Helena Sá e Costa
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The pianist, concert performer and teacher, Helena Moreira de Sá e Costa, was born in Porto on 26 May 1913 and died 9 January 2006 at the age of 92. She was the granddaughter of Bernardo Valentim Moreira de Sá (founder of the Porto Music Conservatory) and daughter of the pianist Leonilda Moreira de Sá e Costa and the pianist and composer Luís Costa. She completed her course at Lisbon National Piano Conservatory with a maximum mark of 20 out of 20, having been taught by her parents and Viana da Mota. She also studied with Alfred Cortot and Edwin Fischer, with whom she performed in 40 concerts in Europe’s major cities, playing JS Bach’s piano concerto nos. 2, 3 and 4.
Her concert performances took her many times to Spain, France, England, Germany, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Hungary, Italy, America, Canada, Brazil, Angola and Mozambique. She worked with all the Portuguese orchestra conductors and others of high renown, such as the maestros Ernest Ansermet, Igor Markevitch, Paul Klecki, Swarowky, etc.
Among the artists she worked with in concert performances were Pierre Fournier, Maurice Gendron, Sándor Végh, Arthur Grumiaux, János Starker, L. Hoelscher, Ruggiero Ricci, Stich-Randall, Rita Gorr, and Zara Nelsova.
With her sister, cellist Madalena Costa, she formed a duo that achieved notable fame. Also with her sister and the violinist Henri Mouton, she formed the “Trio Portugália”, which delighted Portugal with a huge repertoire of music.
She taught in the Lisbon and Porto conservatories, and gained international recognition as an outstanding teacher, leading to invitations to oversee courses in Cascais, Espinho, Estoril, Salzburg (Austria), Gunsbach (Albert Schweitzer Centre, in Alsace, France), Switzerland, Italy, England, Germany, Canada and America.
Her former pupils are among the top teachers at practically all the Portuguese Conservatories as well as in Brazil, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and Austria.
Most of Portugal’s current pianists were taught by her. She was regularly sought by pianists for lessons from countries such as Japan, America, Canada, Brazil and Spain, among others.
She was among the virtuoso performers at famous festivals, such as at Strasbourg, Wiesbaden, Haarlem, Prades, Gulbenkian, Majorca, Costa del Sol, Sintra, Espinho, Costa Verde, etc. Her prestige led to invitations to join judging panels at international contests such as those at Berlin, Berna, Vianna da Motta, Palma de Mallorca, Canada, Maria Callas (Athens), Luís Costa (Porto) and the Portuguese Covilhã, Musical Youth and João Arroyo contests, among others.
Highlights of her wide-ranging discography include the complete recording of the 1st book of JS Bach’s “Well Tempered Clavier”; and also Beethoven’s “Concerto no. 4” and the “JS Bach Live Recording” (Porto 2001).
At the Music School of the Porto Polytechnic Institute she was Chair of the Installation Commission and Chair of the Scientific Council.
She was awarded the Moreira de Sá prize (1939); the Beethoven prize instituted by Vianna da Motta (1937); The Commendation of the Order of Santiago de Espada (1982); the Grand Officer of the Military Order of Santiago da Espada, in 2001; the medal of Merit of the City of Porto (1983); attributed by the Secretary of State for Culture (1989); and the Almada Prize (2000).