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At the age of eight Sequeira Costa moved to Lisbon to study with one of Liszt’s last surviving pupils, the Portuguese pianist José Vianna da Motta. After the death of Vianna da Motta in 1948 Costa continued his musical education with Mark Hambourg in London, Jacques Février and Marguerite Long in Paris and Edwin Fischer in Switzerland. Costa was a laureate at the Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud Competition in Paris, and this marked the beginning of his international career. He settled in the United States, becoming professor of piano at the University of Kansas and in 1976 the Cordelia Brown Murphy Distinguished Professor of Piano. In 1956 he founded the Vianna da Motta International Piano Competition and in 1958 was invited by Shostakovich to join the jury of the first International Tchaikovsky Competition.

Costa has performed throughout the world. His debut in New York at Alice Tully Hall was in the 1979–1980 season and he gave a recital at Carnegie Hall in 1981. He has played with many orchestras including the London Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, Sydney Symphony, and Moscow Philharmonic; regularly gives master-classes and sits on the juries of many competitions including the Chopin Competition in Warsaw, the Leeds International Competition and the Rubinstein Competition in Israel.

Costa’s discography is not extensive. A recent disc for Marco Polo contains piano solos by his teacher Vianna da Motta and is one of his most successful discs, whereas two discs issued in the mid-1990s received completely differing opinions. For the defunct label Collins Classics, Costa recorded a disc of Spanish music in arrangements for two pianos with Artur Pizarro. Eminent critic Lionel Salter found it ‘…a delightful disc which looks like going straight into my end-of-the-year “Critics Choice” list.’ Costa recorded Rachmaninov’s works for piano and orchestra in the early 1990s with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Christopher Seaman in performances that were issued on the orchestra’s own label. A reviewer in The Gramophone found the idea of coupling the Concertos Nos 2 and 4 a ‘…refreshing change…but there I’m afraid praise ceases. Both performances here lack this pianist’s once customary impetus and finesse and although Costa’s playing is tasteful and articulate, it is hardly memorable or exciting…the accompanying notes on the pianist seem to make the curious assumption that musical greatness can be measured by the number of competition juries you serve on.’

A more recent release from 1995 includes both Chopin piano concertos with the Royal Philharmonic and Gilbert Varga, but in this repeatedly-recorded repertoire, as with Rachmaninov concertos, unless the performer has something new to say, there are always going to be superior versions available.

Courtesy of Jonathan Summers

Role: Classical Artist 
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