About this Recording
8.573402 - COSTA, L.: Piano Trio / CARNEYRO, C.: Piano Trio / AZEVEDO, S.: Hukvaldy Trio (Portuguese Piano Trios, Vol. 1) (Trio Pangea)

Portuguese Piano Trios • 1
Luiz Costa (1879–1960) • Claúdio Carneyro (1895–1963) • Sérgio Azevedo (b. 1968)


During the 19th and the 20th centuries, Portuguese composers excelled in two particular areas of instrumental music: symphonic music (as composed by João Domingos Bomtempo, Vianna da Motta, Luiz de Freitas Branco, Joly Braga Santos and Fernando Lopes-Graça), and chamber music for piano. Indeed, the Portuguese legacy of pianistic repertoire is as rich and diverse as that of any other European nation. In addition to this blossoming of piano composition, the 20th century saw the creation of some superbly original Portuguese chamber music which was greatly influenced by various modern aesthetic trends. This recording is the first volume in a planned series of Portuguese Piano Trios, spanning from the Romantic period until the present day.

Pianist and composer Luiz Costa (1879–1960) trained in Portugal under Bernardo Valentim Moreira de Sá and later in Germany, from 1905 to 1907, under Viana da Mota, Ferruccio Busoni, Bernhard Stavenhagen and Conrad Ansorge. After returning to his native Porto, he made a name for himself playing the great Classical sonatas of Beethoven and Schubert and also performed chamber music alongside musicians including Pablo Casals, Alfred Cortot and Guilhermina Suggia. Luiz Costa was also a teacher, and one time director of Portoʼs Conservatory of Music, where his aesthetic principles and diligent work ethic had a profound effect on generations of students. A highly cultured man, he was close to Portuguese artists of his time such as the poets Corrêa de Oliveira and Teixeira de Pascoaes, as well as the sculptor Teixeira Lopes. As President of the Orpheon Portuense, he introduced to Portugal some of the greatest musical names of the twentieth century, including Maurice Ravel. In fact, it is the influence of the Impressionist movement pioneered by French composers that is most prevalent in Luiz Costaʼs music. However, his chamber music oeuvre matured into neo-classicism, as can be seen in his Trio Op. 15, composed in 1937. Undoubtedly enriched by his 1934 visit to Vienna to celebrate the centenary of Brahmsʼs birth, the work is formally structured in four movements, and was premièred on the 10th of January 1938 at the Palácio de Cristal (Porto) by Helena Moreira de Sá (piano) with Madalena Moreira de Sá (cello) and Leonor Alves de Sousa (violin).

The Allegro con fuoco opens with an incisive theme—noticeable for its similarity to the music of Robert Schumann—played by the violin and cello before being picked up by the piano. The second theme by contrast is warm and melodic, and anchored by rippling arpeggios in the piano. The Adagio is serene and timeless, with the muted strings adding to the meditative feel before the movement closes in low tessitura. The Scherzo, in Classical form, presents a lively theme on the piano which is punctuated by the pizzicato strings and by playful alternations of binary and ternary rhythms. The Allegro assai is centred around two contrasting themes: a mysterious gypsy melody on the piano intertwined with a carefree grazioso in the strings. The incisive first theme returns, and the work culminates with an Iberian-flavoured con larghezza.

Born into a family of artists, and son of the painter António Carneyro, Claúdio Carneyro (1895–1963) was a composer of great sensitivity. After his violin and composition studies at the Porto Conservatory of Music, he continued his training in Paris, studying under Charles Widor and later Paul Dukas. His Prélude, Choral and Fugue for strings was performed in 1923 by the Concerts Colonne under the direction of Gabriel Pierné. In 1927, with a grant from the Portuguese government, he travelled to the United States where he came into contact with Charles Munch, Aaron Copland and Darius Milhaud. He was appointed Professor of Composition at the Porto Conservatory between 1930 and 1958, and elevated to Principal in 1955. Deeply attached to his hometown of Porto, Claúdio Carneyro wrote remarkable compositions and his extensive choral work reflects his preference for polyphony and his profound knowledge of the music of J.S. Bach. He also composed instrumental music, through which he expressed a particular taste and curiosity for diverse types of musical writings: tonal, modal, chromatic, atonal and even dodecaphonic, as can be heard in his work Khroma for viola and orchestra. At the same time, he was influenced by French music from the 1920s and 1930s, which led him to develop his own musical language tinged with mysticism, sometimes with harmonically harsh colours, whilst remaining intimately linked to the rugged and misty landscape of his home town. Claúdio Carneyro was also greatly influenced by the melodies and rhythms of traditional Portuguese music.

The Trio Op. 24 is a reflection of the myriad influences on his work. Composed in 1928, the trio comprises three movements, which vary greatly in terms of musical style. Introdução is a short, highly chromatic and expressionist preamble centring around the piano, with the violin introducing a cadential motif. The listener is then plunged into a fugal Allegro vivo, inspired by folk music, which forms the main subject of this long movement. The first movement concludes with an elegiac theme supported by a delicate harmonic framework which bears more than a passing resemblance to the early naturalistic works of Albert Roussel. The second movement, Interlúdio Romanesco, is more intimate and focusses on a nostalgic expression of solitude performed by the violin. Finally, Variações sobre Syrinx is a surprisingly brief movement in which Carneyro recalls the Ovidian myth of Pan and Syrinx (in which a nymph is transformed into water reeds) using almost exclusively the whole-tone scale. Like reflections in a mirror, the various motifs are played simultaneously by all three players, in different tempi, creating a three-dimensional musical soundscape which is at once modern and archaic.

Sérgio Azevedo (b.1968) is one of Portugalʼs leading composers. A disciple of both Fernando Lopes-Graça and Constança Capdeville, he is the author of vast works, which, for the most part, reflect on the concepts of time and memory. Each of his compositions is deeply imaginative, and is a fascinating study on the past interacting with the present but in a way free from the post-modern irony so present in the pastiche compositions of many modern works. Hukvaldy Trio was written for the Pangea Trio, and stems in part from a prior-composed work by Azevedo, the piano quartet V mhlách… 1912. The piano quartet is itself based upon three cycles of short piano fragments composed in 1912 by Leoš Janáček entitled V mhlách, and uses Janáčekʼs fragments as a starting point which becomes increasingly distant and diffused as the piece progresses. Hukvaldy Trio then uses as its basis fragments and musical moods from Azevedo’s quartet. Despite the tenuous nature of the link to Janáček’s original fragments, the work is permeated with Moravian folk music. A musical matrioska game, each tonal layer hides the previous one and gives the music an unique aesthetic ambiguity.

English notes compiled from material supplied by Bruno Belthoise and Sérgio Azevedo

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