Friday 31 January 2020

Portuguese ensemble, & Gramophone Award winners, Cupertinos makes UK debut at Choral at Cadogan

Cupertinos, musical director Luis Toscano
Cupertinos, musical director Luis Toscano
On 18 February 2020, the Portuguese ensemble Cupertinos makes its UK debut at Cadogan Hall. Conducted by musical director Luis Toscano, the group will be performing a programme of 16th and 17th century Portuguese polyphony, mixing names that are familiar such as Manuel Cardoso (1566-1650), with those which are perhaps less familiar, Pedro de Cristo (1545/50 - 1618), Manoel Mendes (c1547-1605), Estêvão de Brito (c1570-1641), Estêvão Lopes Morago (c1575-1630), Bartolomeo Trosylho (1500-1567), and Filipe de Magalhães (c1571-1652), with music for Lent and from the liturgy of the dead and including at the centre the Missa de Quadragesima by Mendes. The group won a Gramophone Award in 2019 (in the Early Music category) for its disc of Cardoso's Requiem and Lamentations on Hyperion, and it will be good to experience them in person.

The eight-voiced group, directed by Luis Toscano, was founded in 2009 as part of the Fundação Cupertino de Miranda (Cupertino de Miranda Foundation) in Famalicão. Guided by Toscano and the musicologist José Abreu the group explores the golden age of Portuguese polyphony and they have performed around eighty works which have been newly transcribed from original sources. The group has strong links to the University of Coimbra, which has a very rich collection of Renaissance polyphony.

Created in 1963, the Fundação Cupertino de Miranda was created by Arthur Cupertino de Miranda (1892-1988) and his wife, Elzira Celeste Maya de Sá Cupertino de Miranda with the aim of promoting culture and supporting those in need, and the foundation has a Museum, a Library and an Auditorium

The fascinating thing about this period of Portuguese polyphony is that it took place against the background of the loss of sovereignty. In 1580, King Henry I of Portugal died, he was known as Henry the chaste and was a cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church who only came to the throne because his nephew King Sebastian I died in battle in 1578. As Sebastian had been the only heir to his grandfather, these deaths left a succession crisis which led to 80 years of Spanish rule, initially under King Philip II of Spain. It was against this backdrop, with many of the composers working for Philip, the Portuguese polyphony flowered. Inspired by music such as that of Palestrina (1525-1594) and perhaps ignoring contemporary Baroque developments in music in Italy, the composers of the Portuguese golden age seemed to create a distinctive Portuguese style which can be seen as some sort of reaction against the Spanish domination of the country.

If we are familiar with this music at all it is probably via performances by groups such as The Tallis Scholars, which has recorded Cardoso's Requiem, but Cupertinos brings a more Iberian sensibility to the sound-world of the polyphony, and after all what could be more satisfying than hearing a Portuguese group exploring the country's rich heritage of polyphony.

Further details from the Cadogan Hall website.

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