The conviction that music is devoid (or not) of ideology has been, and continues to be, a controversial issue. Many argue that it is enough in itself. Others prefer to emphasize that it never dispenses with contexts and purposes that add to its “raison d’être”. The first faction emerged in the 19th century and reached its peak during World War II. Now, here are two string quartets that emerged shortly after the end of that conflict and, therefore, reveal “points of view”. Today, with the distance of time, we can contemplate the pure talents of Joly Braga Santos and Dmitri Schostakovich. It’s a good excuse to forget the geostrategies of our day for a moment.
Braga Santos’ String Quartet No. 1 was premiered in February 1946 at the Academia de Amadores de Música in Lisbon, as part of the “Sonata” Concert Society program. This was an initiative promoted between 1942 and 1960 by Fernando Lopes Graça with the aim of showcasing the work of new national and international composers in the field of chamber music. It is a work that surprises with its relative complexity, which at the time responded to the ambition of a very promising young man. Even so, it does not fail to reflect his hallmark, with its wide-ranging, resourceful melodies and attention-grabbing instrumental articulations.
Schostakovich’s String Quartet No. 1 dates from 1949, but was only played in public in 1953, after Stalin’s death. In 1848, the Central Committee of the Communist Party decreed a strict censorship regime for composers. During this period, Schostakovich began to write music that served Soviet doctrine, for public performance. On the other hand, he kept some new creations in reserve, in the hope that they would later be published. This was the case with the Violin Concerto No. 1, the Song Cycle From Jewish Folk Poetry and this same String Quartet, also based on melodies from Jewish folklore. It was a manifesto of repulsion against the anti-Semitism that surrounded him.
Braga Santos & Schostakovich
Joly Braga Santos String Quartet No. 1
D. Schostakovich String Quartet No. 4
Alexêi Tolpygo, Ágnes Sárosi violins, Irma Skenderi viola, Ana Cláudia Serrão cello