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Jed Distler, December 2001

"Although he's best known as one of Liszt's last pupils, the Portuguese pianist/composer Jose Vianna da Motta's aesthetic owes less to the Liszt/Wagner 'music of the future' axis than to the conservative Germanic sobriety of his mentor Hans von Bulow. Yet the wistful tunes and lilting snap of non-nationalistic pieces such as the D major Sonata and the Op. 16 Ballada suggest love-children reared by a middle-aged Brahms and the young Albeniz. By contrast, the Cenas portuguesas and two Barcarolas make telling compositional and pianistic use of traditional Portuguese dances and popular melodies. It's probably safe to say that Vianna da Motta composed best when he worked with small forms. I'm especially moved by Adeus, minha terra (Farewell, my country), whose lyrical curve is momentarily jarred by murmuring rumbles in the bass register--an oddly memorable effect.

Many years ago I owned some terrific Chopin and Rachmaninov recordings on LP that featured pianist Sequeira Costa. What a joy it is to hear him again! He has a sixth sense for how these pieces ought to go, and his phrasing sparkles with that inexplicable quality I like to call 'inevitable spontaneity', or is it 'spontaneous inevitability'? Indeed, the dapper zest he brings to the yummy Valsa caprichosa far surpasses the composer's own relatively stiff and stodgy piano playing in a 1928 recording. This is charming, unpretentious, well-crafted piano music, with a terrific pianist to match. What more do you want?

Arthur Baker
MusicWeb International, May 2001

"One of Liszt's last pupils, the Portuguese composer and pianist Vianna da Motta (1868-1948) was trained in Berlin and then briefly with Liszt, in Weimar. He established a distinctive national school of piano performance, combining a distinguished international career with activity in Lisbon as the leading musical figure, there, of his generation. Sequeira Costa, the performer on this CD, was a student of the composer and in 1957 established the Vianna da Motta International Competition in Lisbon.

"The opening sonata was written when Vianna da Motta was a student of Liszt, and whilst it is well written, it is very much in the style of Liszt and frankly not very distinctive. The 'Portuguese Scenes' Op. 9 are very different, being three very attractive short works based upon Portuguese folk songs played here with evocative charm and virtuosity; the concluding waltz is very much in the style of Chopin but with Iberian overtones. The Op.16 Ballada of 1905 again has overtones of a Chopin ballade, but develops into a series of complex and sometimes intense variations and eventually leads to a peaceful conclusion - a fascinating work.

"The 'Portuguese Scenes' Op.18, pieces are described as Three impromptus on Popular Tunes and again are most attractive, here played with great affection; they are noticeably musically more advanced than the Op. 9 'Scenes'. The two barcaroles are clearly modelled on those of Chopin but have a distinctive Iberian flavour. The concluding work on the CD is very appropriately 'Farewell my Country', a most poetic and evocative piece.

"This CD represents my first acquaintance with this composer and I must say I found it a revelation. Vianna da Motta, on the evidence of this disc, is more at home with short works than with the larger forms; however each of the short works is very melodic and skilful and all are beautifully played by Sequeira Costa. The style could perhaps best be described as Chopin with an Iberian accentand Lisztian technique. I have not enjoyed listening to a new (to me) composer so much for a long time and I recommend this disc without reservation.

"The recording is excellent and the CD has an attractive cover and useful notes by Keith Anderson."

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