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Benjamin LEES (1924-2010)
Fantasia [5:52]
Manuel PONCE (1882-1948)
Tema Mexicano Variado [4:55]
Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990)
Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo [21:38]
Alberto GINASTERA (1916-1983)
Danzas Argentinas [8:13]
Sonata No.1 Op.22 [15:19]
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Impressoes Seresteiras from the Ciclo brasileiro [6:54]
Esequiel Meza (piano)
rec. live, 1997, St John’s Smith Square, London
CLAUDIO CC5363-2 [62:53]

This live recording of a 1997 recital from St John’s Smith Square has been a long time reaching the public. Better late than never because all the music is dispatched with great skill by American pianist Esequiel Meza. Meza, over two decades on from this London recital, seems to lead a busy life as an academic as well as a player but I confess I have not seen his name in the CD catalogues before.

It will come as no surprise that the best music by some margin is the Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo by Copland. I assume this is the composer’s own piano version, the notes do not even mention the proper title let alone the provenance of the score. The notes are rather generalised and one looks in vain for details about any of these works. This is a matter of some regret since the music of Ginastera, Ponce and Lees in particular do not get much public attention and even Heitor Villa-Lobos is less played than he deserves. This Spanish-American music is all lyrical, lively and rhythmic but too short to get one’s teeth into and one ends up wondering which piece one is listening to.

My reservations about most of the music is no reflection on the playing. Indeed I cannot imagine anyone making a much better job of Villa-Lobos and Ginastera’s short pieces. For all their brevity, they demand and get, considerable virtuosity.

The issue is aided by another excellent recording from Claudio Records but one which, unusually, has been balanced too far right for the piano to give a firm central image. I am sure this must have happened at the CD production stage because Colin Attwell does not make less than excellent master recordings. Modern audio equipment without balance controls has no solutions to offer. The presence of the audience is not noticeable until the applause at the end.

Dave Billinge

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