The String Quartet No. 2, in A minor, Op. 27, comes from the beginning a pivotal period in Braga Santos’ career, the four years he spent in Italy. There the generous and cinematic characteristics of his orchestral music did not go unnoticed, and he was invited to work as a composer of soundtracks for the Cinecittà studios, then in their golden period. In the opinion of the musicologist João de Freitas Branco, 6 this quartet is ‘the most breathtaking work of the composer’s first creative phase’. 7 It was written in Milan in the final months of 1957 and dedicated to his wife. 8 Whereas the First Quartet had shortly preceded the composition of the First Symphony in the mid- 1940s, the writing of the Second coincided with that of another important work, the
opera Mérope, a decade later. 9 Compared to its older brother, this Second Quartet is clearly a more refined, more concise work (it requires a total of 668 bars, compared to the 1,199 of the First) and less subjective [IN WHAT SENSE?]. It employs a cyclical structure (the theme of the initial Largo returns in the remaining steps [WHAT ‘REMAINING STEPS’?]); and in terms of language there is an amplification of resources compared to the First Quartet, since here the modalism is already mixed with pentatonic principles, with chromatism, with tritonal oppositions and harmony based on the cycle of fifths (in both vertical and horizontal relationships). The premiere of the Second String Quartet took place on 16 December 1986, in the Salão Nobre (‘Noble Hall’) of the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos, by the Chapel Quartet [WAS THAT REALLY ITS NAME OR IS THIS A TRANSLATION?].
The first movement opens  with a Largo, written as a large instrumental polyphonic arc and ending in a viola solo. 10 This theme will reappear throughout the work. It leads into an Allegro moderato in an undeveloped sonata form, with two themes: the first, on violins, an accompanied melody in two segments, with a pizzicato passage separating it from the second theme which is rhythmic in character (viola and cello, then violins). There follows a violin-led transition which has some affinity with the Largo melody and links with the recapitulation, where the second theme is abbreviated. A brief and concise coda concludes the movement.
The second movement  is a polyptych with five sections. The initial Adagio molto, which puts the cello in the spotlight, is followed by a rustic Andante con moto, where the violins take the lead. A new Adagio brings a fresh texture: over waves of demisemiquavers, the first violin and cello (always in the highest register) raise a song, rich in chromaticism, that is later tempered with more modal inflections. In the following section, over cello pizzicati, the second violin and viola unfold a theme clearly derived from the Largo of the first movement. To conclude this movement, the ‘rustic’ theme returns, further emphasised in character and with ostinati, performing a dynamic arc that ends ppp, with the first violin on harmonics.
The main theme returns in the introduction to the third movement (again Largo) , now led by the first violin, which, over undulating pizzicati from the second violin, viola and cello, giving it a more lyrical feel. A demonic Allegro molto vivace, a Bartókian peasant dance, in turn contrasts a with calmer theme, both melody and rhythm more Portuguese in character (on first violin, then viola and cello) and itself not without dance-like aspects. This contrasting pair returns, but with the second section (Più tranquillo) even smoother and more lyrical, with the rhythm of Portuguese dance heard only in the background. The Bartókian Allegro returns with increasing intensity, culminating in a coda (Presto) and precipitating the end.