ANTÓNIO FRAGOSO was born on 17 June 1897 to Viriato de Sá Fragoso and Maria Isabel de Sá Lima Fragoso, in the locality of Pocariça, in the municipality of Cantanhede. He would also die there on 13 October 1918, a victim of pneumonic influenza which had spread throughout Europe in that period.
His vocation towards music became evident at the ealy age of six when he began to learn how to read music sheets and playing piano with António dos Santos Tovim, his uncle and a doctor in Cantanhede. He was someone with an enormous musical culture who had a very strong influence on Fragoso’s first years of musical training.
Between 1907 and 1914 he completed his general high school course in Porto and the first two years of a Higher Education
Course in Comerce. This was done without ever abandoning his piano studies, now under the guidance of teacher Ernesto Maia. At the age of 16 he published and gave a first audition of his first musical composition – “Toadas da Minha Aldeia” –to great acclaim from the musical reviewers. Some biographical notes indicate that he had to overcome a certain resistance from his
parents in order to register at the National Musical Conservatory of Lisbon, which he would attend until 1918, when he received a Higher Education Diploma in Piano with 20 marks, the highest mark achievable.
From this point onwards Fragoso began an artistic career which was widely recognised amongst the cultural sectors of the country, not only as an outstanding pianist, but also as a composer, to the point being considered by the critics as ‘one of the most powerful talents of his generation’. João de Freitas Branco even goes so far as to say that ‘there are surprising pages by a composer who is under 21 years of age’.
Out of his work, musicologists tend to highlight his “Prelúdios e a Petite Suite para piano”, the leider for singing, embelematic piece of his immense talent as a composer.
In 2009, António Fragoso’s inheritors formed the António Fragoso Association, which has as its main objective to leave for future generations all of his musical and literary legacy, to teach music in any way it can and to commemorate in a dignified manner the centenary of his death.
A few sentences about
Antonio Fragoso’s music is very sensitive and has the elegance of a young genius composer.
You must play it based on the naivety of innocence. It doesn’t seem to be “polluted by time”.
This seems to me the essential point for its interpretation. True to itself, with sincerity and depth.
Achilles Delle Vigne, Master, pianist
Fragoso has become, over the last century, a “figure of worship” and the “object of an endless mourning, which sometimes seems to extend to Portuguese music in its entirety”.
“If for some, Fragoso’s music is identified as the Romanticism that we never actually had (making it vulnerable to accusations of relative anachronism), others would claim that his work is a symbol of an eagerness to update the technical and aesthetic references in the field of composition at the beginning of the twentieth century ”
Fragoso was “a personality divided between multiple dichotomies and contradictory ideas – nationalism and cosmopolitism, melancholy and modernity, a platonic cult of the musical absolute and awareness of the historicity of art”, but also “an avid spirit of culture and particularly inclined to reflection “an uncommon attitude among the Portuguese musicians of his generation and a sign of intellectual maturity.
Despite his short existence, Fragoso left a set of works that has fascinated musicians and music lovers and that places him among the prominent figures of the history of music in Portugal of the beginning of the twentieth century.
He was the creator of admirable pianistic pages…
Paulo Ferreira de Castro – minutes of the Colloquium “António Fragoso e o seu tempo”
In a letter to his father (22-3-1916) he expressed his will to “leave the illustrious group of musicians whose intelligence (with rare exceptions) is absolutely incompatible with the idea of progress, the evolution of Art, and whose spirit is simply petty.” In some of his personal notes belonging to his estate, but also in articles and letters, Fragoso shows few doubts regarding Lisbon´s musical environment, which he will occasionally accuse of pedantism and ignorance: “Anyway, it is a pity, but I have hope that around the year 2000, more or less, the Portuguese public is able to enjoy modern music ”
Cristina Fernandes – Público (newspaper)
An educated and talented pianist, António Fragoso had everything to become the greatest Portuguese composer of the twentieth century. But the pneumonia epidemic caught him eight days before he left for Paris, where he was going to study with the greatest teachers of that time. One hundred years later, his nephew recalls this figure of worship of Portuguese music.
He wanted the final exam to be historic. He began with one of Beethoven’s most difficult sonatas, and ended up with an even more difficult play, a study of Transcendental Execution, to Mazeppa, by Franz Liszt. The Noble Hall was full, with people standing. When he finished Mazeppa, everyone applauded. The jury asked for silence, stood up and said: “Mr. Fragoso, I give you a (grade of) 20 because I can’t give more”.
José Cabrita Saraiva – SOL
We speak of… António Fragoso. The conductor (Pedro de Freitas Branco), who, until then, had expressed himself wearily, although with the serenity and concision of his spirit, became animated and shook, obedient to the invisible baton of a higher emotion. His voice changed tone and rhythm: from adage, he went to alegro.
Leonardo Jorge – Jornal do Brasil
António Fragoso had the talent and capability necessary to become the greatest Portuguese composer of all time. He was an intellectual musician. His unique personality and composer genius were equally cause for admiration. A brilliant, insightful mind, left us, in the little that he left us, the glorious sample of what it would have accomplished if it had had the time… Twenty-one years are hardly a life ”
Pedro de Freitas Branco, Maestro
(Quoted by Leonardo Jorge – António Fragoso: Um Génio feito saudade, p. and by Luís Salgueiro e José Carlos Araújo – in Glosas 18 – MPMP
“We are indebted to the composer, and we must move on. As La Palice, would confirm: Fragoso, before he died, was alive. And he became alive, not by dying, which did the only thing that would guarantee him a place in history books. ”
“But it is beautiful, I acknowledge it openly, to see this celebration happening around a composer with such a small amount of finished work. I wish that half of this had been done for other Portuguese composers, but no one else was that lucky. Only those who saw hundreds of people sitting in the evenings, exposed to the cold and wind in Largo António Fragoso in Pocariça, listening with devotion to music that came out of the open windows, in a remarkable recreation of the musical evenings that António Fragoso held there, can you have an idea of what a composer’s true celebration is, incorporating it into people’s lives and making his work more present than ever. ”
“One thing is certain: if we weren’t to go any further in Fragosian study, it would already be a lot. More than the study of his life and work, I am interested in the life of the work, and, in this area, António Fragoso has a wide and lush path, open before him. It is even more promising, in spite of the quantity of his work, than that of many revered masters that history has not consecrated or that we have not known how to preserve. I foresee, therefore, and desire, a long life to the short life of António Fragoso ”
Martim Sousa Tavares – conductor
In “Glosas 18-MPMP
“In the backward Portuguese context, as we already know, only Luís de Freitas Branco, Ruy Coelho and a few other composers kept up with modern tendencies, and it is in this context that the music of Fragoso represented, even in 1918, a certain novelty”.
“I believe that the future of António Fragoso’s music also has the capacity to inspire us, even today, this love and this enthusiasm”.
Sérgio Azevedo – composer
In “Glosas 18 – MPMP
Regarding the creation of a logo:
The typeface has an elegance that reminds me a little of the well-known elegance in the photographs that I know of António Fragoso.
Instead of the accent on the ‘o’ it has the subtle touch of a “fermata”. The “Fermata” has a suspensive and prolongation effect, when applied to a note (or pause) and so I think the idea of “suspension” associated with António Fragoso has given him, just like his music, an element of eternity, a prolongation of his life.
João Vasco, pianist, composer, director and designer
… The relevant aspect is the vision I have that considers Fragoso’s music to be of the most melancholic type there is. But it’s not the rich melancholy typical of Chopin, alternating between sweeping passion and violence. Nor the almost coldness of Fauré… It’s a peaceful compromise, with some moments of brief elation and moderation.
Luís Valente Rosa, Visão
But the second reason (to write about António Fragoso) is, of course, more important. And it relates to an originality of this composer that I find admirable in a young boy – because let us not forget that, in the USA of the 21st century, this boy would not be allowed to consume alcohol. It is the fact that his composition dates from 1915 (to make it easier…) and is extremely «Classic»… I have already mentioned it in these chronicles, but I will say it again: true art is characterized by being universal (not stuck to a certain region of the planet) and timeless (not to be stuck to a certain period of history).
… Under these circumstances, the placing of Fragoso shows us a sensitivity disconnected from of his period and makes us aware that in art there shouldn’t be fashions or “movements”, as science only exists when “schools” end. This sensitivity has kept away the conjunctural pressures and come closer to, in a pioneering way, to the “timeless”… In any way, all this seems even more peculiar when considering António Fragoso’s age.
In a country always looking for heroes to praise and contribute to national pride, it is a pity to leave out an opportunity of this dimension.
Luís Valente Rosa, Vision