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Mark Morris’s Guide to Twentieth Century Composers

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Modern music in Portugal has not received the attention of that in neighbouring Spain, although Portugal has a long musical history: the Chair of Music at the University of Coimbra was founded in the 14th century. As in Spain, Portuguese music in the 19th century was dominated by Italian opera, and there was a similar move towards the end of the century to initiate a Portuguese opera, notably by Augusto Machado (1845-1924) and Alfred Keil (1850-1907) - the latter's opera A Serrana was the first in Portuguese. In the 20th century, Luis de Freitas Branco (1890-1955) was the leading Portuguese composer to adopt a neo-classical idiom, while Frederico de Freitas (born 1902) introduced polyrhythms and polytonality into his music. The operatic tradition was continued by Ruy (Rui) Coelho (1891-1986), who studied with Schoenberg. Among the younger composers, Emmanuel Nunes (born 1941) has attracted attention with his slow, gentle textures and use of repetition. But the Portuguese composer most likely to be encountered is Jose Vianna da Motta (1868-1948), best known for his piano music.

Portuguese Music Information Centre:
Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian
Avenida de Berna 45
P-1093 Lisboa
tel: +351 19 735131
fax: +351 1 7937296






born 22nd April 1868 at Isle St.Thomas
died 31st May 1948 at Lisbon
Vianna da Motta was celebrated as a pianist (and interpreter of Bach, Beethoven, and his friend Busoni) as well as composer, and studied in Germany (among his teachers were Liszt and von Bülow). He emerged as the leader of a group of Portuguese composers who looked to folk-music, and he was also the first modern Portuguese composer to use symphonic form. In spite of this German background (which contrasted with the French orientation of his Spanish contemporaries), he turned to Portuguese folk traditions for the inspiration of his own works, helping to create a Portuguese musical nationalism chiefly through such piano works as the three Scenas portuguesas op.9 (Portuguese Scenes) and the Five Portuguese Rhapsodies op.10. His earliest works (such as the lilting Barcarole op.1, published 1905 for piano) reflected his teaching, and the Ballada op.16 belongs to grand 19th-century models. But with the first of the three series of Scenas portuguesas, although still pervaded by the influence of Chopin and Liszt, a very definite Iberian flavour appears in the opening and close, and a folk dance forms the basis of the middle piece. Echoes of guitar sounds appear in Vito op.11, while Trez improvisos sobre motivos populares op.18 treat popular Portuguese themes in a restrained, unpretentious and sometimes near-Impressionistic manner. Vianna da Motta taught at the Geneva Conservatory (1915-1917) and was director of the National Conservatory in Lisbon (1918-1938). He made transcriptions of the French composer Alkan, and was coeditor of Liszt's complete piano works for the publishers Breitkopf & Härtel.
works include:
- symphony
- string quartet
- piano works including Ballada, Barcarole, Cenas portuguesas (three series), Trez improvisos sobre motivos populares and Vito
- songs; The Lusiads for chorus and orch.
J. de Freitas Branco Vianna da Mota, 1972 (in Portuguese)

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