The Portuguese pianist José Vianna da Motta dedicated himself to composition for about thirty-five years. Between 1885 and 1890, period during which he lived in Germany, he became particularly interested in the repertoire of chamber music, choir and orchestra. He composed among others, the Abertura Dona Inês de Castro for orchestra, several Lieder (Drei Lieder, op. 3; Fünf Lieder, op. 5; Vier Gedichte, op. 8), four-hand piano works (Erinnerungen, op. 7; Ein Dorffest), the Quarteto em Mi bemol maior and the Trio em Si menor. It was also during this period that he composed his only two works for piano and orchestra: the Concerto para Piano e Orquestra em lá maior composed between May 23, 1886 and August 14, 1887 as indicated on the front cover of his manuscript and the Fantasia Dramática composed between January 25 and September 30, 1890 according to his diaries. These works were recorded for the first time in 1999 by the Portuguese pianist Artur Pizarro (pupil of José Carlos Sequeira Costa, who was himself a pupil of José Vianna da Motta) and by the Gulbenkian Orchestra under the direction of the British conductor Martyn Brabbins for Hyperion Records.
Vianna da Motta’s letters and diaries reveal that the originality of his Concerto para Piano e Orquestra em lá maior was one of his concerns, probably because of the remarks of his piano teacher Carl Schaeffer, the dedicatee of the work, that mention the concerto was "very beautiful and original" and "no such thing [has] yet appear[ed]" (translations from Portuguese). In a letter written in Frankfurt am Main on May 26, 1887 during Hans von Bülow's piano interpretation masterclass and addressed to Margarethe Lemke, Vianna da Motta affirms that after all he was not the first one to compose a concerto movement in the variation form. He had just learned in the music publisher Steyl & Thomas’s shop the second movement of Felix Draeseke’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in E flat major, op. 36 composed about a year earlier. In addition, on the diary entry of September 26, 1888, Vianna da Motta reveals astonishment when finding in the Overture of Beethoven's König Stephan, op. 117 a theme similar to the second theme of his concerto’s first movement (b. 82+, 89+, etc.). Vianna da Motta refers to the theme announced in the flutes and clarinets in bars 117 to 124:
Still on the same entry of his diary, Vianna da Motta draws attention to another resemblance, between the second theme of his concerto’s first movement and the Allegro ma non tanto section of the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor, op. 125. In fact, this resemblance is due to a motif that appears only twice at the beginning of this section, first in the violins and violas, then in the violins, violas, flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, cellos and double basses:
(first appearance of the motif)
Contrary to Carl Schaeffer’s oppinion, Hans von Bülow seems not to have appreciated Vianna da Motta's concerto. On January 30, 1890, after Vianna da Motta showed it to him, Bülow said: "It has the flavor of a house of mad people" (translated from Portuguese). On the day after, Vianna da Motta wrote in his diary a passage where he reveals his state of mind as a result of his encounter with Bülow and justifies the use of dissonances:
"Yesterday, my concerto seemed so disgusting to me that I wanted to burn it. Today, I had the courage to look at him objectively and I had to admit that Bülow was too violent. The concerto has harshness, dissonant conduction of voices but either they are easy to change or they are sanctioned by great minds (for example, in Liszt's Harmonies du soir, we find the horrible sustained D note together with the A flat major chord) or they are attenuated through the diversity of the orchestra and the sound of the piano. Therefore, it is not yet to throw it into the fire! It can’t be as bad as in Bülow’s opinion, he who, with Brahms, became too intolerant to dissonances" (translated from Portuguese).
Take notice to Vianna da Motta's reference to a "horrible" dissonance in Franz Liszt’s Transcendental Étude, S. 139: "Harmonies du soir". It is unclear whether it is mentioning a "sustained D note together with the A flat major chord" in this study or it is referring to his own concerto since this stricto sensu configuration does not exist in Liszt’s piece. However, we find it transposed to an augmented fourth at the second beat of measure 8: an A♭ note sustained and the E double-flat major chord (which corresponds to the enharmonic chord of D major). It is possible that Vianna da Motta was referring to a passage of his own concerto since in bar 147 of the first movement there’s a "sustained D note together with the A flat major chord". He would thus justify his "horrible" dissonance by comparing it to that of a "great mind".
João Costa Ferreira
 José Vianna da Motta, Diários (1883-1893), coord. Christine Wassermann Beirão, trad. Elvira Archer and transc. José Manuel Beirão, Lisbon, Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal: Centro de Estudos de Sociologia e Estética Musical, 2015, p. 694, 742.
 Idem, p. 346.
 Idem, p. 409.
 Idem, p. 562.
 Idem, p. 696.
 Idem, p. 697.