António Victorino D' Almeida (1940)
António Victorino D'Almeida was born in Lisbon on May 21st 1940. He was a student of Campos Coelho and graduated from the Superior Piano Course of the National Conservatory of Lisbon, obtaining a final mark of 19 out of 20. He then studied composition with Karl Schiske at the Superior School of Music of Vienna in Austria and obtained the highest classification possible. As a concert pianist, he had a successful international career and was considered one of the best Portuguese pianists at that time. He recorded all 19 Waltzes by Chopin for the ETE record label of Vienna and these recordings received critical acclaim and were praised by the highly regarded pianist Alfred Brendel. António Victorino D'Almeida is one of the most prolific Portuguese composers. He has written everything including: instrumental piano solos, chamber music, symphonic pieces and choral-symphonic music, "lied", opera, cinematic and theatre scores. His work has been appreciated by many illustrious figures in the music world including Hans Swarowski, Godfried von Einem, João de Freitas Branco and Dimitri Schostakovitch. In Portugal, five CDs of António Victorino D'Almeida's work are currently available from the label "Numérica" along with other CDs including the "Opus Ensemble" which has various pieces written by him. In Austria and Germany he has several CDs and records recorded with Erika Pluhar and he wrote and recorded the sound track of the film "Capitães de Abril" which was produced in Italy.
ANTÓNIO VICTORINO D’ALMEIDA
by Alejandro Erlich-Oliva
The literary and artistic creation of António Victorino D’Almeida compile, in a whole, the first degree of a real reference in the Portuguese cultural life for the last decades.Composer, writer, television and cinema director, stage director, pianist, conferencist, all his works are so heterogeneous and so important, and the list is so long, that we would take too many pages just naming it…
In fact, this creative cosmos is integrated in a discography of far more than 20 references as a composer, 3 as a pianist, a catalog of more than 130 opus (and 50 songs apart from that), literary works, of a musical or political kind, famous TV series, documentaries, radio shows, original music for theater, cinema and television, a long number of opera plays – and acting as well.
Adding to this scenario, we must reference several awards of all kind that he has received, and a solid pianist career.In the political field, we couldn’t neglect his institutional responsibilities as an artistic director in music festivals, as a university professor, as jury in so many music contests, Cultural Adviser at the Portuguese Embassy in Vienna, known for his wonderful work in the field, receiving two of the highest condecorations by the Austrian Government.
There was none essay dedicated to his work of such a profound intellectual production, and some of his musical pieces were not premiered yet. Nevertheless, his work keeps moving in a progressive expansion, just like a living kaleidoscope active in the Portuguese cultural field.
And there is a strangled need of studding systematically and righteously all his work, for it would show inside and outside of our country how is the present state of the Portuguese thought, and the best part of it.This kind of work is a priority, when we are living hard times; when we need to assume our cultural identity potentials, with no fears; otherwise, we will keep stuck to this periphery of a globalized Europe.
Freedom to choose models and influences and a complete emptiness of auto-censorship, are the main characteristics of António Victorino D’Almeida’s music. And this clashes with any kind of prejudice in the music field.With a ferocious joy, he breaks tight music rules, in so many different ways.
Combining various aesthetics, like the chromatic modulation poswagnerian to the dodecaphonism, from the atonalism to neoclassicism, but always with a fresh humor.
Very interesting, as well as his travels through the ethnical field, from the cabaret Berlin to the French café concert, the urban Lisbon song to Vienna and, to some people’s astonishment, the American piano cocktail.
I already had the opportunity to comment in public his music’s “ample spectre”: «…A mise en musique from António Victorino D’Almeida is an excellent one. His melodies are carefully developed, with a constant concern to protect the interpreter, never exceeding its vocal capacities.
Surprisingly colorfull, the harmony and instrumentalization make a brilliant exercise of “imaginary folklore”. Not by a glimpse he is able to drop into the usual striking colors of a bad illustrated postcard, each and every song establishes a specific folkloric atmosphere, typical from every poet’s original country.
Nevertheless, this stylistic mimetism doesn’t assume beforehand that chameleonic perversion of Woody Allen’s “Zelig” for a very specific reason: besides the “ethnical” production, it is filled with the composer’s special touch. This detail remains unmistakable and absolutely clear, never minding the radical metamorphosis it could get through…» (in A CAPITAL, 28th June, 1996, about CD NUMÉRICA 1048, Gaudeamus – A União Europeia canta os seus grandes poetas).«..All the influences are valid in António Victorino D’Almeida’s aesthetics, because it riches his world, without provoking changes in his personality. Erik Satie, Igor Stravinsky, Kurt Weill, Serguei Prokofiev and Nino Rota are flying through this music, in a homage to all of them; nevertheless, is not tied up to any kind of “none’s winer’s triumphal car…» (in A CAPITAL, 4th October, 1996, about CD Portugalsom 870030 PS, Música de Câmara de António Victorino D’Almeida).«… An old, but very certain postulate teach us that, in every artistic creation, the noblest way to honor our influences is to get, through them, a self-identity.
The music of António Victorino D’Almeida exemplifies with brilliancy that magic alchemy with the basic elements, when masterly executed, offering us an undoubtful high qualify result, distant from the single constitutive elements…»(in A CAPITAL, 24th January, 1997, about the CD NUMÉRICA 1060, O Render dos Heróis.)
This appellant flexibility does not frighten António Victorino D’Almeida’s creative coherence, because it is done with intellectual honesty and strong technical knowledge.
Far from following those cross over tendencies floating on the air, he was a real pioneer, thirty years before it became fashionable.
He is one of the most known Portuguese musicians recognized by the so called “grand-public”; but there is a small opinion ground that will never forgive him for his partnership with Carlos do Carmo, Carlos Mendes, Rui Veloso or Carlos Paredes. Although this prejudice, those are the same who applaud the jazzistic incursions of Friedrich Gulda and Andre Previn, the duets of Menuhin and Grappelli, the little klezmer “evasions” of Itzak Perlman or the enigmatic “transmozartian” pasting of Michael Nyman…
The extensive professional contact of António Victorino D’Almeida directing television and cinema programs reflects on his music.
It shows, definitely, an intimae relation between his musical thinking and the world of images. You can feel it, that inherent vision installed on the insight sounds. Most of his works have some kind of undefined cinematographical feeling, as it could evoke, mysteriously, some un-filming scenes.
But when he works for a sound track his music is never subordinated by the images’ strength. Any of those themes listened with no images, would survive beautifully as an excellent musical object; ergo, sensorial fruition exclusively auditory.
There is also some touch of literature in his music. A subtle programmatic character in some works of his and it seems he is following a novel or poem not yet written. It is almost like an unconscious impulse. In a cabal sense, he does not share the programmatic musical world, and rejects also the most “pasteurized” aspects of the so called theory of “pure music”.
As the composer once wrote:«…I think the useless utopia of doing what they call “pure music” is as absurd as trying to write something that has absolute no meaning.
So then, avoiding the way called “programmatic music” (a sand-pit free from danger, when the composers fall in temptation of imitate little birds, wind, tropical storms…) you must accept that music always tries to give a message» (in CD Strauss Portugalsom – Opus Ensemble interpreta música portuguesa contemporânea).
This triple CD presents 17 works with the most diversified instrumental formations, from absolute solo, until the octet. The combinations profile corresponds, organologicaly, as well as historically, to the most unthinkable variety.
The string quartet op. 50 (CD I - 1) is the most conventional of instrumentations, written on the huge repertoire of this consecrated instrumental formation, one of the most fundamental axis of chamber’s music History, from 18th century till nowadays.
The duos for violoncello and piano (CD II bl|bn), for violeta and piano (CD III 2|4) and horn and piano (CDIII 5|7) and the Trio op. 77 for piano, clarinet and violoncello (CDIII 8) enter in those modalities which make part of the configuration process of the falling Classic period, reaching its maturity by the middle of the 19th century.
The duo for flute and guitar op. 80 (CDII 1) can be integrated on the international catalog, available to those two instruments so acoustically and psychologically bind.The absolute solo to the reed aerophones had known a growth since the beginning of the 20th century, with some kind of supremacy of the clarinet works, maybe for its astonishing capacity of dynamic control and fulgurate agility, becoming the absolute monarch of the diminuendo al niente.
Avoiding deep considerations in those characteristics, this fortuity Barnabé Cat op. 46 (CDI 3) smiles with a complicity near Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf”, comparing the timbre’s connotation and the clarinet’s resources with the physical flexibility and unpredictable character of the cat. All the other works of this triple CD present instrumental formations that are just impossible to confine historically. An antecedents’ absence becomes obvious and the uncommon gets its high purpose in this hilarious duo for small flute and tuba (CDII bo), where the two extremes of occidental music tessitura comes before the advent of the electronic sonorities sources.
This huge diversification, where each piece can find almost a specific instrumentation for itself, brings some obstacles to the discographer production, specially when it comes to the human resources involved, those uncalculated hours of rehearsals and the complexity of the recording calendar puzzle.When the work is done, and what really matters is accomplished, the herculeous efforts fade away and become forgotten.
I believe the purpose was achieved at 100%. This triple CD is an editorial maturity event that, paradoxally, satisfies a legitimated cultural need, and, at the other hand, creates another one.
The 17 recorded works enriches the present Portuguese musical panorama, stimulating the chamber music practice, making it possible for those instruments with none repertoire in this area to dispose a precious pedagogic heap to analyze and play at the high levels of musical education.
Those virtualities will be cancelled if students or professors won’t have the opportunity to reach it easily, so, beware...At last, I don’t want to skip a detail – an important and innocent one – the presence of the accordion, an absent instrument on the erudite music list, but which assumes here, specially at the Cherry-Orchard op. 60 (CDI bo) and in Piaf op. 69 (CD III 1) the position of a valid interlocutor equally superior, in discursive eloquence or by technique resources richness.
As a discographical object itself, this extended work is not a disappointment to no one, even to those with the highest expectations.
The wonderful technical recording quality and the superb artistic level ofthe instrumental interpretations contribute to the credibility of the final product.The corollary is a simple one: it just came to light one of the most important and remarkable realizations of the Portuguese discography ever.
Alejandro Erlich-Oliva Lisbon, 25th April, 2003