Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:



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.



Piano Concerto (1887) [26.07]
Ballada for solo piano (1905) [9.18]
Fantasia Dramatica (1893) [28.54]
Artur Pizzaro (piano)
Orquestra Gulbenkian/Martyn Brabbins
rec Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisobn, 12-13 July 1999
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.

Rob Barnett



Barcarola No. 1
Barcarola No. 2

António Rosado (piano)
rec Lisbon 31 Mar- 3 April 1986

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.

Rob Barnett



Das Bächlein
Gute Nacht
Im Volkston
Die Jungfrau im Walde
In der dämmerung
Umflort, Gehüllt in trauern
Das Lied von Falkensteiner
Eine Briefelein
Monikas Traum
A Estrela
Cancão Perdida

Elvira Archer (sop)
Anton Illenberger (piano)
rec Lisbon 25 May - 26 June 1981

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.

Rob Barnett

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:
or by mail to:
Rua Adelaide Cabete, 3C,
1500-023 LISBOA

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

by e-mail

see also earlier review of Symphony in A major

Reviews from previous months

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