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Heitor VILLA LOBOS (1887-1959)
Trio for violin, cello and piano No. 2 (1915) [31:28]
Trio for violin, cello and piano No. 3 (no date given) [37:33]
Richard Milone, violin
Miriam Braga, piano
Tânia Lisboa, cello
No recording dates or locations given. DDD
MERIDIAN CDE 84475 [69:01]

That Villa-Lobos has often been touted as the greatest Brazilian composer gets further support in these superb performances of some of the most engaging music that I have heard in months. Clearly influenced by French impressionist models, these two piano trios which, although I could find the date for only one, seem to come from about the same period. They are full of ideas and provide for a most ethereally atmospheric and evocative listening experience.
(We are grateful for information from Don Petter that the third dates from 1918)

At over thirty minutes each, these are substantial works, but unlike other extremely prolific composers (Alan Hovhaness comes to mind), there is no shortage of ideas here. The listener is drawn in from the very first bars with captivating melodies, a fresh and interesting harmonic language, and above all, a discernable structure that although perfectly logical, is never boringly predictable.

Of particular merit is the stunningly gorgeous Berceuse-Barcarolla from the second trio. This music is so wonderfully serene that one can, from oneís own listening space, conjure up dozens of images and blissful scenarios. I cannot recall ever being so immediately captivated by a piece of music and being so thoroughly held to attention.

As for the performances, they are almost above reproach. Spot-on intonation, a perfect sense of line and forward motion, superb ensemble musicianship and a oneness of ideas as to this musicís meaning, all come together to make some of the most satisfying playing to grace my speakers in some time. But, you may ask, why then did I say "almost" above reproach? Alas, these players have succumbed to the same pandemic that seems to have infected so many similar ensembles. That is, the constant sniffing and snorting in some effort to make us believe that wind is required to produce a sound on a violin. Hmmm, have I harped on this issue before? Indeed I have and shall continue to do so until I have accomplished my mission to eradicate tubercular string playing.

Sound quality is quite fine, but here the praise must end. Meridian have let go of a release that is so artistically superb, that they should be fined for the pathetic production values. The mistakes and sins of omission are practically innumerable and completely inexcusable, to wit: the total timing listed on the box is 58:28, when indeed it is 69:01; no keys, opus numbers or any other cataloguing information is given; no individual movement timings are listed; a date of composition for the opening work is carefully hidden in the program notes, but there is no mention whatever of the date for the second work; there are no locations or dates given for the recording sessions; and the program notes, written by one of the performers, read like they were written by an undergraduate. It is quite beyond me. A public that is expected to pay full retail deserves and should get better.

I should stress again, however, that this is a release that is absolutely worth owning, as this is music that anyone would enjoy, performed with a sincerity and integrity that is of the first order. Since this is the third volume in a series, let us hope that the production department at Meridian gets a make-over soon, and that this was an aberration.

Kevin Sutton


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