Luiz Costa (1879-1960) enjoyed a long and multi-faceted career in his native Portugal as pianist, prolific composer, teacher, and concert organizer. His resumé included youthful studies with Ferruccio Busoni and Liszt pupil José Vianna da Motta, collaborations with Alfred Cortot, Pablo Casals, and Georges Enescu, as well as having given the first performance in Portugal of Tchaikovsky’s First piano concerto. Costa composed his twelve Poemas do Monte (Poems from the Mountain) Op. 3 between 1916 and 1931, revising four of them in the mid-1930s for publication. Pianist Artur Pereira first recorded the four published pieces on his second CD release, coupled with Beethoven’s Appassionata sonata. Now that all of Costa’s Op. 3 pieces are available, Pereira has recorded them all from scratch.
It’s hard to pinpoint Costa’s style, although his Op. 3 cycle certainly evokes images of mountain landscapes. You get the sultry harmonies and full-bodied textures of Granados and Albéniz, but without their volatile intricacy. Costa’s melodic ideas suggest Grieg, every now and then; indeed, A beira da fonte’s gushing tremolos and chordal climaxes sound like Grieg being rewritten by Granados. Oddly, the ambling lyrical quality of pieces like Névoa no vale or Ecos dos vales foreshadow Mompou.
Perhaps one should absorb a few pieces at a time instead of twelve in one sitting. However, Artur Pereira’s big, singing tone, his tasteful rubato, and his inherent affinity for Costa’s style makes you want to “keep on listening”, if I may quote David Hurwitz’s famous signature tag line! The sonics could be more robust and less metallic in loudest moments, but that’s a tiny issue. If you collect attractive, off-the-beaten track Romantic piano repertoire, you’ll definitely want this delightful release.