The Strad Issue: January 2009
Musicians: Antonio Meneses (cello) Celina Szrvinsk (piano)
Composer: Villa-Lobos, Guarneri, Nadia Boulanger, Martinu

In this enterprising release, which uses composers working in Paris as a focal point, Latin-American repertoire is persuasively represented by Villa-Lobos, whose penchant for lyrically hued Romanticism comes to the fore in the glorious melody from the famous Aria from the fifth Bachianas brasilieras. A melancholically beautiful swan glides through O canto do cisne negro, while the effects in the vivid performance of ‘The Little Train of the Caipira’ are brilliant, delivered here with appropriate panache. The inspirational pedagogue Nadia Boulanger offers charming if derivative pieces, strongly recalling Fauré’s intoxicating blend of modally side-slipping harmonies, the delicately plaintive melodies accompanied by the upper register of the piano sounding particularly beautiful. In this well-balanced recording both Antonio Meneses and Celina Szrvinsk give idiomatic and convincing performances.

Yet even their intelligent interpretations fail to make a convincing case for Camargo Guarneri’s First Sonata, which strikes me as being somewhat bland. The composer’s lyrical extended tonality is most persuasive in the finale where allegiance to Stravinsky has the upper hand. Although the work lacks little in technical fluency, its musical personality never really surfaces sufficiently to make its mark. Martinuu, in stark contrast, is recognisable from the first few chords of his Third Sonata, with its trademark harmonic progressions and cross rhythms. Again Meneses and Szrvinsk steer the musical argument intelligently and generate much character and excitement in the final Allegro.

Joanne Talbot