Medieval Suite (1958)
The Medieval Suite was written after the completion of the composer’s opera A Igreja do Mar (The Church of the Sea). In the composer’s own words, he felt the need “after a complex polyphonic and sometime polytonal work, to compose a contrasting work whose melodic and harmonic structure is inspired by the fragrance of medieval Portuguese poetry”.
The Suite’s harmonic structure is pre-classical, almost modal, with rare modulations into distant keys. It has 6 contrasting mono-thematic movements whose respective main themes are repeated often, although in different instrumentations and with slight variations. Their titles are medieval and not easily translatable: 1. Bailia (baile or ball): a dance (Allegro vivo ma non troppo); 2. Serena (serene / serenade / night music): a nocturnal song about unrequited love (Andante largo, Mesto); 3. Serranilha (serra or mountain range): a song from the mountains (Tempo di pastorale, Moderato); 4. Cantar de Amigo (A friend’s song): a well-known poem by King Dom Dinis (1261–1325) (Andante affettuoso); 5. Cantarcilho (cantar or song): a well-known Iberian poetic-musical form (Allegretto); 6. Jogralesca (jogral or jester): a medieval jester’s dance (Allegro con spirito).
From an instrumental viewpoint, the suite follows quite closely a chamber music or “concertante” approach. Each movement is scored differently (all instruments appear in the last movement only), and each one, except for the first, features different and very delicately handled solo instruments. The second is written for solo flute and strings, a reflective “pause” contrasting with the flowing feeling of the other movements.
The work is scored for one flute, pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, timpani, percussion, harp and (reduced) strings.
Nº 1 – Bailia
Nº 2 – Serena
Nº 3 - Serranilha
Nº 4 – Cantar de Amigo
Nº 5 - Cantarcilho
Nº 6 - Jogralesca