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Soirées Internationales
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Bachianas Brasileiras No.5 – Aria (cantilena) (1941) - arranged William Primrose [6:04]
Bachianas Brasileiras No.2 – O Canto do capadócio (1930) [7:07]
Bachianas Brasileiras No.2 – O Canto da Nossa Terra (1930)  [5:26]
Bachianas Brasileiras No.2 – O Trenzinho do Capira (1930) [4:10]
O Canto do Cisne Negro (1948) [3:01]
Mozart Camargo GUARNIERI (1907-1993)
Sonata No.1 for cello and piano (1931) [17:40]
Nadia BOULENGER (1887-1979)
Trois pièces pour violoncelle et piano [7:18]
Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
Sonata No.3 for cello and piano H340 (1952) [19:09]
Antonio Menses (cello)
Celina Szrvinsk (piano)
rec. Pootton Hall, Suffolk, March 2008  
AVIE AV2162 [70:38]
Experience Classicsonline


The theme is Paris. The actors on the musical stage are Villa-Lobos and Martinů who both arrived in the city in 1923, Mozart Camargo Guarnieri who arrived in 1939 – just as Martinů was leaving – and Nadia Boulanger, the sole resident. The sub-theme is music either for - or arranged for - cello and piano. The intermediaries, the intercessionary characters, are cellist Antonio Menses and pianist Celina Szrvinsk.

The scene is set for Villa-Lobos to start. An evocative arrangement by William Primrose for viola is taken over for cello and the Aria from Bachianas Brasileiras No.5 launches the production. It has expressive warmth and has a powerfully, indeed fierily projected B section with attendant cellistic sniffing. There are three arrangements from Bachianas Brasileiras No.2. I liked the legato strength of O Canto do capadócio, as well as the vampy piano section in the middle, so confidently projected by Szrvinsk. Then too there’s the slinky B section of O Canto da Nossa Terra to beguile the senses and so does – in a different way - the ardent cello song over the piano’s railroad clatter in O Trenzinho do Capira – the skittering, shuddering screeching breaking is certainly satisfactory and not an ounce of shyness here.

Guarnieri’s Cello Sonata was written in 1931, just a year after Villa-Lobos completed Bachianas Brasileiras No.2. It’s rhapsodic possessing the warming hues of late impressionism as well as a strong Latin American rhythmic profile. There’s a brief songful central movement and a dashing, volatile dynamic finale  - extrovert, exciting and demanding focused concentration. Guarnieri avoids facile flirtations with jazz but not with forceful pesante dynamism.

Martinů’s Third Sonata was written post-War in 1952. Once again it receives a reading of valuable tonal breadth and warmth. The ‘Julietta’ theme in the first movement is avidly explored and though there are times when the rubati are stretched things just about keep on track. It’s an extrovert reading without doubt, something reinforced by the very fast Andante. I recently reviewed a recital of all three cello sonatas on Claves and noted the speed of that performance but this one is 5:50 and super-fast. The trick is to relax the tempo here to let the music project more effectively, something the classic Chuchro-Hála team [Supraphon, currently unavailable] did so conspicuously well on their old recording. Fine though the playing is here there’s just a sense of one-dimensionality that limits ultimate pleasure.

No such concerns about the Nadia Boulanger pieces. Most know that she did compose a little, even though Lili is the composing genius of the family. Nadia Boulanger’s three pieces are in order gently reflective, songful and slight, and finally rhythmically eager and vital.

With attractive production values – excellent recording quality and booklet notes – this Parisian journey can be warmly welcomed.

Jonathan Woolf



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