António Fragoso

Composer, Musician, Author

Composer, Musician, Author

Biography

1897 - 1918: 21 years of a short life

António de Lima Fragoso was born on 17 June 1897 in Pocariça, Cantanhede, into a bourgeois family. Son of Viriato de Sá Fragoso and Maria Isabel de Sá Lima Fragoso, he grew up surrounded by intellectual and artistic stimuli, in a family that loved music and the arts.

His musical studies started at the age of six with one of his uncles, António dos Santos Tovim. A doctor by profession, but with a vast musical culture, it was this uncle who gave him his first piano and solfege lessons, starting his musical education. Although he was not a musician, we can give Dr. António Tovim the merit of motivating the young Fragoso to Music, a passion that would feed his whole brief life.

He moved to Oporto as soon as he finished primary school, and began to deepen his piano studies under the guidance of the renowned teacher Ernesto Maia. It was also in this city that he finished the General High School Course and the first two years of the Superior Commerce Course.

Although it was in Porto that António Fragoso’s artistic personality began to develop, these years of his life were not easy. His longing for his bucolic village and his extraordinary intellectual capacity made it difficult for him to adapt to the city, where he found it difficult to make friends with young people his age and felt that adults did not take him seriously.

It is thought that it was the way he felt that led him, in those years between 1907 and 1914, to start writing and composing, beginning an artistic journey that he seemed determined to pursue when he decided that he would continue and deepen his musical studies.

Some biographical notes mention that he had to overcome a certain amount of resistance from his parents to enroll in the Conservatório Nacional de Música de Lisboa, which he attended until 1918, the year in which he obtained the diploma of the Curso Superior de Piano with the maximum mark of 20/20.

While still a student he had an artistic career in Portuguese cultural circles, where he was recognized not only as an excellent pianist but also as a promising young composer. He was considered by the critics of the time as “one of the most powerful talents of his generation”.

A curious young man, mature for his age, Fragoso is said to have “lived with the determination to be an artist of his time” (Inês Andrade, Glosas 18, MPMP) and to have taken life at his own pace.

After finishing his studies at the Conservatory in Lisbon, he returned to his home village of Pocariça, determined to leave for Paris to learn from the great masters of his time and to perfect his artistic and creative genius.

It was there that, on 13th October 1918, death surprised him at the age of 21, a victim of the pneumonic flu that was raging throughout Europe at the time. Only eight days remained before he departed for France.

A love of music that created a living work

António de Lima Fragoso - Compositor Português do século XX

It all began at the age of 16 when António Fragoso published and publicly premiered his first composition – “Toadas da Minha Aldeia” – much acclaimed by the musical critics. In his brief life, he wrote music for piano and voice and piano, chamber music, and orchestra. He left us with more than 35 compositions.

According to an analysis by Maestro Martim de Sousa Tavares, “Fragoso did not compose as if he should die at twenty-one, with urgency and eagerness, and his work is small, fragmentary, and mainly made of miniatures.” Yet “Fragoso is just like that: various, dispersed, permanently passionate, heterogeneous and permeable.”

Generally, musicologists highlight from his body of work the “Preludes” and the “Petite Suite” for piano, the lieder for singing, the chamber music scores, and the Nocturnes. The “Nocturne in D flat Major” is considered the most emblematic piece of his immense talent as a composer.

Recalling António Fragoso, Maestro Pedro de Freitas Branco, quoted by the writer Leonardo Jorge, states that “21 years of life are not enough for nothing” and “to die at 21 is almost not to have lived.”

For Freitas Branco, Fragoso “had the necessary breadth to become the greatest Portuguese composer of all time. He was an intellectual musician. His marked personality imposed himself as much on our admiration as his genius as a composer. Brilliant spirit, of a singular penetration, he left us, in the little he left us, the glorious sample of what he would have accomplished if he had had the time to accomplish”.

Thanks to the efforts of his Family and friends, after his death, António Fragoso’s work did not fall into oblivion. That is why many, like Maestro Sousa Tavares, classify this as an “absolutely unique case in the history of music in Portugal.”

Currently, it is the Associação António Fragoso’s publishing house, FRAMART, which is responsible for most of the editions that are produced with this composer’s work. Today, António Fragoso’s scores are sold all over the world.

On the initiative of his nephew, Eduardo Fragoso, President of the António Fragoso Association, new arrangements and orchestrations of this composer’s work have been created and premiered in public, and much of his work has been recovered, preserved and revalued.

With growing national and international recognition, we can say that the work of the composer António de Lima Fragoso is still alive and still providing us with discovery and novelty.

António de Lima Fragoso
António Fragoso e Fernando Cabral antes do Concerto da Cúria
Concerto pelos alunos de Marcos Garin - António Fragoso

“Love is the mainstay of all the Arts, and especially of Music, undoubtedly that which of all, rises highest within the limits of human intelligence, that which, being of divine origin, makes us climb to the high regions of Mystery, that which best translates the emotions of our soul and therefore best makes us understand the most extraordinary wonder that populates the Orb – Love!”

António de Lima Fragoso

António Fragoso in the present

In 2009, the heirs of António Fragoso established the Associação António Fragoso, whose main objective is to leave his musical and literary legacy to future generations.

With over a decade of life at the service of Portuguese culture, this Association has promoted various initiatives and signed different protocols, which allow the work of António Fragoso to be preserved, disseminated and publicized.

As a result of this effort, the António Fragoso Association promotes concerts, conferences, meetings, events and editions, and is committed to the teaching of music and musical production. The goal is that António Fragoso’s Association is played assiduously and that his name and work are consolidated with national and international audiences.

Currently, António Fragoso’s estate is in the custody of the General Library of Coimbra University, available to researchers, musicians and fans who wish to deepen their knowledge of this composer.
Soon, and with an eye to the future, novelties will be announced about the House of António Fragoso, which is now part of the European Network of Houses and Museums of Artists and Composers and makes the António Fragoso Association, which has its headquarters there, a member of the Centre Européen de Musique.

Exemplo de Partitura original - Mazurca de António Fragoso
Exemplo de partitura original - Nocturno em Réb Maior por António Fragoso

Testemunhos

O que se diz sobre António Fragoso?

La música de António Fragoso es mui sensitiva y com la elegância de un joven genio compositor.

Hay que tocarla basándose en esse ingenuidade de la inocencia.

No parece “contaminada” com la época-Esto me parece un punto essencial para la interpretación. Sin maquillages, sino com sinceridade y profundidad.

Aquiles Delle Vigne

Pianista

Despite his short existence, Fragoso left a set of works that have exerted great fascination with musicians and music lovers and that places him among the important figures of the history of music in Portugal of the early twentieth century.

He was the creator of admirable pianistic pages...

Paulo Ferreira de Castro

Proceedings of the Colloquium "António Fragoso e o seu Tempo"

We are indebted to the composer, and we must turn the page for a long time. As La Palice would confirm, Fragoso, before he died, was alive. And it was alive, not by dying, that he did the only things that can guarantee him a place in history...

Martim Sousa Tavares

Maestro

In the backward Portuguese context, as we know, only Luís de Freitas Branco, Ruy Coelho and a few other composers brandished the banner of modernity, and it is in this context that the music of Fragoso represented, still in 1918, a certain novelty...

The future of António Fragoso's music also passes, I believe, through its ability to awaken in us, even today, this love and enthusiasm.

Sérgio Azevedo

Composer

Fragoso's position shows us a lagged sensitivity with his time, aware that in art there should be no fashions or "movements", just as science only exists when the "schools" end. This sensibility denied the conjunctural pressure and approached, in a pioneering way, the "timeless"... In any case, all this seems even more peculiar to me when one takes into account the age of António Fragoso.

In a country always looking for heroes to extol national pride, it is a shame that we leave out opportunities of this caliber.

Luís Valente Rosa

"Visão" Magazine