Trios Brasileiros

Damocles Trio

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Trios Brasileiros Review

by Mike D. Brownell

From the wealth of literature that Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos produced, his set of three piano trios are among the least frequently performed and recorded. Even the liner notes of this Claves album admit that these youthful works represent a young composer still searching for his true identity. Listeners familiar with Villa-Lobos will have a difficult time finding his trademark folk influence and highly individual panache in these three trios that sound like they came from a second-rate European composer. With a score that searches for an identity, the difficulty for performers likewise increases. The Damocles Trio, heard here, struggles somewhat with these oddities. While there is no shortage of passion, excitement, or earnest attempt to draw the listeners in, there are some issues that detract from the performers' zeal. Overall sound quality is a bit blurred, masking some of the music's rhythmic interest in what occasionally comes across as an indistinct wash of sound. The young trio's technical skills are good, but not great. Intonation between the violin and cello isn't as precise as it could be; this is made especially obvious by Villa-Lobos' extensive use of octaves between the two instruments. The two-disc set also includes Trio Brasileiro by Villa-Lobos' contemporary, Lorenzo Fernândez. Compared to the previous three trios, Fernândez offers listeners more of what they would expect from a set of Brazilian piano trios. There is much greater interest here rhythmically, harmonically, and melodically. The superior score also finds the Damocles Trio settling in much more comfortably both technically and musically.

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