> da Motta piano concerto [JP]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Jose VIANNA DA MOTTA (1868 - 1948)
Piano Concerto in A Major - (1887)
Ballada for solo piano - (1905)
Fantasia Dramatica for piano and orchestra – (1893)
Artur Pizzaro (piano) with the Orquestra Gulbenkian, conducted by Martyn Brabbins.
recorded in the Grande Auditorio, Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, 12th – 13th July 1999. DDD.
HYPERION CDA67163 [64’24"]



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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 years.

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 superbly well.

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.

John Phillips

see also review by Rob Barnett

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