Music Against the Grain: Composer-Critics in Portugal (1930-1955)

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Music criticism in Portugal from the 1930s to the mid-1950s was dominated, to a large extent, by composer-critics Luís de Freitas Branco (1890-1955) and Fernando Lopes-Graça (1906-1994), the latter an ex-pupil of the former. The two composers were close associates in a number of publications, from the journal De Música to the much later Gazeta Musical. In the pages of these and other periodicals, Freitas Branco and Lopes-Graça could often be seen to express similar beliefs in their common role as catalysts of Portuguese musical life. There were also political affinities between them: although a monarchist formerly associated with Integralismo Lusitano, Freitas Branco veered towards a more left-wing position in the 1930s, whereas LopesGraça became actively involved in the political opposition, eventually becoming a member of the Portuguese Communist Party. There were also differences between Freitas Branco and Lopes-Graça in aesthetic and cultural-political matters, as shown in a number of articles in which Lopes-Graça dared to challenge some of the most dogmatic views of the elder composer, with regard to the alleged rationality of polyphony and counterpoint as opposed to harmony, the value of racialist thinking in art, or the existence of a true organic tradition in Portuguese music. These controversies reflect wider debates in the Portuguese intellectual context, spurred by conflicting conceptions of modernism, national identity and the social role of the artist, as well as by the metamorphoses of the idea of “classicism” throughout the 1930s and 40s. In this paper, I trace a number of continuities and discontinuities in the critical production of Freitas Branco and Lopes-Graça, drawing on a selection of texts. In particular, it will be my purpose to analyse the textual and rhetorical strategies used by Lopes-Graça in his more polemical writings, testimony to an ‘anxiety of influence’ towards Freitas Branco that would also find a counterpart in his own work as a composer.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventMusic Criticism 1900-1950 - Institut d'Estudis Catalans, Barcelona, Spain
Duration: 17 Oct 201619 Oct 2016


ConferenceMusic Criticism 1900-1950
Internet address


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