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
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.