Paris in the 1920s was a veritable hotbed of musical activity and, perhaps more than any other city at the time, served as a melting pot of musical ideas for the European continent. In his 2008 album Soirées Internationales, cellist Antonio Meneses captures that musical scene in a program featuring works by Brazillian Villa-Lobos, Brazillian "Mozart" Camargo Guarnieri, famed French pedagogue Nadia Boulanger, and Czech Bohuslav Martinu. Although the pieces on the program were written in close proximity to one another, the contrasts between them are striking; the well-written liner notes are extremely informative and convey the Parisian atmosphere and its impact on each of these composers. As for the playing, the album opens on a rather weak note: transcriptions from Bachianas Brasileiras Two and Five; the Aria from Five in particular loses almost all of its impact when taken away from its original scoring for soprano and eight cellos. The center of the program definitely contains the meat and most interesting repertoire: the rhythmically dynamic Guarnieri Sonata No. 1, the mournful and tragic Three Pieces of Boulanger, and the too-often neglected Third Sonata of Martinu. Meneses' playing throughout is solid; intonation is clean, tone is clear and projecting, vibrato is pleasingly controlled, and interplay between the cello and pianist Celina Szrvinsk is fluid and dynamic. What seems to be sometimes lacking is sufficient passion and zeal on the part of Meneses; there are times in the soaring melodies of Martinu's first movement or the frenetic rhythm in the third of Boulanger's Three Pieces that listeners will miss the fact that Meneses doesn't really dig in as much as he could and let a little horse hair fly.
AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5, for voice & 8 cellos, A. 389|
|Bachianas Brasileiras No. 2, for orchestra, A. 247|
|Sonata for cello & piano No. 1|
|Pieces (3) for cello & piano|
|Sonata for cello & piano No. 3, H. 340|