Beethoven Piano Sonatas Vol. 8 – Sequeira Costa – CB5578


Sequeira Costa was one of the last students of José Vianna da Motta, a student of Franz Liszt!

“I recommend Costa’s performances of the first two sonatas for their admirable, cultured piano playing”


**The Complete ‘Beethoven 250’ Piano Sonata CD Box set is now available! See CB6046**

Piano Sonatas, Vol. 8

The dawn of the year 1804, a year which saw the increasing patronage of the Archduke Rudolf, who had begun to study piano with Beethoven, also saw the first glimmer of ideas which were to result in the Symphony No. 5 and many of the later piano sonatas. It is Thayer who connects OP. 78 and Op. 79 with the later to be mentioned Les Adieux of Op.81a but comments that they are closely connected in time. According to a note by Archduke Rudolf, Op. 78 must have been completed in October, 1808 and would have coincided with the French occupation of Vienna. Also according to Thayer, the events of the year 1808 produced striking developments in Beethoven`s relationships to his patrons. In the autumn of 1808, he resided in an apartment in the Krugerstrasse in Vienna where the Countess Erdödy also lived and he enjoyed a great deal of time there as her guest. A short time later, in the year 1809, Beethoven agreed to an annuity contract with his patrons Rudolf, Prince Lobkowitz and Prince Kinsky in which the Countess and the Baron Gleichenstein were to act as intermediaries. Thereafter, with the financial burdens lifted from his shoulders, there ensued a steady stream of major works, among them the Emperor Concerto.

There is some supposition, mostly coming from Thayer, that Beethoven may have spent the summer of 1809 in Hungary, probably at the invitation of the Brunsviks. Thayer writes: “`He was often in Hungary` said Czerny, and there is no good reason to doubt that he went thither now to pass several weeks with the Brunsviks. It was already a practice to grant manuscript copies of his new works for the collection of Archduke Rudolf, whose catalogue, therefore, is of the highest authority in determining these dates.” In any case, it is important to recall the supposed romantic relationship between Beethoven and the Countess Brunsvik`s younger daughter, Josephine, which most probably led to Beethoven penning his 1812 letter to the “Immortal Beloved”. The prevalent theory proposes that this “Immortal Beloved” was probably the daughter Josephine.

Beethoven wrote his letter to the “Immortal Beloved” in Teplitz on July 6th and 7th, 1812. It was found by Anton Schindler after Beethoven`s death and willed to Schindler`s sister who donated it to the Berlin State Library in 1880 where it belongs to their permanent collection.

It is the depth of feeling in this message, the seeming resignation and depressive inclinations that make it so significant in deciphering Beethoven`s emotional condition during this period. At the close of the letter one finds, perhaps, the most telling of passages which combine hope and despair in one but clearly indicate that here is a man who was obsessed by loneliness – a loneliness which had grown intolerable by the intrusion of deafness. Beethoven wrote: “At my age, I would now need some conformity regularity in my life – can this exist in our relationship? – Angel, I just learned that the post goes every day – and I must therefore conclude so that you get the l[etter] straightway – be patient, only through quiet contemplation of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together – be calm – love me – today – yesterday. – What yearning with tears for you – you – you – my life – my everything – farewell – oh continue to love me – never misjudge the most faithful heart of your Beloved.”[1]

If we apply these sentiments to the emotional content of these sonatas (and of other works of this period) we see the profile of a man who has resigned to finding his way through his music and his inner world and sees no further hope, especially in reaching outward. Significant is that, after penning these letters in October, 1812, Beethoven is not known to have written again. Was it a case of requited love or the simple acknowledgement that he would have no chance at happiness and that his handicap would certainly have added to his advanced age for his time (he was 42 when the letter was written) and that such a May-September romance would have been impossible at his time.

These developments may also be the reason why the trips to Hungary abruptly came to an end although his friendship with the Countess Therese von Brunsvik was to continue and resulted in his dedication of the Sonata, Op. 78, to her.

The sonata Op. 101 was composed years later, in 1816, and is the drum roll announcing the start of Beethoven`s final period. Here the composer, by now completely deaf, revels in complex ideas, casting traditions of harmony and form to the winds and producing a new music the likes of which had not been seen before. The earliest known sketches for Op. 101 come from the year 1815 and it was completed in the town of Baden, south of Vienna, in 1816. The nature of the work is intimate, a circumstance not foreign to a man whose sound world had been stolen by deafness and who could only communicate with friends using gestures and his ever-present notebooks.

In general, the works on this volume of the complete sonatas present us with a picture of Beethoven in transition, of a Beethoven who was adapting to both his isolation as well as to the ensuing depression and to rejection on a personal level while enjoying unbridled success as a composer and creative genius recognized as such by his peers, press and public alike. © 2016 Kevin Wood.

In a career spanning five decades, Sequeira Costa has developed his own musical interpretation from an understanding of the German and French schools, acquired through studies with his teacher, Vianna da Motta (one of the last pupils of Liszt and Hans von Bulow), Mark Hamburg, Edwin Fischer, Marguerite Long and Jacques Fevrier. He has performed at the greatest halls around the world, including the Salle Gaveau and Salle Pleyel in Paris, the Great Hall of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, Tokyo’s Suntori Hall,

St. Petersburg’s Philharmonic Hall, the Vienna Musikverein, New York’s Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and the major London halls. He recently completed performances of the entire cycle of Beethoven Sonatas at Gulbenkian Hall in Lisbon, Portugal.

Review: I – Fanfare Magazine (Jan/Feb 2014)

Sequeira Costa, a Portuguese pianist born in Angola in 1928, was one of the last students of José Vianna da Motta, a student of Liszt. He later worked in Europe with Mark Hambourg, Marguerite Long, Jacques Fevrier, and Edwin Fischer, a group of individualistic pianists from varied traditions whose influence might suggest that Costa would play in a more subjective, less modern style than he does here. In Beethoven’s first three sonatas, he comes across as a scrupulous, refined player, a bit self-effacing, and carefully attuned to the classical style. After an early European career, Costa taught at the University of Kansas for many decades, and has made quite a few recordings of music ranging from encores to major concertos. I learned about him not from this bare bones Claudio release, which has no booklet, but online. (The photo on the CD cover shows him as a young man).

These recordings are reissues of a complete Beethoven sonata cycle from 1999 that I haven’t heard. Claudio’s sound is clean and not overly reverberant, suited to Costa’s very precise approach. His playing is admirably true to the letter of the scores, and often to their spirit, with little or no imposition of personal mannerisms or exaggeration, no “point making” in choices of tempos, voicings, articulations, etc. This is not to say that the playing is bland or mechanical—it isn’t. The music, in most cases, is brought to life with buoyant rhythm, elegantly rounded phrasing, and sensitive characterization—but Costa’s interpretations favor the music’s balance and well-manneredness, as opposed to its more arch or arrogant aspects. Costa’s thorough observation of the scores’ details is notable.

The First Sonata’s controlled Sturm und Drang is particularly well communicated. Sonata No. 2 receives a Mozartian reading, controlled, charming, and carefully articulated. Both performances are notable for their rhythmic control.

In Sonata No. 3, a work of larger dimensions than the first two sonatas, Costa’s steadiness starts to feel metronomic. This is Beethoven’s most Clementi-like sonata, bold and humorous, with much repetitive passagework. (Beethoven’s next sonata, op. 7, one of the greatest of the 32, represents a huge increase in mastery). Costa reins in the first movement’s mock grandiosity, inhibiting the music’s need to transcend the feeling of four beats to the bar, and he doesn’t create striking enough contrasts between passages that mimic solo and tutti concerto elements. The fourth movement also calls for more playfulness than Costa supplies, his approach being too bound by the beats. It’s by no means a bad performance, just a bit tame.

I recommend Costa’s performances of the first two sonatas for their admirable, cultured piano playing. Paul Orgel.