Born: April 22, 1868; Saõ Thomé, Portuguese West Africa
Died: June 1, 1948; Lisbon, Portugal
Portuguese composer and pianist José Vianna da Motta was, along with Scotsman Frederic Lamond, the last student to enter Franz Liszt's piano master class in its final season of 1885-1886. His studies began at Lisbon Conservatory, but he transferred to Berlin and studied with Xaver and Philipp Scharwenka. After that came Vianna da Motta's course with Liszt, and when Liszt died during the Bayreuth Festival in the summer of 1886, Vianna da MottaRead more studied one more year with Liszt's favorite pupil, Hans von Bülow. In 1887, Vianna da Motta embarked on an international touring schedule that kept him quite busy until the outbreak of World War I, bringing him to the United States in 1892 and again in 1899.
During his years as a touring virtuoso, Vianna da Motta was based in Berlin and enjoyed a close friendship with Ferruccio Busoni. They played several duo-piano concerts together and cooperated in editing works of Liszt and Johann Sebastian Bach for publication. When former Liszt student Bernhard Stavenhagen died in 1914, Vianna da Motta took his place at the Geneva Conservatory in Switzerland, a position he held until the end of World War I. In 1919, Vianna da Motta accepted the position of head of the Lisbon Conservatory, which he held onto until his retirement in 1938. Managing to survive the Second World War, Vianna da Motta became the last surviving Liszt student when Frederic Lamond passed away in Scotland on February 21, 1948, but only enjoyed this distinction for four months, as Vianna da Motta died that same year on June 1.
Vianna da Motta made many piano rolls for the Welte and Philipps Duca imprints, but only made phonograph records for Pathé in 1928, and these are a mixed bag indeed. However, in 1936 he was captured in a live radio broadcast of Liszt's Totentanz that, despite its poor sound, is one of the most important recordings made by a Liszt student. Vianna da Motta's compositions were long unavailable for study and have only begun to emerge since about the year 2000. Nevertheless, Vianna da Motta also served the cause of music significantly in other ways; he discovered the manuscript of Louis Moreau Gottschalk's symphony A Night in the Tropics and published it in a four-hand piano version in the last year of his life. This was a touchstone for the full-scale revival of Gottschalk's music, which would not bloom until two decades hence. Read less
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