1 800 222 6872

Villa-Lobos: Symphony No. 3 'War'; Symphony No. 4 'Victory' / Isaac Karabtchevsky

Album Summary

>Villa-Lobos, Heitor : Symphony no 3, for orchestra & brass, "A Guerra", A. 152
>Villa-Lobos, Heitor : Symphony no 4, for orchestra & brass, "A Vitoria", A. 153
Conductor Ensembles Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Villa-Lobos' War and Victory Symphonies were commissioned by the Brazilian government following the end of the country's involvement in World War I. Using very large orchestral forces, and conveying the composer's feelings about the conflict with no sense of triumphalism, the two Symphonies display a confident use of unusual and evocative effects, such as the collage of fragments of the Brazilian national anthem and La Marseillaise in the 'Battle' movement of the Third Symphony. Villa-Lobos's Symphonies Nos. 6 and 7 can be found on Naxos 8.573043 in "superb... full-blooded" performances. (ClassicalCDReview.com)

The Guardian, 28th February 2013
As Isaac Karabtchevsky's full-blooded performances show, the two works that do exist are full of striking things. The programme of the Third, with movement titles like Life and Labour or Intrigues and Suffering, may seem as prescriptive as any socialist-realist work by Shostakovich, but Villa-Lobos's response is anything but prescribed.

Gramophone Magazine, May 2013
These new performances present both symphonies in the best possible light, the playing the most refined these works have had on disc. Karabtchevsky knows his Villa-Lobos and clarifies some of the thickly scored textures...Karabtchevsky leads the way.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Sala Sao Paulo, Brazil (02/05/2012-03/05/2012).


Compelling Villa-Lobos from Sao Paulo
By the time Villa-Lobos came to write his 3rd and 4th Symphonies in 1919, he already had under his belt two great works for large orchestra: Amazonas and Uirapuru, from the breakthrough year of 1917. As well, he had written a significant body of chamber music composed according to classical and romantic models. This was the period where he was finding his own voice as a composer, and that voice comes out to a large degree in both the 3rd Symphony, subtitled A Guerra, The War, and the 4th, A Vitória, The Victory.

The Naxos Symphonies series with Karabtchevsky conducting OSESP is winning me over to this music even more than the complete CPO series from Stuttgart under Carl St. Clair from a decade ago. This is sophisticated symphonic music, written perhaps under the influence of Russian composers such as Borodin, Rimsky Korsakov and especially Tchaikovsky. Villa-Lobos knew this music inside out from his days as an orchestral musician - he played the cello with the symphony and in the opera pit.

In the end Villa's Symphonies don't measure up to the nine written by the Swede Kurt Atterberg, who was born in the same year as Villa-Lobos. But it's quite interesting to compare Atterberg's 3rd, 4th and 5th Symphonies with Villa's 3rd and 4th. All were written during and just after the First World War, and though I can't imagine either knew the music of the other, there are similar themes and sometimes a common sound-world. It makes the disappearance of Villa's 5th Symphony even more vexing.

When Villa-Lobos himself conducted and recorded his orchestral music with the French National Radio Orchestra in Paris in the 1950s, he chose the 4th Symphony to go with the complete Bachianas Brasileiras and a selection from the Choros series. But he never sold that piece to the orchestra or the phonographic audience, or if he did you can't tell from the thin sound. Karabtchevsky and his Brazilian orchestra sell both of these symphonies, and I look forward to listening to them again. And I definitely look forward to the release of future discs in this series.

Submitted on 06/03/13 by Dean Frey 
Debussy meets Brazil
Two compelling, relatively early works from Brazil's greatest composer. Completed in 1919, they were intended as part of a trilogy (War - Victory - Peace), but the last of these was either lost or unfinished. Villa Lobos was 32, yet in many ways still at the beginning of his long career. In 1917, he met Darius Milhaud and through him came to know the music of Claude Debussy. This had a profound effect on Villa Lobos's work, especially these two symphonies. Since Debussy died in March 1918, it is tempting to see these two scores as an homage to the great French master.

When this music was written Villa Lobos's style was not yet fully formed. His monumental series of Bachianas Brasileiras, which skillfully combine classical forms with the blazing colors and insistent rhythms of Brazilian folk music, were still 11 years in the future. Here, in addition to barely digested chunks of Debussy, there are also echoes of Stravinsky, Beethoven, Verdi, and Schubert. The writing is often nervous and episodic, with chattering woodwinds and brazen outbursts from the brass. Fortunately there's plenty of local color provided by the flute, a variety of exotic percussion instruments, and the xylophone.

The composer's melodic gift is unmistakable, but like many young composers he bombards us with so many ideas and fragments that it's impossible to keep them all straight--especially given that there's so little repetition or development. The writing is freely rhapsodic, more symphonic poem than symphony. Despite that, the music holds together quite well and effectively conveys the conflicting moods and emotions of War and Victory.

Both works are in four movements and employ some elements of traditional symphonic form. Thus the Third Symphony's second movement, a conspiratorial scherzo (subtitled "Intrigues and Rumors"), is followed by a funereal slow movement ("Suffering"). The latter is the emotional core of the work: aching, deeply sorrowful music. It is nearly as long as the other three movements combined. The finale is a graphic and often harrowing depiction of battle, though the constant bombardment by the bass drum soon becomes tiresome. Symphony 4 is the most remarkable of the pair. There is little, if any triumph in this Victory symphony, except perhaps in the final few seconds. Instead we are confronted with many conflicting emotions from relief to anxiety and fear to hope for a more peaceful future. This victory did not come easily, and the cost was horrifically high.

The Sao Paulo Symphony's playing is utterly fearless, and the brass deserve special recognition. Isaac Karabtchevsky is for the most part an effective leader, though he could bring more excitement to the battle scene and more passion to the slow music. The sound is muffled and distant, as if the microphones were covered in gauze. An old RCA Victrola LP that I pulled off the shelf at random sounded vastly more open and transparent. I'm not a mindless devotee of vinyl, but those old recording engineers (particularly RCA's Jack Pfeiffer) could teach today's producers a thing or two. Fabio Zanon's booklet essay is exemplary.
Submitted on 10/05/13 by Tom Godell 
Login or Create an Account to write a review

Also Purchased

Works Details

>Villa-Lobos, Heitor : Symphony no 3, for orchestra & brass, "A Guerra", A. 152
  • Conductor: Isaac Karabtchevsky
  • Ensemble: Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra
  • Notes: Sala Sao Paulo, Brazil (02/05/2012-03/05/2012)
  • Running Time: 31 min. 12 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1919

>Villa-Lobos, Heitor : Symphony no 4, for orchestra & brass, "A Vitória", A. 153
  • Conductor: Isaac Karabtchevsky
  • Notes: Sala Sao Paulo, Brazil (02/05/2012-03/05/2012)
  • Running Time: 31 min. 9 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 1919