The Strad Issue: January 2011
Description: Persuasive performances of early 20th-century music from Brazil
Musicians: Damocles Trio
Composer: Villa-Lobos, Fernández

Posterity may well value Villa-Lobos’s instrumental and chamber music as his most important contribution to the 20th- century repertoire. Though he was to build a reputation as a distinctly South American orchestral composer, he spent his younger years, during which the three piano trios were written, in thrall to French Impressionist ideals.

Trio no.1 still shows traces of Dvo?rák in the lively opening Allegro and bubbling scherzo, but no.2, which came four years later, proffers that wash of sound and a shimmering second movement that are typically French. Another three years elapse before no.3, whose exotic harmonies now move towards the end of Impressionism.   
It is music that requires a sensuality of sound and interpretive imagination, attributes that the players of the American-based Damocles Trio produce with a deep understanding of the composer’s needs. The demanding piano part thrives on the outgoing virtuosity of Adam Kent, though the group’s thoughtful preparation overall interweaves the various strands with real clarity.

Lorenzo Fernândez (1897–1948), a composer ten years younger than Villa-Lobos, more openly uses Brazilian influences in his trio. Often playfully happy, and with a scherzo that is almost light music, it receives a highly enjoyable performance. The sound engineering is outstanding, and the release can be highly recommended.