The String Quartet No. 1 in D minor, Op. 4, was first performed on 28 February 1946 at the Musical Academy of Amateurs [PORTUGUESE TITLE, PLEASE – AND CAREFUL: IF THE WORD IS ‘AMATORIOS’ OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT, ‘AMATEUR’ IN ENGLISH HAS MORE THE SENSE OF DILETTANTE, NOT VERY PROFESSIONAL] in Lisbon, in a recital 4 included in the Sonata Society concert series. 5
The work is dedicated his teacher and mentor Luís de Freitas Branco. The performers at the premiere were Ilídio Gomes and João Nogueira (violins), Fausto Caldeira (viola) and Carlos de Figueiredo (cello), all members of the National Symphony Orchestra. It is a work of considerable scope, in four movements, with a duration of around 36 minutes. The tonality is a modal D minor. It opens with an Allegro moderato in a modified sonata form . The first subject (on the first violin) is a long (27-bar) cantilena; the second has an eminently rhythmic character. In place of a development, there is a central section (though its material comes from the exposition) with two highly contrasted subsections: the first, Calmo, dominated by a viola solo, and the second, Tempo I, with a heavy texture and motoric rhythm (based on ostinati). Then comes a relatively orthodox recapitulation, which in the transition to the coda assumes a Bartókian sonority.
The Allegro con fuoco  is in tertiary [TERNARY?] form, with the characteristic that part B – which I shall call BC [WHY?] – is much larger than A. This [THIS WHAT?
NOT CLEAR WHAT YOU MEAN] is defined by metric irregularity and strictly parallel writing (in unison or harmonic) for the four instruments. By contrast, the BC section is extremely metric and rhythmically regular: B is distinguished by a melody with accompaniment texture (violin solo, in D [YOU MEAN THE KEY, OR IS THIS ANOTHER PART?]), and C is characterised by a granular and then homophonic texture. The return of A is at first literal, but later includes an idea from C (the granular texture), with the characteristic irregular metre, to end the movement. [NOT AT ALL CLEAR WHAT THE STRUCTURE IS: ABCA? IF SO, IT’S NOT TERNARY, UNLESS C IS A SUBSECTION OF B. AND WHAT’S THIS D?]
The slow movement, Andante tranquillo , also in tertiary [TERNARY?] form, highlights each of the instruments as soloist, with cantabile sections interspersed with parallel, homophonic, ‘plain’ ones. Section A has two themes: the first on the first violin,
lyrical and gliding over hemidemisemiquaver tremolos; and the second on the second violin (later moving to the violin) of a generous and more ‘earthly’ lyricism. Part B (‘Slow’) has a theme with a ‘Sicilian’ swing [WHAT’S THAT?] first performed solo on the viola and then treated as a melody with accompaniment and in counterpoint. Thistheme is interspersed by the homophonic sections, which now take on an ominouscharacter. Part A then returns, with theme 2 abbreviated. The coda consists of reminiscences (Sicilian theme) and regressions [IN WHAT SENSE – PLAYED RETROGRADE?] (theme 2, homophonic), until everything dissolves into long values.
The vast Allegro molto energico ed appassionato  is formally the most original movement: it fuses sonata and rondo form perfectly and introduces variation to both elements. There are three main themes, but in the second and third there are rhythmic cells that become ‘detached’ and acquire a prominent autonomous role in the course of the movement. There is also a canonic section (exploring various modes of execution) that acts as a formal separator throughout. The final section (Andante, then Pesante and finally Meno mosso), although prepared and with a genesis in some moments of the third movement, sounds like a world apart. It is only 76 bars (out of a total of 403 for the entire movement), but the slow tempo means that it takes up more than two-fifths of its total duration. Given the year in which the Quartet was written, who knows whether Braga Santos might not have wished to evoke, in an elegiac tone, the
death and destruction of World War II?