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Oliveira's Labirinto in Bourges and Portuguese contemporary music
29e CONCOURS INTERNATIONAL DE MUSIQUE ET D’ART SONORE ELECTROACOUSTIQUES DE BOURGES 2002 2e catégorie : musique électroacoustique de studio avec instruments

Joao Pedro OLIVEIRA (Portugal) Labirinto (pour quatuor à cordes et bande)

Congratulations to João Pedro Oliveira for winning the Trivium, a prestigious prize for composers with a regular career in electroacoustic music, at the 29e Concours International De Musique Et D’art Sonore Electroacoustiques De Bourges 2002. This was awarded for his Labirinto for amplified quartet and tape, which I had singled out at the 25th Gulbenkian Encounters of Contemporary Music Lisbon, Spring 2001 (excerpt from my report copied below). Another Trivium prize was awarded to the Italian Marco Marinoni, and for his DeLeTE 'e' Unit the British composer Thomas James Cahill-Jones won a prize in the Residences category for student composers, and young composers.

Labirinto , which made a great impression in Lisbon played by the Arditti Quartet, was judged in Bourges, as is usual there, on the score and a recording of that Lisbon performance, both of which had been received also by S&H after the 2001 festival. The Ardittis have not played it again and the international prize received this month was a notable success, not least because, as I have learned from João Oliveira and others 'it is very difficult to programme Portuguese music - - '. That exporting their own contemporary music, and even hearing it at home, is a problem for some European countries (e.g. Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg) has become evident on our travels, where we have heard fascinating music which is unlikely to reach Britain.

Following the poor attendances at the 2001 Encounters, reported in S&H under the sub-heading To Portugal in quest of Scelsi, the Gulbenkian Contemporary Music Encounters May 20-June 3, 2002 had more success this year. The organisers explain:
' - - last year, our festival was dedicated to the "refusés" composers, while this year the composers were generally well accepted by the public... and besides the theme "East meets West/West meets East" was particularly attractive'.

The Gulbenkian's future plan, however, is that from 2002/03 onwards 'we shall no longer have the contemporary music in one only block in the second fortnight of May. The contemporary music will be distributed in a balanced programme along the whole season from October to May either in autonomous concerts or in mixed programmes, which will include pieces from all times of the history of music'.

This epitomises some of the dilemmas for contemporary music. Oliveira's Labirinto was performed again at the Festival of Aveiro (April 2002) by the Hear Ensemble, with support from Hungarian Radio. Although a contemporary "season" in Lisbon distributed all over the year may reach many more Portuguese music lovers, Oliveira still sees the need of a small festival in Portugal exclusively dedicated to contemporary music, as a meeting point for composers, critics, musicologists etc, from Portugal and abroad, to meet and exchange ideas - 'we have to find other possibilities for contemporary music'.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Excerpt from S&H 2001 report (PGW):
The Arditti Quartet, British based but more likely to be encountered on its peripatetic travels, was acclaimed by a substantial audience (for a string quartet) and the choice of its location in the Gulbenkian Grande Auditório was justified by the inclusion of Labirinto by the Portuguese composer and organist Joao Pedro Oliveira (b 1959). For amplified quartet and tape, this was one of the finest demonstrations of the potential of state-of-the-art electronics that I have heard. There was no distortion of string tone and (from a central position) the engaging, abstract tape music melded perfectly spatially, reaching back from the stage and making the whole more than the sum of its parts.


© Peter Grahame Woolf