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Piano Concerto No 2 in E flat minor, Op 31
circa 1886; dedicated to King Luís I of Portugal; first full performance given by Evaristo de Campos Coelho on 12 February 1941 in Lisbon, the Orquestra Filarmónia de Lisboae conducted by Ivo Cruz

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Oswald & Napoleão dos Santos: Piano Concertos
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Movement 1: Andantino maestoso
Movement 2: Scherzo: Allegro vivace – Più lento – Tempo I
Movement 3: Allegro – Più vivo

Piano Concerto No 2 in E flat minor, Op 31
Napoleão’s Piano Concerto No 2 in E flat minor, Op 31, is undated but was probably composed around 1886. It is dedicated to the Portuguese King Luís I, whose reign ended in 1889, the same year as that of Dom Pedro II in Brazil. Although Napoleão performed the concerto in a solo piano version, the first performance with orchestra had to wait until 12 February 1941. This was given by Evaristo de Campos Coelho (1903–1988) and the Orquestra Filarmónica de Lisboa, conducted by Ivo Cruz, at the Teatro da Trindade in Lisbon. Evaristo de Campos Coelho played the work numerous times, and performed it for Portuguese radio. Dinorah Leitão (who was Ivo Cruz’s daughter in law, and also a student of Campos Coelho) then played it, and Artur Pizarro was only the third pianist to champion this work.

The unusual first movement opens with a mysterious and sombre string statement, while the virtuoso piano part owes much to Chopin’s E minor Piano Concerto in its idiomatic approach. The short ternary-form second movement in B major is a sparkling Scherzo in the vein of Mendelssohn or Saint-Saëns. The contrasting trio section is in the style of a Barcarolle, including a romantic duo for the pianist and French horn. The third movement’s rousing beginning takes us into the world of an Offenbach operetta, and gives the pianist plenty of scope for brilliant display. The second theme’s ‘music box’ charm gracefully dances in canonic play. Following the recapitulation Napoleão recalls themes from the first two movements, including the Barcarolle-like idea. This final masterstroke brings a sense of nostalgia evoked by the Portuguese word saudade—a longing for something lost in time—before the coda signs off with can-can-style exuberance.

from notes by Nancy Lee Harper © 2014

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