Joly Braga Santos

Joly Braga Santos
14.05.1924 - 18.07.1988
Period:XX age


 José Manuel Joly Braga Santos, ComSE (Portuguese pronunciation: [ʒɔˈli ˈbɾaɡɐ ˈsɐ̃tuʃ]; May 14, 1924 – July 18, 1988) was a Portuguese composer and conductor, who was born and died in Lisbon. He wrote six symphonies.
José Manuel Joly Braga Santos was born in Lisbon in 1924 and died in this city in 1988, at the peak of his musical creativity.[citation needed] Having studied violin and composition at the National Conservatoire of Lisbon, he became a disciple of Luís de Freitas Branco (1890–1955), the leading Portuguese composer of the preceding generation.

After the Second World War, he was able to go abroad, having studied conducting with Hermann Scherchen and Antonino Votto, and composition with Virgilio Mortari. He was undoubtedly the leading Portuguese symphonist of the 20th century, and perhaps of all time. Apart from an innate sense of orchestration, his musical language is based on a strong musical architecture as well as drama, with long melodic phrases and a natural instinct for structural development. In his own words, he wanted “to contribute toward a Latin symphonism and to react against the predominant tendency, of the generation that preceded me, to reject monumentalism in music”.

In his first works, the composer showed a modal tendency motivated by the desire to establish a connection between contemporary music and the golden age of Portuguese music: the Renaissance. We also find a melodic outline of the oldest folk songs of his country. Although he was not particularly interested in the Portuguese folklore, studying and composing at the country home of his mentor, in the rural south of Portugal - the Alentejo - he naturally accepted the influence of the very old local folklore that he considered "of mesmerizing originality and grandeur".

The first four symphonies, which followed each other quite rapidly (between the ages of 22 and 27), were immediately performed by the Portuguese Radio Symphony Orchestra in Lisbon, and met with great success. The conductor and founder of the Portuguese Radio Symphony Orchestra was the great Portuguese conductor Pedro de Freitas Branco, a friend of Maurice Ravel, Manuel de Falla, and former director of the Orchestre Lamoureux. Pedro de Freitas Branco early recognised his brother’s pupil’s talent and launched Joly Braga Santos's international career during the 1950s, conducting several international premieres of his works around Europe. Other works of this period are the Concerto for Strings, Variations on an Alentejo Theme, and three Symphonic Overtures. Most of the works were recorded, from the 1970s onwards, by the Portuguese label Strauss SP, and more recently, by the Naxos / Marco Polo label.

Following closely the works of post-war European composers, his style became, from 1960 onwards, more chromatic. The period of travel and the time he devoted to conducting provided him with what he described as a useful period of rest, decisive for the evolution of his musical style toward increased chromaticism and less traditional form. To this period belong the works Three Symphonic Sketches, Sinfonietta, the Requiem, his 5th and 6th Symphonies, and Divertimento no. 2.

Joly Braga Santos also wrote three operas, chamber music for a wide variety of instruments and ensembles, film scores, and several choral works based on poems from the great classical and modern Portuguese and Spanish poets such as Camões, Antero de Quental, Teixeira de Pascoaes, Fernando Pessoa, Garcilaso de la Vega, Antonio Machado and Rosalía de Castro.

Joly Braga Santos lectured on composition at the National Conservatoire of Lisbon, where he introduced the chair of Musical Analysis. He was also director of the Oporto Symphony Orchestra and one of the founders of the Juventude Musical Portuguesa (Portuguese Musical Youth). As a critic and journalist he produced a vast range of work for several Portuguese and foreign newspapers and journals.

He died in Lisbon, of a stroke.

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