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Portugal Special Edition

Saturday 22 September 2007 12:15-13:00 (Radio 3)

Tom Service heads to Portugal to explore the part classical music has to play in Portuguese culture today.

Talking to fado star Mariza and composer Emmanuel Nunes, he travels to Lisbon and Porto, home of the stunning Casa da Musica concert hall, to experience the flourishing contemporary classical music scene at this year's Musica Viva Festival.


45 minutes

In this programme

PortugalRobert Spano courtesy of Andrew Eccles

Tom Service travels to Lisbon and Porto on a journey of musical discovery that takes in everything from medieval composer-kings to cutting edge electro-acoustic installations.

Early Music
Portuguese Guitars courtesy of The Fado Museum, LisbonHe starts at the Carmelite Convent in the middle of Lisbon, the ruins of which are a reminder of the gigantic earthquake which destroyed much of the capital city in 1755. The English-born composer and conductor, Ivan Moody, who has been living in Portugal for the past twenty years, talks with Tom about the cultural history of the country and in particular the distinctive sounds of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

To hear an example of the sort of music composed and performed during this period, Tom meets guitarist, composer, and early music specialist Pedro Caldeira Cabral, who performs specially for the programme with members of his performing groups.

Courtesy of Isabel Pinto and Maria Joao Ribeiro
Perhaps the most distinctive Portuguese music tradition is Fado. The mix of nostalgia and joyfulness, with impassioned solo vocals accompanied by the florid brilliance of a guitarist or two. But its roots are shrouded in mystery: born in Lisbon in the 19th century, it's probably a mix of Brazilian music and African idioms. Tom heads to the Fado museum to find out more about the art-form from the director and to catch up with Portugal's most famous Fado export -Mariza.

Casa da Musica - Porto
Detlev Glanert courtesy of Iko Freese
In contrast to the vital Fado phenomenon, Portugal's classical music has a far more international outlook. The twentieth century fascist dictatorship only came to an end in 1974 and the Paris-based Emmanuel Nunes is typical of an older generation of Portuguese composers who left Portugal to have access to the European avant-garde of the 60s and 70s.

Thanks to Nunes and others, today's young Portuguese composers no longer have to leave Portugal to find a vibrant music scene. In Porto, Portugal's second city, the Casa da Musica - a Rem Koolhaas designed concert hall - is the centre of a unique new music culture. In conversations with the composers Luis Tinoco and Miguel Azguime and the percussionist Pedro Carneiro, Tom discovers the makings of a new musical history for Portugal.

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