I pride myself on knowing something about the highways
the byways of piano music - both at home and abroad. However
pride often comes before a fall! Nevertheless, I cannot imagine how
I have got to the age I am, after many years of classical music listening,
having missed the works of Eurico Tomás de Lima. One thing that
life has taught me is that there is a wealth of music out there that
demands to be explored: it is quite simply finding time and opportunity
to do it.
Firstly, I give a few biographical notes about the composer. Eurico
Tomás de Lima was born in Ponta Delgada on the island of São
Miguel in the Azores on 17 December 1908. He moved to Lisbon at an early
age. He was born into a musical family - his father António was
a violinist, conductor, composer and professor of music at the National
Conservatory in Lisbon. Portuguese music is a specialised field with
which I guess few in the United Kingdom will be totally conversant.
It is therefore hardly surprising that de Lima’s piano and composition
teachers at the National Conservatory are not even names to me. However,
his music history teacher was a certain Luis de Freitas Branco (1890-1955),
a well-respected composer who has made an impact outside of his native
country. His symphonies are highly regarded: they have been recorded
on the Naxos label. After an exemplary period of study in which he gained
the highest academic award at the Conservatory, he assumed a career
as a recitalist and composer. In 1932 Eurico Tomás de Lima gave
his first major piano recital playing his own compositions.
His career included concert tours including two major events in Brazil
in 1949 and 1952. There were (apparently) numerous recordings for record
companies, TV and radio stations in Europe and Latin America. He was
a distinguished teacher and had posts in Oporto, Funchal and at the
Academia de Amadores in Lisbon. The last part of his career was at the
Calouste Gulbenkian Conservatory of Music in Braga from 1972-1978.
Due to his ‘liberal’ political views, he was never preferred
for any permanent music post in Portugal during the Salazar regime.
No recognition was given to his achievement.
As a composer, de Lima has written extensively for the pianoforte -
especially solo works, but also including concerted pieces. There is
also vocal and chamber music in his catalogue.
Eurico Tomás de Lima died in June 1989 in the city of Maia.
There are typically three groups of works represented here. Firstly,
there are all four Piano Sonatas which were composed over a twenty-one
year period. Secondly, there are two Sonatinas and lastly a couple of
suites - ‘Algarve’ and ‘Ilha de Paraiso’ (Isle
I suggest beginning with the two Suites. The first was composed in 1941,
after a year with the ‘Cultural Missions of the National Secretariat
for Propaganda’. At that time Portugal was a neutral country during
the Second World War. During this period de Lima gave concerts across
Portugal. The Suite is fundamentally poetic and late-romantic rather
than in the more ‘modernist’ style of the Sonatinas. There
are eight ‘picture postcards’ none lasting more than three
minutes. Each is prefaced by a short commentary in the score which the
composer insisted was read out before the performance of each piece.
For example No.4 ‘Pota da Piedade’ has ‘With its kisses,
the sea embroidered everything, There are here and there small and gentle
grottos with crystals/With a childish appearance of children’s
gift.’ I guess these words loose a little in the translation -
but we get the idea. Some of these ‘pictures’ are very beautiful
and drift towards a subdued impressionism. A contemporary reviewer suggested
that the suite had a ‘well-worked out structure, large and vibrant
inspiration, unique intuition for the descriptive genre, which requires,
as we know, unusual sounds in its composition.’ The various movements
‘describe’ a majestic castle, impressive scenery, historical
character, a ‘cubist’ village, gardens and waves. But do
not take these allusions too seriously - just enjoy the music.
The second suite ‘Ilha do Paraíso’ (Island of Paradise)
was composed relatively late in 1966. It was written in the beautiful
town of Funchal during the year when he was Artistic Director of the
Academy of Music and Fine Arts on the island of Madeira. The composer,
writing for a newspaper after the first performance, suggested that
they ‘could not be insensitive to the beauty of this magical island-
I had to express myself in music - beautiful, evanescent and seductive
music, which awakens in the hearts of men a world of dream … it
is pure music, erudite, serious in romantic idiom, but with lucid expression.’
This suite is in six movements and is infused with both the landscape
and the traditions of Madeira.
I guess the next place to explore is the two Sonatinas. These are more
‘modern’ in their style than the two suites leaning towards
neo-classicism: the musical language is terse and concentrated. They
are both full of interest and are not dry or ‘academic’.
Francis Poulenc is possibly the referential marker to compare this music
to. The first Sonatina in A major was composed in 1938 and is conceived
in three movements. I found the ‘andante’ surprisingly reflective
for a ‘little sonata’. The last movement is an acerbic ‘moto
The second Sonatina in C major was composed in 1950. The liner notes
are correct in stating that de Lima has effectively squared the circle
- he has ‘integrated the seemingly irreconcilable elements of
classically-inspired form, romantic poetic lyricism, cosmopolitan modernism
and dialogue with national folklore’ (folksong). Certainly, the
second Sonatina has a confidence that transcends the limited scale of
The four Sonatas, define the composer’s achievement. The first
was completed in 1933 and the last some twenty years later in 1954.
Sonata in C sharp minor was written in Lisbon. It
is clear that the composer was using the classical sonata form as the
basis of his essay. De Lima even repeats the exposition in the first
movement - which is a truly classical device. The ‘andante’
is a ‘long lyrical song’ of some considerable beauty. The
last movement is a ‘pot-boiler’ - here there are nods to
American ragtime and jazz. It is a superb conclusion. It is the romantic
piano style of Chopin that dominates this music rather than Beethoven.
Two years later, de Lima penned the Sonata No.2 in E minor. It is by
far the longest piano work that he wrote. He dedicated it to his wife.
De Lima has moved away from a rigorous classicism and utilises as more
‘sectional’ structure on the opening ‘allegro appassionato’.
The second ‘subject’ is pure operatic fantasy. The Scherzo
is regarded as ‘an amusement’ albeit a complicated and virtuosic
one. The slow movement seems to have Beethoven as its model: this ‘andante
cantabile’ is a quiet, restrained exploration of a variety of
textures and pianistic devices. It is often brittle, but ultimately,
warmly lyrical. The final rondo, an allegro impetuoso brings this striking
sonata to a powerful and largely romantic close.
Sonata in A minor (1948 rev. 1963) is more like a
sonatina in its short, concentrated format. Certainly, the composer
has adapted a more ‘modernist’ style than his previous two
exercises in the genre. This is not serial music, nor in any way ‘avant
garde’. The general impression of the opening ‘allegro risoluto’
is of ‘aggressive music. Gregorian chant appears as one of the
elements of this music which reminded me of Debussy. The second movement
is quite dry in its effect -with a balance between chromatic and metrical
explorations. The final movement is in complete contrast. This is pure
virtuosic music written in a ‘bitingly modern style’ yet
never too far from the more romantic exemplars such Liszt.
Eurico Tomás de Lima’s 4th
Sonata in F Major
can be regarded as the ‘culmination of a musical voyage of discovery.’
The liner notes suggest that this Sonata has the same integration of
disparate elements that are found in the 2nd sonatina -but applied on
a much more impressive scale. Beethovian formal procedures, ‘romantic
poetics’ and an edgy modernism, the use of folk song materials
and a Lisztian virtuosity are keynotes in this work. The work was composed
in 1954 and was the first work that the composer recorded for the National
Radio in 1956.
Included on these CDs are ‘Program Notes’ which are given
in Portuguese (Disc 1) and English (Disc 2) It is essential listening
to anyone interested in de Lima’s music. The sound quality of
these two CDs is excellent. The liner notes are comprehensive, if a
little crabbed in their translation from Portuguese. A brief biography
of the pianist Miguel Campinho is available on his webpage
I enjoyed virtually every bar of this 2-CD set of Eurico Tomás
de Lima’s piano music. Miguel Campinho is a most persuasive advocate
for these works. As I mentioned earlier, it is hard to imagine how I
can have overlooked this composer. I guess that is because he has not
been extensively recorded before - at least out with Portugal. Furthermore
it is hardly likely that de Lima will feature in many piano recitals
in the United Kingdom.
If I was to describe this music in a short sentence it would be ‘Poulenc
meets Chopin with introductions from Beethoven’ however, that
would be doing all four composers a grave injustice. Yet it gives the
innocent ear an idea of what to expect.