Luis Toscano, musical director of Cupertinos

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

In one way or another, all of the singers in Cupertinos have had our initial contact and experiences with the choral world in informal or amateur contexts, during our childhood years. There is a very rich and well established amateur choral environment in Portugal, contrasting with the relatively recent professional choral/ensemble singing opportunities in the country. It was in these formative years that we got acquainted with some of the best-known works of Portuguese polyphony by Cardoso, Magalhães, Duarte Lobo or Pedro de Cristo. One could say, then, that these formative years were extremely influential in shaping our feeling and way of performing this native repertoire.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

During our nearly 11-year journey with Cupertinos, we have had our share of challenges. These range from music stand malfunctions in the middle of a concert, or starting a piece a minor third higher than it was supposed to be – and floating our way to the end with hardly anyone in the audience noticing, to last-minute illnesses, or trying to compete with street fair loudspeakers just outside our concert venue. However, the greatest challenge to date has definitely been the coronavirus outbreak.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

Luckily, there is a good number of amazing churches in Portugal where it always an absolute joy to perform. But if we had to pick one, it is probably fair to name Basílica do Bom Jesus for several reasons: the astonishing architecture and surroundings of the whole complex (added in 2019 to UNESCO’s World Heritage List); the overall quiet and peaceful atmosphere; the next-to-perfect acoustics for our repertoire, with an amount of reverb that really enhances the ensemble’s fusion and balance while keeping the clarity of the words being sung; and, last but not least, the warm welcome we always get from all the staff, making us feel at home every time. It is Cupertinos’ most frequent venue, with 20 concerts, and both our recording sessions were held there. We feel very privileged to have been enjoying this partnership since the beginning of the group.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

Portuguese polyphony – maybe unsurprisingly! Having been continuously specializing in this amazing repertoire for the past decade, it just seems to start feeling natural and instinctive, in much the same way as learning and eventually mastering a spoken language.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

Cupertinos’ focus is almost exclusive on Portuguese polyphony from the 16th and 17th centuries – this is already a major circumscription of our pool of choices. Within this framework, we prepare our seasons around a main theme, typically an anniversary; for example, in 2018, we commemorated the 400th anniversary of Portuguese composer Pedro de Cristo’s death, and next year (2021) we will celebrate the probable 450th anniversary of Filipe de Magalhães as well as the 400th anniversary of Duarte Lobo’s 1st book of Masses (Antwerp, 1621). This prompts us to keep our eyes open to different composers and publications, and that’s how we have already performed over 250 works, more than 100 being modern premières and new discoveries. In this process, musicologist José Abreu’s continuous and generous input and advice have been fundamental. Our partnership with University of Coimbra is also a guarantee for the future, as its General Library holds one of the richest repositories of music from this period.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

After almost 200 concerts with Cupertinos, it is very hard to narrow this list to just a handful; but it is probably fair to mention our 100th concert, on December 5th 2015, as a very significant milestone for the group; our first major international appearance, at Bolzano Festival Bozen (Italy, 2017); our UK debut at Cadogan Hall earlier this year (just before the pandemic); and the group’s first concert after lockdown, on July 5th, under extremely hard circumstances – both logistically and emotionally, without audience on site, just streaming.

In terms of recordings, we are extremely proud of both our Manuel Cardoso (2019) and Duarte Lobo (2020) albums. The latter was released on August 28th and features 18 previously unheard works by renowned Portuguese master Duarte Lobo.

Cupertinos’ latest recording is available through Hyperion Records on August 28th. To find out more about Cupertinos, visit:

After an early training as chorister in the Coro dos Pequenos Cantores de Coimbra, Luís continued his musical studies at Coimbra Conservatory, while also achieving a Licentiate Diploma in Economy from the University of Coimbra. He subsequently obtained a Portuguese Government scholarship to research, edit and perform 16th and 17th centuries Portuguese music, while completing his Masters in Music at the University of Aveiro. Presently, he is a PhD student in Art Studies | Music Studies at the University of Coimbra and researcher at the Centre of Classical and Humanistic Studies of the same institution.

Luís is the music director and member of Cupertinos (Cappella Musical Cupertino de Miranda). He is also co-founder of La Farsa and a member of Grupo de Fado Aeminium, Capela Gregoriana Psalterium, Coro Casa da Música and Ars Nova Copenhagen. He works regularly with other groups, such as The Brabant Ensemble (UK), Theatre of Voices (DK), Ludovice Ensemble (PT), Contrapunctus (UK), Musica Ficta (DK), Vocal Ensemble (PT) and Los Afectos Diversos (ES).

Image credit: Fundação Cupertino Miranda

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