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Tomás de Lima

Miguel Campinho, piano

Numerica Multimedia NUM 1249

Eurico Tomás de Lima [L]

This release on ‘Numerica’ chronicles the piano works of one of Portugal’s most important composer-pianists of the last 150 years, Eurico Tomas de Lima (1908-89). The two-disc set, the second volume in the series, presents all Tomas de Lima’s Piano Sonatas, along with two Sonatinas and two suites, and are inspired by and portraying elements of his native land.

It makes for enjoyable listening, with several works notable for their poignant lyricism, glorious colouristic effects and a distinctly nationalistic flavour. The works on offer here span 33 years (1933-66), and it is certainly interesting to trace the evolution and exploration of the various styles which Tomas de Lima assimilates over this period. His earlier works are of a late romantic style - for instance, Sonata No.1 (1933 - listen especially for the second movement, with its heart-wrenchingly beautiful theme and searching harmonic progressions), but only a few years later in Sonatina No.1 in A minor the composer has begun to explore a quasi-neclassical language not too far away from that of Poulenc. Sonata No.3 of the late 1940’s certainly has great bite to it, being immediately more hard-edged than any of the other works here, and less overtly emotional.

Musical language aside, what does evolve and indeed improve with time is Tomas de Lima’s control of structure. Sonata No.1 suffers heavily from much repetition which weakens the first movement. Much of the extended passagework through certain pieces is a little empty. One might argue that such instances can be ‘made good’ through performance, and, being a concert pianist himself, the composer may well have utilised repetitive writing as a means to explore pianistic sonority extempore. Help is needed from the performer if this music is to be truly sold to new listeners.

Compositional weakness is not such an issue with the later works, and the Sonatina are much more convincing in their economy of means and immediacy of expression. The two Suites here are fine sets of Tableaux which successfully portray an essence of Portugal. In the case of Algarve, ‘commentaries’ were written for Tomas de Lima by Fernando de Araujo Lima.

Miguel Campinho is an audibly enthusiastic advocate of his compatriot’s music, but much of his playing lacks the necessary sensitivity to fully realise many of the special qualities inherent in the music. He tends to be rather heavy-handed, at times too direct in his touch when cantabile must surely be needed, and often there are instances when he could let the music dance just a little more, and flow with greater ease. Particularly distracting are some audible pedal changes, especially those done in rapid succession.

Campinho’s liner notes - informative, if a little dry - are in his native Portugese, with a clumsy English translation. A nice touch is that Numerica have recorded the notes, as printed in the sleeve, and those are found by the last track on each disc.

Eurico Tomas de Lima is undoubtedly a composer whose works should be heard, and many of them would be effective in any piano recital. Their vernacular charm and exuberance are blended with influences of Poulenc, Debussy, Rachmaninov and Liszt.

Christopher Guild