Chopin – Balades – Sonata No. 3 – Sequeira Costa – CR5467


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

“Intensely musical performances of works that are so often treated as mere showpieces. It is pleasant to renew acquaintance with this under-rated pianist, whose command of the virtuoso elements in these works is second to none, but whose inherent musicianship reveals aspects that superficial pianists overlook.


**See below for more Sequeira Costa recordings**

The G minor Ballade was originally sketched in 1831, shortly after the 21-year old Polish musician arrived in Paris. On his way he had learned of the fall of Warsaw to the Russians and composed the Revolutionary Study, similar emotions coming to the fore as the radical composer set out to create a new epic, essentially heroic work, which he was to call a Ballade, allowing him freedom to compose as he felt, without having to follow any academic rules relating to established forms. Between 1831 and 1843 he produced and published four Ballades, all independent in spirit, in which manner they show a distant yet recognisable family resemblance, as well as being set down in 6/4 or 6/8 time. The other constant element, a sense of narrative, comes with the title.

The introductory bars of the G minor work are a call to attention, the first theme an answer which becomes increasingly urgent and insistent until it quietens and a chord of only two notes, like an off-stage horn call, leads to the second theme. Rather than the dramatic contrast to the first idea, as found in first movement sonata form, this beautiful melody complements the first, which brought forth criticism from the academics of the establishment. Frederick Niecks declared that; “In almost every work in the larger forms we find him floundering lamentably” later describing the E flat minor Polonaise as: “full of conspiracy and sedition.”

What we respond to in these epic works, even today, is a born composer with a highly developed sense of the form his creations needed to communicate his intentions. For these two initially melodic themes are to be transformed, the first questioning and getting growing responses, dramatic, passionate and then triumphant from the second, with upward sweeps of octaves and a brilliant kind of dance passage. The end is inevitable, with a final foreboding question, letting loose furious scales from one end of the keyboard to the other, two uncanny moments and a torrent of octaves descending to final silence.

The Second Ballade is dedicated to Schumann, who wrote glowingly of the young composer when he first appeared but was understandably puzzled by hearing Chopin play the Ballade in different guises on different occasions, which seems to have been his way. It is simpler than the G minor, opening directly with a lovely melody in a rocking rhythm, which is followed by a violent storm which spends its energies and virtually dies before the first theme returns, this time growing in intensity until again caught up in the storm which reaches a climax in the Coda, the work ending quietly with a final hint of the main theme.

The last two Ballades were written in 1840 and 1842 and published the following years. They belong to the period when Chopin was with George Sand in Paris and her country home in Nohant and she was determined that nothing should come between him and his creative needs, protecting him from all unnecessary worries or distractions. Indeed, there is a mood of contentment in them which makes itself felt in the two opening bars of the A flat major Ballade, which contain the work’s two themes, one ascending phrase the other a two note descending figure which becomes fuller in the minor key until the first theme returns and flowers to end the work in a rich tapestry of sound.

With the Fourth Ballade we have one of the greatest works ever composed for the piano. Learned musicologists have devoted forests of words to analyse exactly what Chopin does in his score. They find elements of virtually every form known to scholars but fail to recognise the inner essence of genius which gives this wonderful music its own shape and allows the two themes their own destiny through their own poetic personalities, the second perfectly created to develop different emotions while the first becomes the heart and soul which brings the work to its breathtaking conclusion.

The last of Chopin’s three Piano Sonatas was composed in Nohant two years after the Fourth Ballade and published in 1845. By this time Chopin was at the height of his creative powers, ideas teaming within him anxious to be given their place on the printed page. The first movement has enough material for a dozen classical sonatas, yet the first theme demands immediate development until the second sneaks in and takes over by sheer beauty which even the return of the first cannot deny, while Chopin’s delight with the colours he can draw from the pianoforte persuade a stream of creativity to grasp the attention.

The Scherzo is a remarkable example of Chopin’s originality, its gossamer opening bars enclosing a wonderfully atmospheric contrasting character and its ending providing the ideal colour to allow the Largo’s first bars to make their dramatic impact, so that the main theme, surely one of Chopin’s most endearing melodies, can lull the listener into a silence to be abruptly broken by the imperious opening of the brilliant, tempestuous and triumphal finale. Notes by Denby Richards ©2005.


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.

At age 22 Sequeira Costa won the Grand Prix Ville de Paris at the Marguerite Long International Piano Competition in Paris. At age 27 he founded the Vianna da Motta International Music Competition in Lisbon, and at age 28 he was invited by Dmitri Shostakovich to sit on the jury of the first Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, to which he returned six times. In the summer of 2005, he will sit on the jury of the first Sviatoslav Richter International Piano Competition in Moscow.

Besides regular appearances as a judge at some of the world’s most prestigious international music competitions, including the Chopin, Leeds, Marguerite Long, Montreal and Rubinstein, Sequeira Costa teaches extensively in master classes worldwide. Since 1976, he has held the position of Cordelia Brown Murphy Distinguished Professor of Piano at the University of Kansas, USA. Several of his students have been first prize winners at major international piano competitions.

Throughout his distinguished career, Sequeira Costa 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.

He has played with such orchestras as the BBC Orchestras, London Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, Moscow Philharmonic, Prague Symphony, Bamberg Symphony, Japan Philharmonic, Tokyo Metropolitan, Sydney Symphony and Czech Philharmonic. Conductors with whom Sequeira Costa has worked include Paul Kletzki, Joseph Keilberth, Tibor Pesek, Maxim Shostakovich, David Zinman, Christopher Seaman, Dmitri Ktaenko, Eduardo Mata, Rudolf Barshai and Walter Hendl, and he has partnered with fellow artists including Itzhak Perlman, Henryk Szeryng, Elmar Oliveira, Igor Oistrach, Pavel Kogan, Simon Goldberg, Maxim Amphiteatroff, Janos Starker, Tibor Varga and Edwin Fischer.

Sequeira Costa’s extensive discography includes the solo piano music of Ravel, Chopin, Schumann, Albeniz, Bach/Busoni, Vianna da Motta, Rachmaninov and a CD on the Camerata label dedicated to a selection of 23 encores, entitled ‘A Musical Snuffbox.’ He has also recorded the complete works for piano and orchestra of Schumann, Rachmaninov and Chopin. Claudio Records have now released Sequeira Costa’s complete cycle of Beethoven’s 32 Sonatas. (CB6046-2)

More releases by Claudio Records of Sequeira Costa:

CB6026-2 Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.1/Rhapsody-Paganini

CB6027-2 Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.2 & 3

CB6028-2 Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.3/Suite No.1 Op.5 Fantaisie Tableaux.

CB5571-2 Beethoven Piano Sonatas Vol.1

CB5572-2 Beethoven Piano Sonatas Vol.2

CB5573-2 Beethoven Piano Sonatas Vol.3

CB5574-2 Beethoven Piano Sonatas Vol.4

CB5575-2 Beethoven Piano Sonatas Vol.5

CB5576-2 Beethoven Piano Sonatas Vol.6

CB5577-2 Beethoven Piano Sonatas Vol.7

CB5578-2 Beethoven Piano Sonatas Vol.8

CB5579-2 Beethoven Piano Sonatas Vol.9

CB5580-2 Beethoven Piano Sonatas Vol.10

CB6046-2 Beethoven 250 Complete 32 Piano Sonatas Vol’s 1-10

CR5467-2 Sequeira plays Chopin/4 Ballades/Sonata No.3