
The Piano Trio has fared less well with only a handful of recordings available, with my introduction to the work being through the Spiller Trio’s performance on the Arts label (47567-2) from 1999". The work is perhaps a little to long with the composer over developing the thematic material, but that being said there are some nice passages here, especially in the slow second movement were once again the composer’s passionate nature shines forth, especially in this new recording where Monteiro, Rocha and Santos exploit the emotional element slightly more that the Spiller Trio with their slightly slower tempo. Indeed, throughout this new recording has the edge with their playing being more committed, whilst they also benefit from better sound than the Spiller Trio are afforded on the Arts recording.
This is an enjoyable recording one which while it is not my first choice for the Violin Sonata, it does give you a committed performance, something which is carried over into the Piano Trio, where this recording is my preferred when compared with that of the Spiller Trio. The sound is very good. The booklet notes also by Bruno Monteiro, although brief, are informative and helpful. A disc I like the more I listen to it, and one which has my recommendation if you are looking for a disc that solely presents the music of Guillaume Lekeu."

MusicWeb International, Stuart Sillitoe

"Monteiro has the rich and full-blooded tone Lekeu's violin writing requires, and Santos has all the technique in the world, which he certainly needs for Lekeu's elaborate piano parts. The tone of the cellist, Rocha, is similar to that of Monteiro, and he fits in well into the trio. I have no complaints about the recording quality. There are sleeve notes in English and Portuguese and an attractive cover picture; this is a stylish production."

MusicWeb International, Stephen Barber

***** Sublimely beautiful music, exquisitely performed and recorded

"It's quite exquisite, breathtaking really, especially in this reading by Monteiro and Santos. Much as I admired the performance by Frédéric Bednarz and Natsuki Hiratsuka in 39:3, I find myself transported to an even higher level of the sublime by this new recording that captures the music's magical ambiance in a special way. Amazon's inventory offers a wider choice, including versions by Arthur Grumiaux, Lola Bobesco, Christian Ferras, and a number of others not listed by ArkivMusic. I've not heard the relatively recent recording by Alina Ibragimova with Cédric Tiberghien that received an urgent recommendation from Robert Maxham in 35:3. Generally, I've been very receptive to Ibragimova's playing, and would no doubt like her performance of Lekeu's sonata, but with Monteiro and Santos's CD in hand, I can't imagine it being bettered or wanting to trade it in for another version. I can't say that this performance of the Trio by Monteiro, Santos, and cellist Miguel Rocha is better than the one by the Hochelaga Trio that blew me away in 36:2, but it's mighty fine, and the truly exceptional performance of the Violin Sonata with which it's paired pushes this release into the urgent recommendation category."

Fanfare Magazine, Jerry Dubins

****Intelligent and focused with a core of expressivity: musicianly performances of beautiful music

"Monteiro and Santos seem to find exactly the right tempo (it is marked “Très modéré”) so that the music has a sense of expansion but does not feel overly languorous. The central slow movement is touchingly done, the result is absolutely beautiful. The finale is Gemini-like in having two faces, one forwardly-thrusting, one decidedly reflective. Monteiro and Santos offer an intelligent, tensile reading, There is less competition still for the Piano Trio in C-Minor (1890). Again, Grumiaux recorded it with his Trio (but again this appears to be currently unavailable). This present performance by Monteiro, Rocha and Santos reflects the strengths of that of the Violin Sonata: intelligent and focused with a core of expressivity. The addition of cellist Miguel Rocha to the mix is a positive one, he is a fine exponent of his instrument and a sensitive chamber musician. Those passages where violin and cello play in octaves find the two players in complete accord. The highlights of this reading is the second movement, “Très Lent,” an oasis of beauty, and the astonishing, suspended-time passage that opens the finale (another “Lent”)."

Fanfare Magazine, Colin Clarke

"The artists on the present CD are beautifully attuned to Lekeu's melos. Violinist Bruno Monteiro was a student of Isidore Cohen and Shmuel Ashkenasi. He possesses a reedy, expressive sound reminiscent of Joseph Roisman of the Budapest Quartet. His regular duo partner, conductor-pianist João Paulo Santos, is a splendid chamber musician, making a lovely, full sound and always displaying flexibility for his colleagues. There is a recording of Lekeu's violin sonata by Elmar Oliveira and Robert Koenig that exhibits violinism of the ultimate smoothness and suppleness, something Monteiro can't touch. But Monteiro and Santos are the superior interpreters of the sonata, greatly attuned to Lekeu's long lines and haunting, borderline macabre atmosphere.Cellist Miguel Rocha is a worthy collaborator with these two artists in the piano trio. He has a big sound and explores the extreme world of Lekeu with tension and subtlety. Highly recommended."

Fanfare Magazine, Dave Saemann

"Violinist Bruno Monteiro shapes each phrase differently according to its expressive content or emotive weight. For example the sweet tone he uses to introduce the main motif of the Sonata eventually becomes emotionally charged or downright inexorable in its discourse. And because pianist Joao Paulo Santos has been collaborating with Monteiro for quite a while now, the piano reacts to the violin in a symbiotic fashion and follows the action accordingly while adding its own insights. And the sadness they both express at the end of the middle slow movement is quite touching. Quite the opposite can be said about the Scherzo movement of the Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello in C minor in which Bruno Monteiro, Joao Paulo Santos and cellist Miguel Rocha all jump into the action guns blaring, and deliver a highly commited reading. And once you hear this deeply dramatic and moving account of the ending of this Trio, you will definitely feel the need to further explore the music of Guillaume Lekeu."

Classical Music Sentinel, Jean-Yves Duperron

"Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos play the work (Violin Sonata) with appropriate and dignified feeling, carefully dealing with details. But this CD derives its importance even more from the Piano Trio, an erroneously underestimated passionate four-part masterpiece of almost 45 minutes in size and of a Beethovenian allure. It contains a few special moments in the moving, long piano passage at the start of the très lent, the powerful scherzo as a whole and the mysterious lento section from the final. It is precisely those moments that give this recording, as a whole, a successful recording its special value."

Musicalifeiten, Jan de Kruijff

Classical CD Of The Week: Szymanowski's Works For Violin And Piano

"Karol Szymanowski (1882 – 1937) is, Chopin apart, the Polish national composer. En route he is also one of the great, usually underrated, often overlooked composers of the 20th Century: a composer who has everything to offer from post-Brahmsian romanticism to exotic Scriabinesque ecstasy to Bartók-like rhythmic tenacity. If we hear any of his works in concert, it’s most likely one of the fabulous violin concertos (or both, as on this occasion with Frank Peter Zimmermann and the BRSO) or perhaps one of the symphonies.

Szymanowski’s works for violin and piano are an excellent way to delve into the composers’ less familiar chamber repertoire and they are perfectly suitable to get better acquainted with the heterogeneous styles of the composer. Two fine recordings that collect this music have recently popped up: One by Marie Radauer-Plank (violin) and Henrike Brüggen (piano) on the fine local German Genuin label and another by Bruno Monteiro (violin) and João Paulo Santos (piano) on the cheap international Dutch Brilliant label (the one that was the first to successfully merge the super-budget approach with quality).

The German release contains Violin Sonata op.9, Myths op.30, the “Danse paysanne” from the ballet Harnasie, La berceuse d'Aïtacho Enia, op.52, Nocturne & Tarantella op.28, a Nocturnewithout an opus number, and “Roxana's Air” – Pawel Kochanski’s arrangement culled from Szymanowski’s great opera King Roger and fits it all on one CD. The Brilliant release makes claims to the Complete Music for Violin and Piano of Szymanowski’s and includes all the above plus the Romance in D Major op.23, Three Capriccios of Paganini op.40, the Kurpian Song op.58/9 (his own arrangement of an art-song), and two shorter collaborative pieces: L’Aubeand Dans Sauvage, where the piano part is Szymanowski’s and the violin parts Kochanski’s and Leo Ornstein’s (another, even more underrated and neglected composer), respectively.

Both releases are excellent. Bruno Monteiro’s violinism is more direct and explosive; Radauer-Plank‘s more lyrical, with a lighter approach, the notes separated further, the pace over-all more relaxed but not necessarily always slower. If the Duo Brüggen-Plank is more mobile in their approach but always together in lockstep, the Portuguese twosome is more ethereal and Monteiro sort of sliding above Santos’ pianism as if separated by a layer of oil. Where the German violinist’s tone is spritely but sometimes thin or pinched and recorded in a dry acoustic, Monteiro’s is round, bold, and – particularly true for Paulo Santos’ piano – resonant bordering on the wooly. On the latter recording, I prefer the more emphatic, violesque sound of the violin and the softer, velvety pianism. With the Brüggen-Plank Duo I admire the intense and tight finale of the folk-music influenced “Danse paysanne”. The close, sometimes slightly hard, certainly lean sound of the production is a benefit here. Henrike Brüggen plays absolutely marvelously in the Nocturne; as adroit and soothingly as can be; similarly Radauer-Plank displays a beauty and purity in her tone. Bruno Monteiro can only offer his broader, hazier but more mysterious tone as an alternative.

Where the Portuguese approach with their impulsive articulation and the recording’s acoustic score is the early piano sonata, broadly in the late-romantic German style. In the gorgeous Mythes, Three Poems – a de facto impressionist violin sonata with here breathy and elsewhere robust hints of Debussy – both musical teams shine with their relative merits: tawny, rhythmically strict, elegant, dynamically virile, precise and exerting compelling pull on the Genuin recording; indulgent and clad in colorful mist on Brilliant. The difference in the beginning of the third movement – “Dryades et Pan” – is telling: Radauer-Plank comes in and out like a swarm of friendly-curious, super-precise hornets; Monteiro sways casually like a Venetian gondola.

Brilliant is known for skimping on booklets – but not here… if you can make do with English. The notes on Genuine, written by the artists, are absolutely adequate, too, and tri-lingual. If it were a mere matter of quantity, Brilliant’s 2 CD set has 110 minutes of music on offer and Genuin’s single disc 70…

P.S. It should be mentioned that the terrific Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien also have recorded the complete works of Szymanowski’s (on Hyperion), which is a self-evidently promising proposition – but I have not heard that recording."

Forbes, Jens F. Laurson

Erwin Schulhoff: Complete Music for Violin and Piano

"Born in Prague in 1894, Erwin Schulhoff entered the Prague Conservatory at the age of ten with the recommendation of Antonín Dvořák and finished his musical education in Vienna, Leipzig and Cologne under the guidance of Claude Debussy and Max Reger.

Comprising initially the romantic style, he was soon inspired by jazz, dadaism and Czech folklore.

Political allusions in his works, but especially his Jewish roots led him to fateful fate and he died in 1942 in a Nazi German Concentration Camp.

Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos are a duo with an edited discography.

After the recording of the works for violin and piano by Fernando Lopes-Graça (2014) and Karol Szymanowski (2015) now is Erwin Schulhoff in the program.

The Suite for violin and piano (1911) still sounds in the style of the eighteenth century, whereas in the Sonata nº 1 for violin and piano (1913) modern influences are present, in particular of his teacher Debussy.

The Solo Violin Sonata (1927) has references to the music of Eastern Europe and leads Monteiro to virtuoso expressiveness.

As a final apogee, in the Sonata nº 2 for violin and piano (1927) with a dance character, the pulsating piano chords by João Paulo Santos merge with the sound of Bruno Monteiro's violin and the creative musical language of Schulhoff comes alive."

Österreichische Musikzeitschrift Wien, Martina Gruber

"There is much to enjoy here (Schulhoff). The playing in the Suite and the Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2 is outstanding, with a rich, resonant sound of the piano and an excellent balance with the violin.
The Szymanowski set fares much better, especially CD2 with Mythes Op.30 opening the disc and the Nocturne and Tarantella Op.28 providing a strong finish. The Sonata in D Minor Op.9, the Romance in D Major, the Three Capriccios of Paganini Op.40 and the lullaby La Berceuse Op.52 are the other original works in the set, with the remaining five tracks either transcriptions by the composer’s compatriot, the violinist Pawel Kochanski, or – in two cases – joint compositions by them."

The Whole Note, Terry Robbins

Editor´s Choise/Top 10 CD´s of February 2018

*****
“Bruno Monteiro continues to travel to the back roads of the violin chamber repertoire between centuries. After his Erwin Schulhoff CD, this time he stops in Karol Szymanowski, the brilliant Polish composer unclassifiable, who would virtually share seat with Janácek, Scriabin, Martinu or Enescu, among others, as this period favored the flowering of free spirits against the current. This recording shows all his work for violin and piano, which includes small pieces such as Roxana of King Roger's aria (fundamental opera of the 20th century), a dance drawn from the Harnasie ballet or the Dance Sauvage, among others, with works of greater substance such as the early Sonata Op. 9 (1904), of Franckian resonances, and, especially, Mythes Op. 30 (1915), one of his masterpieces, a "Greek" triptych in which he describes the myths with a new writing technique for the violin. The profund reading of the Portuguese violinist, with his usual pianist João Paulo Santos, explains and clarifies very well the pentatonism, the almost dodecaphonic harmony or the intervals in the style of Alois Hába. There was already a great recording of this music by Ibragimova and Tiberghien (Hyperion), which is added by this one on equal intentions to consolidate, for music, interpretation and the need to know better the great Szymanowski."

Revista Ritmo, Gonzalo Pérez Chamorro

"The genius of Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) may be elusive, but it is also very broad. Wagner was an early influence, but from his teenage years Chopin, Scriabin, R. Strauss and Reger also played a part in his development.

Traveling through Italy and North Africa gave him a great appreciation for the classics and Arab culture. His meeting with Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky in Paris just before W.W.I broke out was a crucial musical experience. Many of those influences crystallized when Szymanowski became more mature.

His most famous work for violin and piano, Mythes, composed in 1915 and published in 1921, was the first of three works that possess his personal style.

Szymanovsky felt strongly that he had created a new style for violin compositions. Each of the three parts also reflects the fascination of the composer for classical mythology.

One can not be mistaken: all this music first sets formidable technical requirements for both performers, while the interpretations also require the greatest possible refinement. Although the emphasis is on the instrumental coloring, in many of these works the musicians must also pay attention to the lyrical and dramatic contente.

The two Portuguese artists performing here seem ideally created for this repertoire of which they give excellent interpretations. Along the way they conjure up beautiful colors and differentiate nicely between the styles.
The fact that the recording was made at Igreja da Cartuxa in Caxias gives a somewhat generous reverberation, but rather like a sound that is too direct.

In 2008, Anna Ibragimoa and Cédric Tiberghien also made a so-called 'complete' p [name of the violin / piano works (Hyperion CDA 7703), but left the opus-less tracks aside and then of course there is the selection of Rosanne Philippens and Julien Quentin (Channel Classics). CCS SA 36715), but for the total Brilliant Classics is unique and fortunately so successful."

Musicalifeiten, Jan de Kruijff

“… Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos also score points in their recently recorded version of these works (Szymanowski – Complete Music for Violin and Piano) with explosive articulation and resonant sound in the Sonata, written in German late-Romantic style."

Crescendo.de, Jens F. Laurson

"The recording of the complete works for violin and piano by Szymanowski opens up fascinating new ideas about his extensive artistic work. For example, in the Chant de Roxane, a transcription of his opera, King Roger, an oriental atmosphere is evoked, in the dance of Harnasie, an adaptation of the homonymous ballet by the violinist Pavel Kochanski, traditional sounds of pastoral music, which requires the violinist to play in extreme moods.
Also in other works of this CD, the technical sophistication of the virtuoso violinist Bruno Monteiro comes into play, for example, in the Sonata in D minor or in the adaptation of Paganini Caprices with modern harmonies.
The influence of Ravel and Debussy can be heard in the Myths with their tremolos, pizicatos, harmonics, trinados, double stops and the use of pentatonic scales.
Szymanowski is a musical traveler from Southern Europe and Africa at Nocturne and Tarantella.
The rhythms of Flamenco and Habanera make the violin become a guitar, and some of the non-European expressions are reminiscent of the Middle East.
A successful accomplishment, excellent performance, although not all of Szymanowski's works have the same quality and the dramatic momentum for the violin in a recording which sometimes is too much savored."

Österreichische Musikzeitschrift, Wien, Ernst Blach

"Erwin Schulhoff was not allowed to turn fifty. The Nazis killed him, like so many millions. Surprise from this album; the chamber music by that composer who would have been insurmountable had he not fallen into the nets in which he got himself as resistant. To resist the Third Reich, being Czech, when British and French had given him their blessings in Munich, in 1938! It is surprising because in these works for violin, alone or accompanied, we see a transit towards new objectivity and a nostalgia for a lost time, which is not precisely that of the late Romantic sounds. It is also surprising because it is a fully Portuguese production, an album recorded at the Igreja da Cartuxa in Caxias last year, by two great Portuguese artists. Monteiro and Santos play the Sonatas for violin and piano, the Suite that opens the recital (five beautiful dances with classic touch) and the Sonata for solo violin, in whose four movements Monteiro shines; Is a wise, penetrating work. The true advantage of the interwar period was composed by composers such as Schulfoff, who followed, denied, dismantled, or surpassed post-Vienna teachings. But also the teachers were expelled or annihilated, so things became difficult after the years to tie up. This CD comes very well to those who do that, who tie the ends of a time that we did not know everything about, and of which recently, from some time in the late 70's and early 80's, we began to receive - timonium, credit, information as contained here. Monteiro and Santos make a beautiful album from a hidden repertoire by the illogical of things. And Brilliant points out a new tide in its recoveries, on the other hand, so accessible to modest pockets without modest pretensions and goals."

Scherzo Magazine, Santiago Martín Bermúdez

"A beautiful recording. Along with a few short works by Karol Szymanowski that are of importance for themselves (The Dawn, Wild Dance) or as derived from others (the ballet dance Harnasie, Roxana's Song of King Roger), this double CD offers important works marking transcendent moments of the itinerary of Szymanowski: Myths op. 30, especially, of 1915, at the apex of the first stage of maturity of the composer; Or the 1904 Sonata, a youthful work with a very clear statement, a time when every artist takes advantage of outside influences (it is not that we see Brahms there, it is simply that the young Karol knows very well the music of the last years of the century). We could add two works of great encouragement of similar ambition, the adaptation of the Paganini Caprices or the two movements of Nocturno and Tarantella. Several works included in this program are outside the numbered catalog of the great Polish composer. Two excellent Portuguese soloists, the violinist Bruno Monteiro and the pianist João Paulo Santos give a beautiful recital of sensual music, only sometimes dramatic, from the scores to full achievements like that of Myths op. 30. Virtuosity, but above all understanding the sequences of phrases and even cells that motivate suggestions, rather than affirmations. Some readings at times "French", sometimes classicist, always with measured, elegant, but undeniable intensities not only when (say) agitation is imposed, but at the end of the program itself, that Neapolitan Tarantella of more or less 1915, brilliant couple of the Nocturno, who evokes Spanish stylizations in the style of Albéniz and other contemporaries around here. In short, a double CD of high level in works and interpreters, at one of those incredible prices of the seal Brilliant."

Scherzo Magazine, Santiago Martín Bermúdez

*****
“This is a most important record of previously-negleted 20th-centuary chamber music. Schulhoff was one of the very fine Jewish musicians – a pianist and a composer – who perished in the Holocaust. It is only in recent decades that his music is being rediscovered and being given its due as a significant work of a composer with great gifts. We have to thank violinist Bruno Monteiro and his excellent partner João Paulo Santos for giving us this very well played and recorded CD, which makes a belated act of restitution for a notable composer. The music largely dates from the 1920 and 30´s of course, and in many ways, reflects the modern ethos of those decades – but Schulhoff is no imitator – here is the music of an idividual composer, well worth hearing."

Musical Opinion, Robert Matthew-Walker

Editor´s Choice/Top 10 CD´s of March 2017

*****

"Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos are friends of fascinating but little traveled repertoires, those songs of centuries that describe the ambiguity of times, the uncertainties and the profound stylistic changes. If they already had their encounter with Szymanowski's violin and piano works (those Myths ...), they now reach that of Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942), who died in the concentration camp at Wülzburg, where he died of tuberculosis. This production of 4 works (Suite WV18, Sonata No. 1, Sonata for Violin Solo WV83 and Sonata No. 2) is like a vital daily of the author, from the early and neoclassical Suite, to Sonata n. 2 of 1927. Schulhoff, unlike other contemporaries, does not write ample movements, its greater duration is found in the first one of the Sonata n. 2 (about 6'40 "). Wide use of mute, sonorities close to irony or harmonically unstable intervals, propitiated by the search for a consolidated modernity, flow with naturalness in the bow of Bruno Monteiro, great connoisseur of these sonatas. As the works are in chronological order, the listener perceives an increasingly moderate Schulhoff (but never very reflective, there is a lot of tension, like the Andante of the Sonata for violin alone and Sonata No. 2, this very bartókian), more creative and with greater control of the form."

Revista Ritmo, Gonzalo Pérez Chamorro

****
"Noticed early on by Dvorak, the Czech Schulhoff (pianist and composer) died shortly after his arrest (which preceded a planned escape for the USSR) by the Nazis who had long pointed him as a Jewish Bolshevik (author of a cantata on the Communist Manifesto !), gay (but married) and with a '' degenerate '' vision of the future. He quickly abandoned post-Romanticism and "Debussyism," and was drawn to jazz and Dadaism.
He proclaimed that the absolute art revolution was against agreed sound and rhythm. Between the bitter lines, dances and more traditional expressivity (the '' Tranquilo '' here in the first sonata), in which mostly feels a prolonged freshness, renewal almost in sight, a kind of inspired perpetuum mobile. Not to mention that he was a friend of Alban Berg (the sounds he sometimes resembles, as in this second sonata), he never resorted to serialism.
And always, a trip to Bach (the title is already present in the beautiful Andante of the second sonata and sonata for solo violin) socialist realism, dissonances, modal tone and quarter, but in a very free approach. Truly inspiring music, invigorating, gaining in depth by repeated listening, perfectly served by our two artists."

Clic Music, Gilles-Daniel Percet

“Of the four works presented here I only knew two, the Sonata for Solo Violin and the Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2. In my other recording, by Oleh Krysa and Tatiana Tchekina (BIS-CD-697), the second sonata is denoted as No. 1 Op. 7. Here Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos are considerably slower than Krysa and Tchekina whose performance I prefer.
He (Monteiro) makes a good fist of it (…) João Paulo Santos does sound at home, he proves an adept interpreter, bringing out every nuance of the music.
The sound is good. At first I thought it a little over-bright, but with repeated listening I came to the conclusion that it was Bruno Monteiro’s tone and not the recording. The accompanying booklet notes are quite detailed and informative, concentrating on the music rather than the composer. They make a good introduction to these works."

MusicWeb International, Stuart Sillitoe

"Erwin Schulhoff was born a Czech in 1894 and lived much of his life there. His student years found him at Prague Conservatory when only 10; studies followed in Vienna, Leipzig and Cologne, where among others he studied with Max Reger and Debussy. His Jewish heritage led to his untimely death in the hands of the Nazis in 1942.
He went through in successive years of composition a post-romantic, avant garde, then a Czech folk and neoclassical phase. You can pretty much hear all periods to good effect in the new release Complete Music for Violin and Piano (Brilliant 95324). The works are played with lively spirit and idiomatic sensitivity by Bruno Monteiro on violin and João Paulo Santos on piano.
I've heard a bit of his music previously but this particular volume is a ear-opener. From the great character of his "Suite for Violin and Piano," the modernity of his "Sonata for Solo Violin," to the classical-folk inspiration and workmanship of his two "Sonatas for Violin and Piano" a complete picture emerges of an original voice of his times, a composer of thematic cogency and an excellent sense of flow.
He may be the greatest of the composers to be lost to us in the holocaust, or certainly among the most talented.
This volume spells out his brilliance. I do recommend it very strongly."

Classical Modern Music, Grego Applegate Edwards

“This is a beautiful disc. Bruno Monteiro and pianist Joao Paulo Santos have already tackled some adventurous repertoire for Naxos and Brilliant Classics, and this may be their finest achievement on disc.
Since moving to Brilliant Classics, Monteiro's unique tone has been beautifully captured. Joäo Paulo Santos isn't a mere background artist, but a deeply sensitive and commitment artistic partner. There's a lot of piano writing in both the suite and the sonatas, and none of it is especially simple. But the violin writing is consistently inventive and proves very rewarding.
The sound is excellent and ideally compliments the performances. These pieces would be an ideal recital item, and I'm a little surprised we don't hear them more often. Thanks to Brilliant Classics for this important addition to both the composer's discography and the library of violin music on disc."

Classical.net, Brian Wigman

Classical Candor Favourite Recordings 2016

“In an earlier review of Monteiro and Santos performing the music of Portuguese composer Fernando Lopes-Graca, I said of them that they play "so affectionately, so enchantingly, I look forward to hearing them again." Now, I've gotten that chance, and I am no less impressed.

The program contains four works: one suite for violin and piano, two sonatas for violin and piano, and one sonata for solo violin. The thing you have to remember, though, is that Schulhoff began composing at about the time the modern era of music began, and while he is clearly avant-garde, innovative, and experimental for his day, he also has one foot firmly planted in the melodies and harmonies of the older Romantic generation. So his music is a kind of fascinating amalgam of the old and the new.

Anyway, Monteiro has arranged the order of the program in chronological order, starting with the five-movement suite, dating from 1911. It has a generally positive and happy outlook, with the violinist delighting in its almost-classical demeanor. Monteiro's tone is always clean, golden, and vibrant, qualities he maintains throughout the program. The interior minuet and waltz segments appear most adventurous, yet they never become objectionable in their eccentricities. The final movement ends the piece with something originally titled "Dance of the Little Devils," and it's charming in its impish delights, at least the way Monteiro and Santos play it.

The next three items are more overtly "modern," being somewhat less harmonious or melodic. The first sonata has more starts and stops to it, with more contrasting sections and a more emphatic rhythmic drive. Nevertheless, for all of its oddities it comes over with an appealingly pensive mood under the guidance of Monteiro and Santos.

In the solo violin work Monteiro not only gets to show off his more virtuosic talents, he gets to display his knowledge and feeling for the jazz idioms Schulhoff adopted. Finally, in the second sonata we hear a more dance-like feeling from the composer, probably from his embracing more of the native folk elements of his country. Don't expect Dvorak, but you get the idea. It begins briskly, energetically, followed by a highly expressive slow movement and returning in the final segments to some of the same themes with which the music started. Again, Monteiro and Santos make a splendid team, keeping the drama of the piece moving forward with a pulsating, scintillating enchantment.

Producer Bruno Monteiro and engineer and editor Jose Fortes recorded the album at Igreja da Cartuxa, Caxias, Portugal in April 2016. The church makes an excellent setting for the musicians, the sound taking on a touch of hall resonance without in any way affecting the overall transparency of the instruments. We get clarity and dynamic impact aplenty, plus a realistic separation of players, making the listening both pleasurable and lifelike."

Classical Candor, John J. Puccio

“…Violinist Monteiro possesses a fine tone and technique… Monteiro does not hold back; he attacks this music with relish, fully understanding its idiom and purpose.
All in all, a fascinating glimpse of a different side of Schulhoff. In the end, I wasn’t so sure how I really felt about this music in toto; yes, it was interesting, but was it substantive enough to warrant repeated listening? That’s a question each listener has to answer for him or herself. I can only tell you my reaction; I can’t predict yours; but it’s certainly music worth hearing at least once."

The Art Music Lounge, Lynn René Bayley

“Violinist Bruno Monteiro has a way of dramatically changing the tonal color of his instrument, sometimes note by note, based on the music's character at any given moment. A technique that his quite captivating and effective. And particularly effective for example in the post-Romantic Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano WV24 from 1913. The first two movements, in my opinion, sound very much as if they could have been composed by Alexander Scriabin during the final stages of his life. Strongly passionate and constantly expanding his harmonic reach. Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942) wrote this Sonata in such a way where Bruno Monteiro and pianist Joao Paulo Santos can't help but feed off each other's energy, be it bright or dark. The same could be said about the foreboding slow movement of the 1927 Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano WV91 in which grim and sullen expressiveness is the order of the day. As a matter of fact most of Schulhoff's music is "hard", and by that I don't mean difficult, but rather stern and severe. But Bruno Monteiro's eloquent playing cuts through its tough exterior and reveals the earnest intensity burning at its core."

Classical Music Sentinel, Jean-Yves Duperron

“… The Brilliant production team has done well to provide us with this sincerely refreshing account of this particular facet of Schulhoff’s repertoire."

The Rehearsal Studio, Stephen Smoliar

"Here, once more, is very clear the artistry of both musicians: virtuoso playing, technical command, the profound knowledge of the works and their time, from the sophisticated writing and it´s demands. From each piece and interpretation, there are moments that go beyond the simple hearing: the violin line, in the "Gavotte" of the Suite, the freedon of the "Waltzer", the lyrism of the First Sonata, the power of the piano in the Allegro Final, the drama of the 2nd Sonata and the high demands of the Solo Sonata.To this day, not many musicians and labels took the chance of recording the complete music for violin and piano by Schulhoff. There is the Viennese Gramola (David Delgado and Stefan Schmidt), the American MSR (Eka Gogichashvili and Kae Hosoda-Ayer), the UK based Hyperion (Becker-Bender and Markus Becker).
Listening to the version of Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos, there are no reservations. These artists are the first choise right away amoung the existing versions. They offer outstanding readings where we can hear the richness and power of seduction."

Jornal de Letras, Maria Augusta Gonçalves

“The violin playing of Bruno Monteiro is quite respectable. I did enjoy this disc, and the solid collaborative effort of pianist João Paulo Santos, and can accordingly recommend this CD as worthy of investigation by those interested in under-explored repertory."

Fanfare Magazine, David DeBoor Canfield

“Any disc that furthers the cause of the phenomenal Czech-born composer Erwin Schulhoff (18941942) is incredibly welcome. This release on Brilliant Classics presents the complete music for violin and piano presents two Portuguese musicians in a good if not exceptional recording, well presented with copious booklet notes by Ana Carvalho. The four pieces are given in their documentation with their “WV” numbers: WV 24, 91, 18 and 83 in head-note order.
The principal competition is a recent disc on MSR by Esa Gogichashvili and Kae Hosoda-Ayer (reviewed by James North in Fanfare 39:4) and Tanja Becker-Bender and Markus Becker on Hyperion (also Mr. North, Fanfare 34:6). All three discs present exactly the same program. The Brilliant release enters at a lower price point, which may swing it for some; Although not listed as available at archivmusic.com, there was a disc on Gramola of these works from 2013 (David Delgado and Stefan Schmidt, 98982) and a 1994 Supraphon disc with Ivan Ženatý and Josef Hála (112168), the latter of which which adds a piece entitled just “Melody.”
Bruno Monteiro plays with great character (and very true tuning) in the Suite for violin and piano, given usually as “op. 1” but on the present release listed as “WV18”. Monteiro’s sound is remarkably pure in its higher reaches.
The two violin sonatas open out the discography for the assiduous collector (that is, those not limited by what is “officially” still available) with a 1977 Supraphon recording, presumably LP only (1 11 2149); an early BIS recording by Oleh Krysa and Tatiana Tchekina (679) and on the small label Obligat (Musikproduktion München) Florian Sonnleitner and Hildegard Stenda (01.222) offer single sonatas. The First Sonata (WV24, more generally known as op. 7) dates from 1913 and is markedly more advanced than the Suite in musical language. As the booklet notes rightly point out, there is a clear Debussy influence in the first movement, contrasted at times with characteristic Schulhoff spikiness; Monteiro and Santos are remarkably adept in moving between the two fields. Monteiro’s violin sings the cantabile of the slow movement (“Ruhig”) and, while one might wish for more bass presence from the piano, Santos offers fine support. By far the briefest movement, the Scherzo flickers before the Rondo finale offers up its staccato wit.
Written in 1927, four years after Schulhoff’s return to Prague, the Sonata for Solo Violin references traditional Czech folk music. Its opening Allegro con fuoco seems also to be cut from the same cloth as Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale in its carefree demeanour; Schulhoff’s recurring returns to repeated open fifths enhances the outdoorsy feel. It is superbly, and decidedly rustically, played by Monteiro (who even adds a small ornament on one sixteenth note not in the printed score.) The second movement, Andante cantabile, includes such markings as “sonoro,” “con passione” and passionato molto,” which gives some ideas as to its expressive levels. The final ascent to a pppp harmonic is perfectly managed. The Scherzo is a nicely judged Allegretto grazioso, holding a whole host of delights and is characterfully despatched by Monteiro; the finale, making the clearest references to folk music emerges as an imposing piece.
Finally, the Second Violin Sonata, composed in November 1927. The first movement covers a wide territory, the open fifths of the solo sonata return here, bolstered though by dissonance piano chords. The music here is full of surprising twists and turns, expertly negotiated by both players (Santos’ finger strength is particularly impressive in the later parts of the movement.) There is even a hint of a solo cadenza before the end. The slow movement (Andante) begins with, essentially, muted tolling bells on the piano over which the violin sings a dirge-like lament. The whole movement is basically one long line for the soloist, and Monteiro maintains the tension throughout. A “Burlesca” takes us to a spikier side of Schulhoff, and there is a raw side to Monteiro’s G-string that is most appealing. The close of the movement is incredibly imaginative, and perfectly judged here. The finale’s demands (and there are many, on both players individually and in terms of ensemble) are well handled, the excitement at the close palpable.
A fascinating and rewarding issue. It is a cause for celebration that such competition in this repertoire is out there, but there is no doubting the firm belief in this music that exudes from Monteiro and Santos’ performances."

Fanfare Magazine, Colin Clarke

“Here the four works are performed by Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos, two outstanding Portuguese musicians I’ve encountered before, once in 36:1 on a Centaur recording of Chausson’s Concert for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet, and then again in 39:1 on a two-disc Brilliant set of works for violin and piano by Szymanowski.
I have the Hyperion CD with Becker-Bender and Becker, and while it is very, very good, Monteiro and Santos dig deeper into Schulhoff’s iconoclastic and idiosyncratic musical universe and produce results that are more atmospheric in slow movements and more outré in fast movements, which, I think, is what Schulhoff was aiming for. Much of his music, after all, was intended to shock and upset the status quo of the day.
In an A-B comparison between the two recordings, Becker-Bender and Becker come across as more refined, civilized, and urbane, but civility and urbanity are not what Schulhoff is about. Monteiro and Santos project a sense of animalistic primitivism that heightens our awareness of danger and puts us on the alert to the predator about to spring. Simply stated, Monteiro and Santos are riskier and therefore more exciting.
In the end, I think it’s fair to say that Schulhoff is an acquired taste, one which, if you ever acquire it at all, is apt to develop slowly. Monteiro and Santos, however, succeed in making the composer’s music as palatable as have any other players I’ve heard. Their Schulhoff release may thus be recommended as a good place to whet your palate."

Fanfare Magazine, Jerry Dubins

“Centro Centro of Madrid had a concert yesterday by two of the most virtuoso musicians of Portugal: the violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos. In the XIV Edition of the Mostra da Cultura Portuguesa, both artists filled the beautiful Palácio das Comunicações de Madrid with music and magic. The experience and cumplicity between the artists was evident and it is apparent when they perform together. An emotional concert."

No Solo Fado Magazine, Noemí Sánchez

*****
“both works here are wonderfully well performed, and finely recorded with a natural balance that is impressive". (Saint-Saens/Strauss Violin Sonatas)."

Musical Opinion, James Palmer

*****
"…certainly highly expressive, as is the playing by the excellent artist Bruno Monteiro and his gifted pianist partner.

This collection is thoughtfully played in chronological order, thereby enabling us to follow the composer’s evolution. The very first work here, the Sonatina No 1, is a truly original gem, and every one of these pieces, whether they be for violin and piano or for solo violin, is well worth the time and attention of the enquiring music lover.

The recording is admirably bright and vivid and the whole presentation is another feather in the crowded international Naxos cap."

Musical Opinion, James Palmer

*****
"Here is an extremely valuable and most welcome set of records, bringing together on two CDs the complete music for violin and piano by the greatest Polish composer since Chopin. Those who know his two magnificent Violin Concertos will need no second bidding to listen to and hopefully acquire this beautifully performed and excellently recorded set, for such works as the D minor Sonata and the Mythes are well worth anyone's attention, and the shorter pieces, which embrace several quite well-known works more often encountered as encores, are equally deserving of the intelligent music-lover's attention. Bruno Monitero is a gifted violinist, of that one can have no doubt, and he is admirably partnered by João Paulo Santos, the result being an eminently recommendable issue which in our opinion has no equal. A very strongly recommended issue."

Musical Opinion, James Palmer

“All these pieces are given very good performances by the excellent duo of Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro, and pianist João Paulo Santos. They enjoy the exotic colours and indulge the luscious harmonies in both the three Mythes and the Sonata. (…) the skills of Monteiro are well attuned to the needs of the idiom. He always sounds engaged and passionately committed, with plenty of colour and spirit in his playing."

MusicWeb International, Roy Westbrook

"This recording has the virtue of recall and renew this complicity between two musicians in a current partnership between two Portuguese artists who do not give up and disseminate good music. (...) The challenge is great in all three "paraphrases" of the Paganini Caprices, which required Bruno Monteiro a difficult virtuosity to revisit. (...) The best of this issue is on the second CD in Mythes op.30, a work of a hundred years ago (1915) when demand aesthetic Szymanowski and Kochansky, takes us on very curious paths and the difficulty is not only playing all the notes- is to understand and build a coherent discourse. The violin and piano dynamic and invent new sounds with the violin drawing melodies ranging up to very high notes, and the piano in surprising harmonic transitions that already correspond to a different conception of his early works."

Público, Pedro Boléo

****
“Portuguese virtuosos Monteiro and Santos, captured in opulent sound, hurl themselves into the virtuoso fray where appropriate, steering the music’s sometimes meandering course with a firm rudder."

BBC Music Magazine, Julian Haylock

*****
“I am surprised that no-one has ever thought of this before - the fully complete, music for violin and piano by this great Polish master. Apart from the masterly large-scale Sonata and other shorter well-known pieces, this collection includes all of the known transcriptions either made or sanctioned by the composer, whose association with the great Paul Kochanski produced this splendid set of works. The performances are uniformly excellent, as is the recording. Here is a very highly desirable and recommended issue, one of the most significant to have been released in recent years with regard towards a completion of this wonderful composer's music being made available on compact disc. It is, therefore, strongly recommended."

Musical Opinion, Robert Matthew-Walker

“Every release from Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos confirms them as a tremendously adventurous and musical partnership. Now that they can be found on labels like Naxos and Brilliant Classics, I hope the two will gain more exposure. While they have focused on a mix of neglected Romantic repertoire and Portuguese masterpieces in previous projects, I believe this release to be their most important yet (…) Bruno Monteiro has just the right tone for this music, as he vividly paints these mythological stories for us. (…) Here at least is a project of real importance and wide musical appeal."

Classical.net, Brian Wigman

A definitive Szymanowski

"This generous set of Szymanowski´s complete music for violin and piano by Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos, is of remarkable fidelity, accurately identifying the distinctive phases of the romanticism, symbolism and nationalism, keeping the linearity when the music demands, succumbing to the spell of color when she so requires, making the allegorical sounds as nothing more than naivety seems possible. At the same time, it let´s the artists being tempted by the transcendence, dodging context, denying ideology and it´s launching sensuality. It is in these moments that arises here a definitive Szymanowski."

Expresso, João Santos

"Bruno Monteiro (Violin) and João Paulo Santos (Piano) really play as an ensemble, and face the highly technical obstacles on both instruments - and in the case of Szymanowski, it cannot be said that the pianist simply accompanies the violinist. Especially in the provocative second movement 'Scherzando', the coordination is exceptional. The composer presents a very different sound (and a more convincing one) in Myths op. 30; and here Szymanowski dares to take big steps towards modernity. Ramifications of enigmatic sounds on the two instruments, great lack of themes and different reasons cause a strange and magical atmosphere, which is picked up by the two artists excellently. In the Nocturne and Tarantella op. 28, a work technically and musically very demanding, the performers are fully up to the demands. Although Szymanowski is a much played composer (mostly his piano and orchestral works), his chamber music pieces still lead a shadowy existence. This may be understandable because the quality of the pieces swings, but are worthy to be heard – and with such excellent interpretation as this one by Monteiro and Santos - no doubt."

Klassik Magazin, Michael Loos

“Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos perform with magnificent virtuosity as they show us the many facets of this interesting composer. The sound on this Brilliant Classics recording is crisp and gives each artist equal stature”.

Fanfare Magazine, Maria Nockin

“This new Monteiro/Santos set is the only one, in my knowledge of Szymanowski recordings, to offer both the composer’s six original works and Kochanski’s five contributions. “Ecstatic raptures,” whether quasi-oriental or otherwise, is a good description of these radiant and inspiring performances by Bruno Monteiro and João Santos. For comparison I have only the Ibragimova/Tiberghien Hyperion CD, which does not contain the Kochanski extras. I’d have thought, though, that the Russian-born Ibragimova would have a closer connection to the Russian-born (now Ukraine) Polish Szymanowski than would the Portuguese Bruno Monteiro, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Technically, the two violinists are a match for each other, but in getting at the essence of Szymanowski’s elusive music, Monteiro has the definite edge. The nuanced phrasing and tonal refinement he brings to these pieces in sympathetic partnership with João Santos illuminate the music from within in a way that, for this listener, has made a deep and lasting impression. Very strongly recommended."

Fanfare Magazine, Jerry Dubins

“Monteiro and Santos are ideal guides through Szymanowski’s elusive world; they capture the perfume and shadows in his music quite evocatively. Brilliant’s sound is detailed and atmospheric. This is the musical equivalent of hunting for rare orchids in misty rain forests. If that image holds any appeal for you, so will Szymanowski’s violin music."

Fanfare Magazine, Huntley Dent

“Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos are at ease in the repertoire. They have performed it live coutless times, have years of ensemble work, in different universes and they share the same vision on Szymanowski´s music – it´s richness, demand and history. With them, the composer´s work prevails. Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos enter now in the exclusive group of the great interperters of his music."

Jornal de Letras, Maria Augusta Gonçalves

“Monteiro’s playing on this new recording is particularly effective in escalating the mood of Opus 30 (Myths) beyond the plane of mere mortals. Highly absorbing CD, making a strong case that this music deserves more attention when violinists are planning their recital programs."

Examiner.com, Stephen Smoliar

"…Monteiro imbues these evocative works with unbridled intensity, and his rich, dark tone envelops the sonatinas. It is a bravura performance from an up-and-coming young artist steeped in the 20th-century music of his native country and extends a powerful invitation to the music world to appreciate a woefully overlooked composer who should stand with the other greats of his time."

Strings Magazine, Greg Cahill

"... The attention to the structure, the formal clarity that one detaches from the interpretations of this duo, becomes patent vocabulary of the organization" gracianos "- and here it should be emphasized the role of director João Paulo Santos. Bruno Monteiro has here perhaps his greatest challenge: the difficulty inherent in the works and being a language that escapes a bit to what we have realized to be his "comfort zone". But the courage to aproach should be highlighted and the violinist demonstrates it profusely to the point that sometimes we seem to be listening a fight, a duel, which the essence of each work of music comes out to gaining."

Diário de Notícias, Bernardo Mariano

"What immediately captured my attention when I started listening to this new Naxos recording of chamber works by Portuguese composer Fernando Lopes-Graça, is the highly expressive playing by violinist Bruno Monteiro. The fact that most of the pieces on this CD are miniatures in scope, does not prevent Bruno Monteiro from applying some dramatic weight to each and everyone of them. He and pianist Joao Paulo Santos have previously released recordings on the Centaur label of music by Chausson and Schumann, both of which came highly recommended for their highly commited and expressive playing. They seem to be able to discern each note's emotive value and shape it accordingly in relation to its phrase. Something too many musicians these days have lost the capacity to feel, when it actually accounts for 90% of great musicianship.
The music of Fernando Lopes-Graça (1906-1994) is difficult to pigeonhole or compare to anyone else, and probably for the same reason. Despite the fact that it employs folk elements and may, on the surface, seem simple and slightly unwieldy, its dramatic and expressive qualities far outweigh its lack of finesse. On the other hand, I believe its harmonic structure also sets it apart. I like the fact that the pieces on this recording are laid out in chronological order, as it allows the listener do detect the constantly evolving harmonic sophistication the composer strived for. In his own way, but somewhat like Alexander Scriabin, the harmonic creativity of this composer grew from pre-established elements in his Sonatina No. 1, Op. 10 to a highly unique and forward looking language in the Adagio doloroso e Fantasia, Op. 242.
As always, the Naxos label has played a crucial role in dusting off this composer's music for everyone to discover, and have already released two important and very well received recordings of his Piano Concertos 1 and 2 (8.572817) and his Symphony for Orchestra (8.572892). This new recording presents rarely recorded material and even includes a handful of world premières. Music well worth investigating!"

Classical Music Sentinel, Jean-Yves Duperron

“Each work also makes almost relentless virtuosic demands of both pianist and especially violinist. These roles are excellently filled by Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos, two of Portugal's leading chamber musicians. (…) Their teamwork is virtually telepathic, but individually too they bring maximal intelligence to these works, blending gravitas and lightness, passion and discipline, the Lusitanian and the Cosmopolitan. Sound quality is first-rate - one of the better recordings to have come out of Portugal."

MusicWeb International, Byzantion

“The Prelúdio e Fuga and Esponsais for solo violin are cruelly exposed and demanding, their difficulties dispatched with unfailing assurance and eloquence by Bruno Monteiro."

Gramophone, Bryce Morrison

“They (Bruno Monteiro e João Paulo Santos) play this exuberantly inventive music with an intuitive feel for its playful unpredictability."

BBC Music Magazine, Julian Haylock

“Monteiro and Santos play it so affectionately, so enchantingly, I look forward to hearing them play it again."

Classical Candor, John Puccio

The power Lopes-Graça´s music at São Luíz

“Bruno Monteiro on the violin and João Paulo Santos on the piano interpreted excellently works by Lopes-Graça in a concert that took place this evening of January 5th 2013, at the Teatro Municipal de São Luiz.
Playing Lopes-Graça is not easy, and it requires virtuosity in each musical phrase, understanding and perception of what the composer wanted to convey.
The pieces interpreted in this concert were short, exclusively composed for violin and piano, with the exception of two solo pieces for violin.
Bruno Monteiro, a violinist who has played in various venues and festivals in countries such as Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands and the United States, lived up to the praise and positive references that he presented, showing great sensitivity and assurance in pieces such as the extremely difficult "Prelúdio e Fuga for Solo Violin LG 137".
João Paulo Santos accompanied him brilliantly; particularly on the piece that ended the concert, "Prelúdio, Capricho e Galope Violin and Piano LG 98", their performance was so vibrant that reminded us of how revolutionary Fernando Lopes-Graça´s music is.
We regret that Portuguese composers like Lopes-Graça, Joly Braga Santos and others are so seldom programmed at concerts that would make known to the public works and musical creations that are as good as the composers of other nationalities."

Hardmusic Journal, Zita Ferreira Braga

“Ardent, heroic mode."

The Strad, Edward Bhesania

“Monteiro consistently strikes an almost ideal balance between the expressive and the intellectual, especially in Saint-Saëns' masterpiece. His tone is warm but never saccharine against the cool neutrals of João Paulo Santos's pianism, and as a team they offer, for anyone who has forgotten quite how brilliant the D minor Sonata is, an insistent reminder. (…) Strauss's Sonata, all but his last word in chamber music, and a deceptively demanding work - technically and psychologically - gives Monteiro and Paulo Santos a chance to dazzle."

MusicWeb International, Byzantion

“Violinist Bruno Monteiro delivers an emotional but tightly managed performance, over and again rising to the Chausson´s many challenges throughout these to great works – just listen to the way he handles the lengthy high-register passages at the close of the concerto´s first movement, "Decidé – Animé". This is a young chamber musician of extraordinary sensitivity."

Strings Magazine, Greg Cahill

"Monteiro plays with a seductively voluptuous tone that exudes Chausson’s fragrant (Poème), if somewhat dangerous, perfume with the unforced naturalness of a breath inhaled and exhaled. His is a performance filled with both touching vulnerability and barely suppressed rage. (…) After the Poème with some 75 recordings, the Concert shares a close contest for second place with the Poème de l’amour et de la mer, each having roughly 25 recordings, give or take. My trusted go-to among the versions I have has been around since 1983, but it features Itzhak Perlman, Jorge Bolet, and the Juilliard String Quartet, all in their prime, on a Sony CD that is now available at budget price. Overall, Perlman and company are a bit slower than Monteiro, Santos, and the Lopes-Graça Quartet, but tempos aside, I much prefer the newcomers for their lighter, more idiomatically French performance of the score and for the much better, up-to-date sound of the Centaur recording. This is definitely a disc I will be keeping, and not just for the novelty of the piano version of the Poème which, with further exposure is bound to grow on me, but also for the exceptionally fine playing of these outstanding Portuguese musicians."

Fanfare Magazine, Jerry Dubins

“The beauty of the sound imposes itself from the beginning of the "Sonata in a minor, Op.105" (1851) (Schumann). With the irreproachable collaboration of João Paulo Santos – always aware of the tempo and rhythmic changes and the piano textures -, we have a fresh interpretation, where the introspective character is not betrayed by the big lightness of the 2nd movement neither by the brilliant rhythmic articulation of the 3rd."

Expresso, Jorge Calado

“Bruno Monteiro makes both sonatas sing. The Da Silva sonata is a new to disc, and deserves to be recorded about 20 more times. It's a wonderfully crafted work, full of lush tunes and passionate emotion."

Classical.net, Brian Wigman

“The two musicians have more than given proofs, in their own careers, also have a common journey with several years already, with a rare repertoire, shared and tested in the truth of the concert halls. The expressions of Óscar da Silva and Armando José Fernandes, being so distinct writings among themselves, but also so elaborated and meticulous, demand that truth. With Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos could not be any other way."

Jornal de Letras, Maria Augusta Gonçalves

“The result that Bruno Monteiro obtains in the monumental "Ciaccona" (Bach) is admirable. In this page full of difficulties, a real "tour de force" for all interpreters, he shows a big technical control, sharp musical intelligence, good sense of polifonia and of the multiple contrasts of this fascinating music."

Público, Cristina Fernandes

“Solid approach, thought, with rhythmic nerve and lyrical expansiveness in the right doses and at times even reaching exuberance."

Diário de Notícias, Bernardo Mariano

“In an environment dominated by a romantic atmosphere, the highlight of this CD is the empathy of the duo and the virtuosity of the violinist that puts him between the most important Portuguese musicians of this instrument in the present time."

Jornal de Notícias, Rui Branco

“It feels especially in this disk a musical complicity and indispensable aesthetics in the connection of the piano of João Paulo Santos, an excellent interpreter of chamber music (and not only) and Bruno Monteiro, doubtless one of the primiere Portuguese violinists of the present time."

Público, Pedro Boléo

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