Evora, Portugal
Saturday May 5th, 2007
Evora, Portugal
Fundação Eugénio de Almeida
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Évora is a municipality in Portugal. It is the seat of the Évora District and capital of the Alentejo region. Due to its well-preserved old town centre, still partially enclosed by medieval walls, and a large number of monuments dating from various historical periods, including a Roman Temple, Évora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also a member of the Most Ancient European Towns Network.

José Vianna da Motta was born on São Tomé Island, a Portuguese territory at the time where his father, also a great amateur musician, had opened a pharmacy. Moving with his family to Continental Portugal, he settled in Colares, near Sintra, where he soon showed his unusual skills in music, and in playing and composing works for the piano.

In Berlin he had lessons from Xaver Scharwenka and Philipp Scharwenka before studying with Franz Liszt at Weimar in 1885 and with Hans von Bülow two years later. In the following years he undertook many concert tours all round the world. Although he was renowned for his virtuosity he was also dedicated to the music of J. S. Bach and Beethoven – playing all of the latter’s 32 piano sonatas in a series of concerts in Lisbon in 1927. He also included lesser known composers in his recitals, playing, for example, works by Charles-Valentin Alkan at the Wigmore Hall in London in 1903. He also made a number of transcriptions of Alkan’s pedalier pieces into two hand versions.

Vianna da Motta was also close to his fellow virtuoso Ferruccio Busoni, and wrote the programme notes for Busoni’s major series of piano concerto concerts in Berlin.

Vianna da Motta was also a composer in his own right, including orchestral works (one of them a symphony) as well as piano pieces. On 25 October 1906, Motta recorded ten piano rolls for Welte-Mignon including three of his own compositions. He was Director of the Lisbon Conservatory from 1919 to 1938. Amongst his pupils there was the pianist Sequeira Costa.

He died in Lisbon in 1948, aged 80.