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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Pedro Faria Gomes, Chamber Works

In the person of Portuguese composer Pedro Faria Gomes (b. 1979), at least as we hear on the engaging new collection Chamber Works (Naxos 8.579029), there is at times a kind of contemplative introspection in common with Erik Satie and Morton Feldman. Yet in Gomes we have an original harmonic-melodic Modernist approach throughout that has a definite original spin, so it would be a mistake to think of Gomes as a member of either "school" per se. He stands apart as his own voice.

Eight compositions grace the program, five of them in premiere recordings. Each is for a small instrumental configuration and it varies from piece-to-piece. The performances are uniformly fine, featuring at various times Sarah Thurlow on clarinet, Carla Santos on violin, Nancy Johnson on viola, Miguel Fernandes on cello, and Saul Picado on piano.

Gomes was born in Lisbon and from an early age studied piano and eventually composition there before getting his postgraduate degrees at the Royal College of Music in London. He taught in Portugal for eight years then did the same for a time in Hong Kong. He currently is a lecturer at Cardiff University in Wales.

The eight works were written between 2008 and 2018. They hang together stylistically as being of a consistent sound and outlook. Though "Memoria" (2012) for clarinet and piano and the "Sonata" (2018) for violin and piano make some use of Portuguese folk themes the overall thrust of the music throughout is in the idiom of Contemporary chamber expression, with a particular brand of harmonic sophistication that defies easy comparison and then often too carries a very personal introspection, at times rather broadly spacious, somewhat quiet and dream-like. And then again there are movements and passages at times expressionistically more boisterous as well, as we hear in parts of the "Sonata."

The music has a sort of deep seriousness,  a subtle and somewhat esoteric quality that can be an important aspect of the present-day chamber music approach since last century and artists like Bartok.

Some fine clarinet writing distinguishes "Memoria" for clarinet and piano, "Thanatos" (2008) for clarinet, violin, viola and cello, "Returning" (2010) for clarinet, violin and piano and finally the rather stunning five movement "Nachtmusik" (2012) for clarinet and piano. That leaves for mention the very short "Escape" (2007) for solo piano, "Espera" (2009) for viola and piano and "Elegia" (2007) for cello. The works all show a high caliber of imagination and workmanship.

As the CD jacket notes tell us in some detail, the works address the idea of time as played out in "memory, change and waiting." For that I refer you to the notes and the experience of deep listening that this offering provides in rich abundance.

Pedro Faria Gomes shows us a fine and original new voice on Chamber Works. The album maps out a series of brilliances that anyone serious about Modern Chamber Music will want to experience. Highly recommended.

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