JOSE VIANNA DA MOTTA (1868-1948)
The name Vianna da Motta is now rather obscure. Not a few who snapped up
earlier instalments in the Hyperion Romantic Piano Concerto series may well
be scratching their heads over his name. However, in his time, this Portuguese
composer had international renown as a piano 'lion'.
He was born in Sao Tomé in Africa of Portuguese parents. While a child
he came to live in Lisbon and there studied at the Conservatory. In 1885
he took lessons from Liszt (yes, if his name is familiar it is likely to
be because of the Liszt pupillage). He also studied with Von Bülow.
He toured Europe and the Americas - a globe-trotting celebrity pianist whose
standing attracted a dedication from Busoni (Bach transcriptions).
In concerts his name was linked with Ysaye, Sarasate and Nachez. Spending
some time in Germany he made his home in Berlin before departing on the outbreak
of the Great War. In 1919 after several years in Geneva he moved back to
Lisbon where he remained until his death. He was Director of the National
Conservatory until 1938. His music is reputedly much accented by the German
romantic school while at the same time maintaining his Latin spirit.
JOSE VIANNA DA MOTTA
Piano Concerto (1887) [26.07]
Ballada for solo piano (1905) [9.18]
Fantasia Dramatica (1893)
Orquestra Gulbenkian/Martyn Brabbins
rec Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisobn, 12-13 July
HYPERION CDA67163 [64.24]
The Piano Concerto is clearly out of the Schumann school. Fantasy and a
rattlingly romantic approach are the order of the day. There is a dash of
turbulent spirit from the Brahms First Piano Concerto. The very Germanic
brass motto at the start of the largo affirms the tremendously Brahmsian
sense of conflict. Amid the storm there is a Waldszenen faerie delicacy.
The recording does the music wondrous justice although it does show up the
less than smooth string contribution. Even so, in no sense, is the orchestra
'rough' just missing the quality of refinement. They premiered the concerto
in concert the day before the recording was made.
The gale-tossed unrest of the Ballada heaves with Lisztian Richter-scale
bravura but is also not short on marmoreal reflection akin to Chopin's Nocturnes.
This is a work of recursive depth of feeling. Certainly worth a return trip!
The three movement Fantasia is effectively a second piano concerto in a single
movement (in three sections) as against the first concerto's two. There is
not a trace of barn-storming in most of the first section Allegro. All is
undulating, rippling, charming, mellifluous, emollient as is the pivotal
Andante (surely reflecting affectionate knowledge of the central episodes
in Beethoven's Fourth and Fifth piano concertos). The Animato is Tchaikovskian
shaken with dark brass figures and rumbling with restless romantic invention.
In this work da Motta is grasped by a strong individuality (not to mention
exoticism - note the gong stroke at 2.30 in track 11) not always evident
in the other works on this disc.
Pizarro is beyond criticism and a sure friend to the composer. He also
contributes the complementary notes.
This is the concerto's premiere recording as, I am sure, is the Fantasia
Dramatica. The Ballada has been recorded before by Antonio Rosado.
If you would like to explore further please see my earlier reviews of da
Motta's symphony O Patria and the
other reviews this month of CDs of solo piano music and lieder.
The Hyperion disc is well presented and firmly recorded. A strong contender
within the Romantic Piano Concerto series. This disc is notable generally
but outstanding for the intriguing Fantasia Dramatica.
JOSE VIANNA DA MOTTA
Barcarola No. 1
rec Lisbon 31 Mar- 3 April
STRAUSS PORTUGALSOM SP4044
Vianna da Motta's career as a pianist was life-long. Even during his years
of reforming the musical education system in Lisbon he maintained his recital
strength. The sonata is the work of a seventeen year old writing in 1885
in Weimar. It is a work written under a Beethovenian thrall. The
Fantasiestück is another early piece and while the liner notes claim
a Lisztian influence Schumann seems more natural. The sultry trilling of
the early Barcarola No. 1 and the ambling affability of the much later second
Baracarola suggest Latin links for the first time. The recording is not ideal
tending to a sense of enclosure. A larger space would have helped in this
richly resonating music. The Ballada has recently been recorded by Artur
Pizarro on Hyperion. His version runs to 9.18 as against Rosado's 8.11. I
prefer Rosado's more demonstrative and yet sensitive approach but you have
to live with a minuscule measure of analogue roughness in the Strauss disc.
This contrasts with the smooth digital sound in the Hyperion. More for the
specialist than the general listener.
JOSE VIANNA DA MOTTA
Die Jungfrau im Walde
In der dämmerung
Umflort, Gehüllt in trauern
Das Lied von Falkensteiner
Elvira Archer (sop)
Anton Illenberger (piano)
rec Lisbon 25 May - 26 June
STRAUSS PORTUGALSOM SP4180
Seventeen songs of which only two are in da Motta's native language. This
speaks volumes about where da Motta saw his musical alma mater. His inclinations
were without doubt late-romantic and in this sense he can be bracketed with
Othmar Schoeck and Joseph Marx. From the babbling rivulets of Bachlein, to
the spinning semiquavers of In Dämmerung, to the dreamy self-absorption
of Briefelein, to the uncomplicated ditty of Johannistag, to the dreamy serenade
of Fruhlingsregen to the rural hymnal of Sonntag da Motta tracks his derivative
but freshly conceived way with the German lieder tradition. Only in Umflort
and Falkensteiner does a dark cloud hang over the music. Elvira Archer handles
all of this extremely well only strained occasionally by long ppp notes.
Her concentration in Fruhlingsregen is almost palpable. Da Motta's texts
are from Goethe, Eichendorff, Raabe, Schaeffer and Cornelius. In the two
Portuguese settings there is more of the light serenade tradition of Granados
but the German element is still dominant.
In total da Motta wrote 35 songs of which 25 are in German and eight in
Portuguese. The songs are all but unknown even in Portugal. Short playing
time compensated by the rarity and the high value of the music. Full texts
are given. All lieder fans must hear this music. Think of da Motta's songs
as being in the Schumann tradition.
The Prtugalsom CDs can be ordered direct from Strauss Portugal
The prices are: UK pounds 6 and US dollars 10 (freight not included).
The transport costs are :
For UK----- 1 or 2 CDs ------UK £1.60; 3 CDs ----£2.50
For USA---- 1 or 2 CDs-----US$3.50 ; 3 CDs --- $5.50
Orders can come by fax to
fax number 351 1 7141723,
by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
or by mail to:
Rua Adelaide Cabete, 3C,
Credit cards are accepted with the name of the buyer, credit card number,
validity date and type of card.
orch score and parts available from
Divisao de Mùsica
Secretaria de Estado da Cultura
Av. da Republica 16, 5o
1094 LISBOA Codex
see also earlier review of Symphony in A