Ensemble Darcos

With a career spanning over twenty years between composition and conducting, Nuno Côrte-Real (b. 1971), is a “composer with creative freedom, challenging all current stylistic labels (...) in full production and in full consecration, always with an ability to involve us emotionally, very healthy and very pure, in its own way (…) ” (Rui Vieira Nery).

In 2018 and 2019, he won, consecutively, the prize for Best Work of Classical Music by the Sociedade Portuguesa de Autores with the song cycle “Agora Muda Tudo” and the opera “Canção do Bandido”, respectively.

Nuno Côrte-Real has conducted the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Giuseppe Verdi Symphony Orchestra, Portuguese Symphony Orchestra, Castilla y León Symphony Orchestra, Ciudad Granada Orchestra, Royal Filharmonía de Galicia, Extremadura Orchestra, Lisbon Metropolitan Orchestra, among others , in addition to numerous projects with Ensemble Darcos.

He is the founder and artistic director of Ensemble Darcos, a chamber music group dedicated to the interpretation of his music and the great European repertoire, and artistic director the Temporada Darcos. He was awarded a scholarship by the Centro Nacional de Cultura, and, in 2003, he was awarded the Silver Medal of Merit the City of Torres Vedras.

Nuno Côrte-Real is a leading figure in the universe of Portuguese contemporary music. His path as a composer reveals, from an early age, an independent and unsubmissive posture in relation to the dominant currents and established taste. The plurality and syncretism that characterize his work denote an open and uncomplexed way of inhabiting music, in frank rupture with the clichés, the aesthetic determinism and the elitism typical of contemporary music.

His music has sought to restore the emotional expressiveness, human and communicative dimension that the arid and hermetic art of the avant-gardes suppressed. The melodic lyricism, an energetic and varied rhythmic writing, and a harmony that privileges consonance are striking features in his style, a style of synthesis, eclectic in nature, but immediately recognizable. In many aspects, the language and musical grammar of Côrte-Real reveal a proximity to the neoclassical spirit. Neoclassical because he composes according to a dialectic of theme and variation and according to the principle of contrast; because he conceives music as discourse and develops it in a linear and directional time; sonority does not have an independent value, rhetorical rationality and discursive continuity prevail. One could say, due to its objectivism and constructive principles, that we are dealing with a Stravinskian poetics, or, in other words, an Apollonian poetics, which privileges measure and form, and leaves out the Dionysian element, the ecstasy, the formless and the immeasurable. But his music has another complementary side, which we could call the psychological or dramatic side: and here an expressiveness of a romantic type predominates, an exacerbated eloquence, a taste for contrast, and for theatrical effects. It's not by chance that opera is one of his favorite genres, but the dramatic nature of his musical conception ends up manifesting itself in all genres.

Another characteristic aspect of his production resides in his taste for stylistic symbiosis, the use of elements from other musical traditions, such as popular music, jazz or even pop music. It could be said that the composer seeks to remove contemporary music from its closed niche and revitalize it by approaching other sound universes. His discographic catalog includes several works of a hybrid or symbiotic character that are nourished by other traditions. As an example, we could mention “Cante” (Odradek, 2019), based on popular Portuguese songs, the song cycle “Agora Muda Tudo” (“Now everything changes”) (Odradek, 2019), written for the famous jazz singer Maria João, “Time Stands Still” (Artway Records, 2020), an interesting recreation of the songs of John Dowland, and “Tremor” (Ars Produktion, 2021), which follows on from this trend and can be inscribed in the same creative line.

His most recent production has shown a renewed interest in vocal genres, namely the song cycle, a domain where the composer's umbilical relationship with Portuguese poetry and culture is particularly evident. Among his countless scores based on or inspired by Portuguese literature, some resulted from his close collaboration with contemporary poets.