Reviews | STEP RIGHT UP
"A great concert of contemporary music (...).
The catch was the world premiere of STEP RIGHT UP, Vasco Mendonça´s first piano concerto. What´s the meaning of a concerto today? It certainly is a different object from its counterpart in Haydn´s time (...)
Mendonça sees the piano as a black barrier that threatens the soloist´s effort in overtaking the orchestra´s soundscape. The relation between the piano and the orchestral mass is one of power, but also of politeness. No need to be afraid. The piano is a percussion apparatus like many other machines (...).
The orchestra is a multifaceted, sound producing, caleidoscopic machine. Mendonça takes advantadge of this mechanical precision and clarity in three movements that put to the test not only the pianist (the brilliant Roger Muraro), but also the conductor´s skills (the excelent Benjamin Schwartz) in order to manage the gigantic sound factory demanded by the composer. Heralded by the percussion, string attacks and hammered notes on the piano, STEP RIGHT UP develops with great clarity, rhythmically driven and releasing cascades of contagious energy. And if, at the beginning, some of the lyrical interventions seem shy and fleeting, they´re really preparing us for the assertive presence of th epiano in the last movement. In short, one of th emost exciting premieres I have listened to in the last few years. The good newa is that STEP RIGHT UP is being recorded this week for a CD of orchestral music entirely dedicated to the composer. I will listen to it many times, as I´m sure I´ll discover many surprises I may have missed at this first hearing.(...)" Jorge Calado | Expresso, 22.06.18
"Gulbenkian´s season finale has displayed the works of three composers of the same generation, coming from different countries and with strong creative personalities . (...)
The result is a fine example of present time´s vitality in musical creation, and of the strong communicating power contemporary music can have with the audience (...)
In STEP RIGHT UP, Mendonça treats the orchestra as a global instrument (...) the portuguese composer chooses the centrality of rhythmical and percussive elements, (...) in an intrincate web of relations that requires a precise rhytmical and dynamic coordenation.
(...) Particularly in the first and last movements (since the second is more introspective, exploring darker and more delicate atmospheres) an incisive materiality of the sound is achieved, traversed by a visceral energy, echoing the piece´s title and the evocation of African rituals (...)
The percussive character of the piano dominates most of the piece, sometimes through brief musical gestures demanding a milimetric coordination with the orchestral forces. Despite this anti-romantic treatment of the piano and its relation to the orchestra, it stands as a virtuoso piece, where Roger Muraro was able to show his multifaceted qualities, in a strong performance of a work that is set to be a highlight in Vasco Mendonça´s catalogue, whose career is obtaining a growing international visibility (...)." Cristina Fernandes | Publico, 20.06.18