This is Volume 24 of Hyperion’s series entitled "The
Romantic Piano Concerto" which has explored out of the way repertoire
of 19th / 20th century composers who have produced
vehicles for piano virtuosi with orchestral accompaniment.
This disc continues the very high qualities of choice
of repertoire, performances and recording which this series has exhibited
since the issue of Volume 1 some few years ago. The frequency of releases
has reduced, due no doubt to the state of the recording industry, but
I am happy to see that the series is still being added to. There is
no indication from Hyperion that the series is complete, and I for one
am rejoicing at the prospect of many more to be issued over the coming
Jose Vianna da Motta is a name I have not come across
before and is not listed in the Oxford Dictionary of Music, although
he has a short entry in Groves. This Portuguese pianist / composer was
trained in Lisbon and Berlin, and later spent time with Liszt and Bülow.
His career as a pianist started in 1902, and he toured widely in Europe
and South America. By 1919 he had become Director of the Lisbon Conservatory
and was instrumental in raising musical standards in his home country.
He was friendly with Busoni, and was considered to
be an authority in the interpretations of the works of J. S. Bach and
Beethoven. The works on this disc come from his performing period, and
were composed no doubt, for him to play on tour to his audiences as
well as including works by more famous composers. Evidently however,
this was not to be, since the first performance of the Piano Concerto
was given only the day before this recording was made in Lisbon in 1999.
The Piano Concerto in A major is written in two movements,
with an opening Moderato, followed by a nominal Largo, consisting of
five variations, two of which are fast.
The style of the work is Germanic, due no doubt to
his training in Berlin at the time, but Portuguese folk melodies keep
on infiltrating the music, giving it a somewhat confusing atmosphere,
none the less interesting, in fact making this a point of interest rather
than concern. Written as it was by a virtuoso of the piano, the piano
part is extremely demanding, and Artur Pizzaro rises to the challenge
The Fantasia Dramatica for piano and orchestra is in
three movements Allegro moderato, Andante and Animato – Maestoso, and
these three movements are played without a break according to the sleeve.
The breaks between the movements are very short, so the work is almost
continuous, and the start of each movement is clearly defined. The atmosphere
of the piece is somewhat similar to the Piano Concerto, and I can imagine
that plenty of music lovers will be captivated by both works.
The third item on this Hyperion release is the Ballada
for solo piano, and this will give a little change of atmosphere, since
the orchestra is absent. It is based upon two Portuguese folk melodies
and is similar to Grieg’s Ballade in G minor, interesting as Vianna
da Motta was described by Walter Niemann in his book "Meister des
Klaviers" as the Portuguese Grieg.
I have not mentioned the contributions made by Martyn
Brabbins and the Orquestra Gulbenkian. in a word – superb, well up to
the high standard we expect of this series. More please.
review by Rob Barnett