“Group Together, avoid speech”

Commissioned by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation for the 50th anniversary of the Gulbenkian Orchestra, the new orchestral work by Vasco Mendonça (Porto 1977), “Group Together, avoid speech” was premiered on October 17th and 19th 2012. It is an appealing symphonic piece, of rare intensity. What comes as a surprise is the use of original timbric combinations, which are of great efficiency (like, for example, the marvellous percussion passage in the work’s second part, or in the third one the trialogue between the double basses section and the double bass and violoncello solos); if the term “efficiency” can be applied to what concerns the listener’s perception, in relation to such a sensible and intelligent orchestral writing as in the case of Vasco Mendonça, an unquestionably enthusing and greatly talented composer.

The work’s beginning is united by a preliminary pulse, from which the concertante apparatus is being developed (a string quintet and woodwind quartet, on more than one occasion summed with the percussion and brass). And what is being established throughout its three parts is a great musical moment, and it would be quite difficult, and above all unnecessary, to try translating it into words.

Just before the first sound is emitted, the composer tells us in the printed programme that “a feast is a feast” and that on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the orchestra, “this [concert] constitutes a special feast”. He also confesses that beyond the festive occasion he tried to recompense both to the orchestra and the foundation the fact that, “without being aware [they played] an indispensable role in [his] formation as musician”.

Retribution achieved, the result is a work that deserves being part of the repertoire of any great orchestra. Thus we hope that the Gulbenkian Orchestra holds the same conviction and will let us hear Vasco Mendonça’s work again very soon. To reprogramme it would be not only an acknowledgement of the value and quality of “Group Together, avoid speech”, but also a way of supporting this work and its circulation, so that it may be performed by other orchestras here or elsewhere.

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