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Villa-Lobos: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 7 / Karabtchevsky, Sao Paulo SO

Album Summary

>Villa-Lobos, Heitor : Symphony no 6, for orchestra, "Sobre a linha das montahnas do Brasil", A. 447
>Villa-Lobos, Heitor : Symphony no 7, for orchestra, A. 458
Conductor Ensembles Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Heitor Villa-Lobos is generally acknowledged as Latin America's foremost nationalist composer and his best known works, such as the Bachianas Brasileiras (Naxos 8.557460-62), have tended to overshadow the rest of his work. Symphony No. 6, which launched his mature symphonic style, derives some of its themes from the contours of Brazilian hills and mountains, in a process devised by the composer to obtain a melody from an image by means of a graphic chart. The Symphony No. 7 is scored for a huge orchestra and is one of the composer's most ambitious and significant statements. Both works represent the composer's powerful desire to invent a specifically Brazilian idiom. This is the first volume of a complete cycle of the Villa-Lobos Symphonies. Since its first concert in 1954, the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra - OSESP - has paved a road of conquest, which has culminated today in being an institution recognized worldwide for its excellence. Having released more than 50 CDs, OSESP has become an inseparable part of São Paulo and Brazilian culture, promoting deep cultural and social transformations. Born in Brazil in 1934, Isaac Karabtchevsky studied conducting and composition in Germany under Wolfgang Fortner, Pierre Boulez, and Carl Ueter. Between 1995 and 2001 he was musical director of the La Fenice in Venice, where he directed major opera productions. Since 2004 he has been artistic director of the Petrobras Symphony of Rio de Janeiro.

The Guardian, September 2012
The language of both works is essentially neoclassical, but the shapes of the melodies and the ways in which they are coloured are entirely Villa-Lobos's own. The SPSO make a good job of them.

BBC Music Magazine
'Superior music... not a tune to be whistled.' Villa-Lobos's description of a symphony's ingredients certainly matches these two colorful works.

Gramophone Magazine, January 2013
Karabtchevsky and the orchestra are on home terrain...Karabtchevsky makes Villa-Lobos's zig-zagging, lopsided melodic line sound as boldly and brashly scultped as Mount Rushmore...To continue the mountain-based metaphor, Karabtchevsky's performance has a sense of ascent: you can hear the different strata, feel air blowing through the structure.

MusicWeb International, December 2012
Karabtchevsky keeps this bustling music firmly under control at all times. It's certainly a promising start to this cycle, even if the writing is competent rather than outstanding. No quibbles about the playing or recording though; both are splendid.

The Independent, 10th November 2011
Written for a huge orchestra, his "Symphony No. 7" opens in striking fashion, the Allegro vivace grabbing the narrative and dashing forward with it to its imposing climax.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Sala Sao Paulo, Brazil (02/21/2011-03/05/2011).


No Bach, no folklore, but still Villa-Lobos
The conventional wisdom concerning the 11 symphonies of Villa-Lobos (one, the 5th, is lost) is not positive. Critics either dismiss these works outright or damn them with faint praise. This is in spite of a fairly strong list of recordings, beginning with two versions of early works conducted by the composer, and coming to a climax in a complete series from the Californian conductor Carl St. Clair for cpo. The latter series (recorded earlier in this century) was fairly well received, but didn't help the symphonies to 'break through' even though Villa-Lobos's stock has risen so much in the past twenty years. I must admit that the symphonies don't feature much even in my own (very significant) Villa-Lobos listening.

So, are these works like the Bachianas Brasileiras with Bach or Brazil taken away? Or are they unfairly neglected masterworks from a genius of orchestration? Brazil's top orchestra, OSESP, and a senior Brazilian conductor, Isaac Karabtchevsky, aim to find out in a brand new project to record this music once again. It's an oddity that until now there have been no Villa-Lobos symphonies recorded by Brazilian orchestras, though we have recordings from Stuttgart, Paris, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Bratislava and Tenerife. We'll see if home advantage can tip the scales.

The first disc is very encouraging, with two works written towards the end of the Second World War. Villa-Lobos was at the peak of his powers when he wrote his 6th (1944) and 7th Symphonies (1945). In those two years he wrote the last two of his great Nationalist series, the Bachianas Brasileiras. As well, he explored more abstract music through his composition of the 8th & 9th String Quartets, the String Trio and the Duo for violin & viola.

I'm impressed with the 6th Symphony especially, and like that Villa-Lobos used 'millimetrization' (translating the contours of mountains into melodies) to build his melodies. George Gershwin used the same technique in some of his music. The 6th, with its craggy lines and shifting harmonies, seems a particularly cogent piece of music, considering Villa-Lobos's reputation for shapelessness and his occasional missteps into banality. This deserves to be Villa's most popular symphony. The 7th isn't as well-balanced or light on its feet, and at nearly 40 minutes goes on a bit long for its material. But OSESP and Karabtchevsky provide strong, idiomatic performances that show that even without Bach or Brazilian folklore, this music sounds only like Villa-Lobos. This music will never come close to the Bachianas, the Choros, or the great tone poems, but it's definitely worth a listen.
Submitted on 11/27/12 by Dean Frey 
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Works Details

>Villa-Lobos, Heitor : Symphony no 6, for orchestra, "Sobre a linha das montahnas do Brasil", A. 447
  • Conductor: Isaac Karabtchevsky
  • Ensemble: Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra
  • Notes: Sala Sao Paulo, Brazil (02/21/2011-03/05/2011)
  • Running Time: 7 min. sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 1944

>Villa-Lobos, Heitor : Symphony no 7, for orchestra, A. 458
  • Conductor: Isaac Karabtchevsky
  • Notes: Sala Sao Paulo, Brazil (02/21/2011-03/05/2011)
  • Running Time: 38 min. 33 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1945