Luiz Costa (1879-1960)

Luiz Costa was one foremost important and interesting composers of modern Portuguese music. Born September 25th, 1879, in São Pedro de Farelães, Quinta da Porta, in the north of Portugal, a factor witch would be a profound and lasting source of inspiration for the composer, Luiz Costa lived most of his life in Oporto, where he died 7th January 1960.

 He began his musical studies early with Bernardo Moreira de Sá, his future father-in-law, a key figure in the world of Portuguese music at that time since he had a primordial role regarding musical education, as well as its divulgation. Founder of numerous musical societies, including the outstanding Orpheon Portuense in 1881, a society created in order to play an important role for national exposure to best Classical Mousic; Moreira de Sá had an equally marked and profound influence on Luiz Costa's life.

 From 1905 to 1907, Luiz Costa pursued his musical studies in Germany with Busoni, Vianna da Motta, Ansorge, Stavenhagen, representatives of the New German School of Piano founded by Franz Liszt.

 Returning to Portugal, Luiz Costa devoted himself, with enthusiasm, in piano teaching, which would occupy most of his time. Outside of his function as professor at the Advanced School Class of Piano, he was also director of two institutions created by his father-in-law, The Oporto Conservatory of Music, founded in 1917, and the Concert Society previously mentioned Orpheon Portuense.

We owe Luiz Costa, as president of Orpheon Portuense, the coming to Portugal of some of the most well known artists in classical music of his time, such Ravel, Arrau, Backhaus, Landowska, Fischer, as well as many others, performed. He himself participated in a number of the society’s concerts either as a soloist or in chamber recitals. As a soloist, he established in Portugal the tradition for thematic concerts by the great masters, including Beethoven Sonatas (nearly thirty recitals), Brahms, Chopin, Liszt and Schubert.

In field of chamber music, Luiz Costa performed alongside musicians such as Pablo Casals, Guilhermina Suggia, Alfred Cortot, George Enesco or Ignaz Friedman, confirming his artistic quality as a great musician. 

Parallel to his work as pianist Luiz Costa established himself as a composer, an interest that he cultivated in his youth but which he did not fully develop until the beginning of the century, and which asserted itself with Drei klavierstüke Op. 1, Fiandeira Op. 2 and Poemas do Monte Op. 3, dedicated to his teacher and friend Vianna da Motta. 

Luiz Costa emerges to us as a composer of his time. More than in the influences of Dukas, Fauré and the new German music, it is in French Impressionism that the composer is best able to recreate the atmosphere of his native Portugal region, Minho (Telas Campesinas Op. 6), with its fields and streams.

Upon reaching his maturity as a composer, profoundly demanding with himself and with his own work, he followed the path of neo-classicism considered by many as lyrical, pastoral and nostalgic (the definition of Portuguese by Miguel de Unamuno). These characteristics are clearly present in such works as Preludes Op. 9, dedicated almost entirely to the poet Corrêa de Oliveira, or in Cenários Op. 13 dedicated to his daughter Helena.

Luiz Costa was an important representative of a new concept of the artist: cultivated and with a superior and highly disciplined educational background, looking for creativity and inspiration in numerous sources. In poetry of Corrêa de Oliveira and Teixeira de Pascoaes, in the sculptures of Teixeira Lopes, he found themes and elements of inspiration for his work.

The majority of his creations reveal a "thematic" musical character, which is represented in this album’s cycles. At the same time, with a respect for the traditions of Bach, Beethoven or Brahms, he cultivates an absolute musical form, as with Preludes Op. 9.

One of the composer’s main preoccupations was to incorporate a national Character in his works. This concern is evident, not only in the choice of titles (titles, for the most part taken from poems, confirming the eclectic source of inspiration), but also in the thematic content and sources used, which sought to symbolise the countryside around Minho.

His rigorous activity did not prevent his family from remaining the focal point of his life. Married to the pianist Leonilda Moreira de Sá e Costa, Luiz Costa was the father of three children; a boy, Luís Moreira de Sá e Costa, and two daughters, Helena and Madalena, also great musicians in their own right as a pianist and violoncellist respectively. As proof of his devotion to his family, Luiz Costa dedicated the majority of his best and most well-known works, such as Variações e Fuga Op. 16, Cenários Op. 13 or Sonata para Violoncelo e Piano Op. 11, to them.

Beyond his numerous piano pieces, Luiz Costa has left three sonatas for flute, violin and alto, melodies based on texts from Portuguese poems for voice and piano, string quartets, a trio, a quintet with piano and a Fantasy for piano and orchestra created in 1954 by his daughter Helena.

He has achieved that which is certainly the most difficult for a composer: creating a distinctive language, an interior world, by offering through his works a synthesis between German musical tradition, the presence of French Impressionism, and a profound feeling of national fervour, in the most positive sense. It is this particularity of language, linked with the unique characteristics of his personality that have assured him a remarkable place in the Portuguese musical panorama.

Bruno Caseirão



This composer has 21 works on AvA:

Orchestra (2)

Chamber Music (3)

Strings (8)

Voice (7)

Piano (7)