Luiz de Moura Castro, pianist

Who or what inspired you to make a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

I had studied the rudiments of music with my aunt for a couple of years, but she had to take me to her teacher, Guilherme Fontainha, when I was just six as she had no more to teach me. Fontainha was the best piano teacher in Rio de Janeiro at the time, having studied with a student of Liszt in Portugal, Vianna da Motta. I was mesmerized by his sound and freedom of expression. During my early tutelage with him I was also inspired by the colours of Wilhelm Backhaus, whom I heard play all 32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas and the 5 Concerti in less than a month. No greater master of Beethoven playing was alive at the time. The concert halls were filled to capacity. I also was entranced with the colours of several opera singers. My mother had studied voice and my aunt and uncle took me from the age of 9 to the opera series in the Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro, my father being too busy as a doctor. Again the colours of Tebaldi, and Gigli were entrancing. Callas also performed, but at that stage of her career she was not so appreciated as Tebaldi. Having won a competition for a debut aged 8 I had access to the backstage of the concert halls and was invited to meet several great artists. At one party following Gigli’s performance he was asked to sing, but his pianist had not shown up. I offered to accompany him in three opera arias that he suggested as this music was always in my ears. It was an incredibly sweet voice, and a wonderful occasion for me.

Much later I was influenced by Lili Kraus who invited me to teach at her university, Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, She was on the jury of a big national competition in Bahia, Brazil, where one of my students won the first prize by unanimity. She had studied as I had in Budapest with Joseph Gat, who helped her a great deal to relax and use muscles wisely. She was always asking for my advice in this regard after his death, and also needed an accompanist to help with her concerto performances in addition to help selecting better fingerings.

After settling in Fort Worth, Texas, I began a concert career in Europe, mainly Spain and Portugal at the time. In Spain the composer Carles Guinovart and his pianist wife, Maria Jesus Crespo were good friends with whom I collaborated as artist teacher in several summer courses in Girona as well as at the Barcelona Conservatory. I collaborated with our common friend, the producer of Ensayo records, Antonio Armet to amke several CDs of Brazilian, Argentinian, Cuban music. In Portugal I had the chance to become very close friends with the greatest Portuguese pianist, Helena de Sa e Costa, with whom I shared teaching experiences in many courses throughout Portugal as well as private classes during the year in Porto.

After connecting with a music critic Michel Fletchner in Fribourg, Switzerland, we embarked on a recording project over several years for Euterpe records that included first performances of Brazilian music, recordings of Liszt for solo and duo piano and the Opus Omnia of Alberto Ginastera.

What performances/recordings are you most proud of?

The most exhilarating performances were at La Scala, Milan and at the Fazioli concert hall in Sacile, Italy, where the piano was impeccably tuned and maintained besides being absolutely wonderful. I am really happy with the recordings of the 5 Beethoven Concerti with Eduardo Chibas conducting the Orchesta de Venezuela. Also the Liszt Concerto and Momo Precoce and Prado Sonata dedicated to me that were recorded in Switzerland and the Rachmaninov Concerti recorded in Slovenia with Ligia Amadio.

Which particular works do you like best?

The Liszt Sonata and most of Debussy’s piano music

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

Much of my repertoire choices depended on my recording engagements. There were the following stages:

During the main recordings for Ensayo in Spain a concentration of music from Brazil, Argentina and Cuba

During the Euterpe recordings much Liszt music and participation in Liszt festivals. I have been on the board of the American Liszt Society for many years, hosting Liszt Festivals in Brazil and participating in Liszt festivals throughout the US and in China and Slovenia, for example.

During my long collaboration with L’Art records in Rio de Janeiro it was romantic music – Chopin, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Brahms – or Villa Lobos and Brazilian music.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to play in and why?

Italy has been a great source of inspiration, whether it be the Amalfi Coast with performances in Ravello, Napoli or of course at La Scala, Milan.

What has been your most memorable concert experience?

Maybe four come to mind especially. The occasion to give a recital at La Scala, home of the opera, to perform in Sacile at the home of the great Fazioli piano factory with Paolo Fazioli in attendance, both in Italy or perhaps in Austria at the birthplace of the great Bosendorfer piano factory. Or again in the Musashino School, Tokyo, all with wonderful instruments.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Very simply, forget yourself entirely as you play. The music is far more important.

What is your most treasured possession?

Besides four wonderful daughters, we have a beautiful Fazioli piano at home in Connecticut. This was an inspiration from my years as board member of the World Piano Pedagogy Conferences where Paolo Fazioli brought his beautiful instruments for many years. That inspired me to give master classes in New York at the home of the Fazioli instruments where I could purchase mine. To be included in the book, the Most Wanted Piano Teachers in the USA. To possess, courtesy of Diane Andersen, a copy of Chopin’s annotations in his score of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier.

Brazilian pianist Luiz de Moura-Castro is a graduate of the National School of Music, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and of the Lorenzo Fernandez Academy of Music, Rio de Janeiro and the Liszt Academy, Budapest. He gave his debut recital at the age of 9 at the Teatro Municipal after winning a competition.

Luiz de Moura-Castro has appeared with the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, Lisbon Radio Orchestra, Filarmonichi di Turino, Bratislav & Janacek orchestras, Yaroslav Symphony, Russia, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Hartford and Syracuse symphonies, besides all the major Brazilian orchestras and Parabobo Orquestra, Venezuela. Solo recitals include Piccolo Scala, Milano Teatro Ghione, Roma Salle Gaveau, Paris; Palau de la Musica, Barcelona; Rubinstein Hall, St. Petersburg Academy; Merkin Hall, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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