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Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Five preludes for guitar, W419 [26:21]
Guitar concerto, W502 [20:31]
Melodia Sentimental, W555 (arr. Chmielarz) [3:47]
Krzysztof Meisinger (guitar)
Andrew Haveron (violin) (Melodia)
Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields/José Maria Florencio
rec. November 2011, Abbey Road Studio 1, London
FUGA LIBERA FUG599 [50:39]

Guitarist Krzysztof Meisinger, making his first appearance on an international record label, chooses the music of Villa-Lobos. It’s a surprisingly apt choice, since the Polish Meisinger is fascinated by South American music: he has played in a band modeled after Ástor Piazzolla’s. He has also participated in master-classes with Piazzolla’s favored guitarist, Pablo Ziegler. Meisinger’s way with the five Villa-Lobos Preludes is like nobody else’s.

Specifically, Meisinger allows the slower preludes (Nos. 1, 3) to develop at their own pace, slowing down to gently capture the full potential of the “Lyric Melody,” or to expand the “Homage to Bach” into a sarabande of great poignancy. There’s no stinting on the faster stuff - it’s hard to imagine a more evocative portrait of the “hustler” - but, for instance, compare Meisinger’s timing in the Bach homage with Norbert Kraft’s on Naxos: Kraft takes 3:06, Meisinger 7:31. The difference to the ear is substantial; Kraft's performance holds together much better, a consistent and structurally sound product, while Meisinger’s, more liable to muse, fuss around with phrases, and generally put its nose into the roses, might be favored by those who want something more meditative or “evocative.” It's strange, but in a way that's interesting rather than perverse.
 
The Guitar Concerto gets a more conventional reading, but no less distinguished. Meisinger’s joined by the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, who sound like they’re bunched around the microphones but thankfully the score itself is very clear and their contributions all go well-noticed. Here there’s again competition from Norbert Kraft among others, although maybe it’s me but I find it hard to really fault any recording of such a charming, un-muck-up-able piece. The Melodia sentimental is a gorgeous encore destined for radio airtime and maybe a role in a film.
 
This is to be welcomed, then, if you can get past two hurdles: the short playing time (50 minutes) and Meisinger’s eccentricity. As far as I’m concerned, both are okay, especially with performances distinctive enough that Villa-Lobos fans will love to hear them and assess the music anew.
 
Brian Reinhart