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Villa-Lobos: Symphonies 3 & 4 (War And Victory) (Isaac Karabtchevsky, Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.573151)

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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  • Villa-Lobos: Symphonies 3 & 4 (War And Victory) (Isaac Karabtchevsky, Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.573151)
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  • Villa-Lobos: Symphony No. 6/ 7 (São Paulo Symphony Orchestra; Isaac Karabtchevsky) (Naxos: 8573043)
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Product details

  • Conductor: Isaac Karabtchevsky
  • Composer: Heitor Villa-Lobos
  • Audio CD (25 Feb. 2013)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B00B28D5TC
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 196,921 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Symphony No. 3 War - Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra
  2. Symphony No. 4 Victory - Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra

Product Description

Product Description

Symphonies n°3 "War" et n°4 "Victory" / São Paulo Symphony Orchestra - Isaac Karabtchevsky, direction


'A simply outstanding recording of two magnificent and scandalously neglected music...the music is important , and the performances are superb, as is the recording quality. A truly significant issue.' --Musical Opinion, November/December 2013

'Isaac Karabtchevsky and the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra clearly relish every note of this music and these discs are landmarks in the recorded history of Brazil s best-known composer.' --International Record Review, June 2013

Customer Reviews

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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Who would have thought few years ago that we would have multiple recordings of Villa-Lobos' symphonies to compare but here we are with a series that looks like being the best yet. The Carl St.Clair series on CPO was the one to beat and there was little to choose between his and Karabtchevsky's 6th and 7th with St Clair incisive and Kabatchevsky more expansive. These two earlier symphonies very much benefit from Karabtchevsky's expansiveness that sacrifices nothing of the works rhythmic and harmonic vitality.

These early "war" symphonies owe much to Debussy's modal harmonies without ever sounding like Debussy. Both symphonies have some of the feel of the russian nationalists: the colour of Rimsky Korsakov and the modal harmonies of Mussorgsky. the Scherzo of the third even has a hint of Vaughan Williams about it.

The overt passion and colour here is at odds with the muted European responses to World War I; think also of Nielsen's great Fifth, for example or Vaughan Williams' Pastoral. Few would paint their colours so plainly to the mast as Villa Lobos does - he's cheering on France all the way! The French anthem is repeated several times across both symphonies. This is war drama played out from a safe distance: not particularly subtle or profound but fine music all the same; wonderfully orchestrated, structurally sound, harmonically and thematically memorable.

Even so these quite broad readings provide some genuinely moving passages with the slow lament in the Third Symphony particularly impressive. The opening two movements don't descend to melodrama either with the war references not swamping the musical argument. The finale, admittedly, does throw in the kitchen sink, but then, according to the movement subtitles this is where the battle begins.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Straight to the point, the performances and recording are excellent. Without a doubt Karabtchewsky has a flair for this music and his team score well on everything.

At this price, I recommend the disc without hesitation.

These symphonies were composed early in VL's career (both in 1919): the sleeve notes suggest that he was still finding his feet - true inasmuch as a composer develops a mature style over a period of time rather than has it at the outset. Even so, they are full of the trademarks of the mature composer, polyrhythm, dense polyphony, performance difficulties and his way with moments of evocative calm . With his later symphonies he concerned himself more with form more than sound effects but here is his through-composed Braziliana with echoes of distant forests, sometimes not so distant, alongside (brief) quotes from the French and Brazilian national anthems in Symphony 3.

Though I wouldn't describe them as the best introduction to Villa-Lobos, they are easy going, No.3 easier than No.4 (which is comparatively shorter). The opening movement of No.3 seeming almost pastoral. The slow movement is delicate, hardly war-like but the other movements are pretty energetic. No.4 seems to ramble somewhat particularly in the first movement. It's in this work that he makes full use of the huge orchestra he demands. It is nonetheless perfectly listenable and worth a couple of auditions to acclimatise. The recording manages to balance the many lines of the texture credibly well. It must be an absolute headache for the engineers.

The only other recordings with which I'm familiar are the St. Clair. Of the No.4, Villa-Lobos himself conducted a performance that I'm told is fairly clumsy, and Diaz with the Simon Bolivar which I have yet to hear.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Excellent performances of these works. Some lush music here from Villa-Lobos and well worth the money. If you like Villa-Lobos then you'll like this disc.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8b44d078) out of 5 stars 4 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8c87f4f8) out of 5 stars Compelling Villa-Lobos from Sao Paulo 3 Jun. 2013
By Dean Frey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
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 Brazililan 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.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b5355ac) out of 5 stars Compelling Pair 9 April 2013
By Digital Chips - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This is the second installment of Villa-Lobos symphonic cycle by Karabtchevsky and the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra. The two symphonies on this release are the surviving parts of a triptych commissioned by the Brazilian government to celebrate the end of the First World War. Symphony No. 3 "War," and Symphony No. 4 "Victory" are on this release. Symphony No. 5 "Peace" is lost.

Completed in 1919, these symphonies play against expectations. First, the works have very little of the folk elements Villa-Lobos scores are known for. Second, although commemorating victory, the symphonies avoid bombastic and heroic gestures. And the results are two compelling and attractive works that deserve a wide audience.

Symphony No. 3 "War" has some bugle calls and an excerpt from La Marseillaise. The latter references the French battlefields where Brazilian troop fought and died. But beyond these elements there's nothing overly militaristic about the work. Instead, Villa-Lobos has written a very somber and understated symphony that captures the mood of a nation that discovered there's nothing glorious about war in the trenches. The programmatic names of the four movements frame the story the music effectively conveys; Life and Labour, Intrigues and Rumors, Suffering, and The Battle.

Symphony No. 4 "Victory" is a big, expansive work that isn't as dark as the third symphony. But this isn't a celebration as much as a reflection on the cost of victory. Villa-Lobos uses the resources of his enlarged orchestra effectively, creating broad thematic gestures that slowly unfold. Symphony No. 4 is more elegiac than triumphant.

The Sao Palo Symphony Orchestra is well-recorded, and under Isaac Karabtchevsky's direction delivers sympathetic and committed performances. I look forward to the next installment of this cycle.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b1d278c) out of 5 stars incredibly well performed and recorded 13 April 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The other reviewer here has given an excellent, detailed description of what these two fine symphonies are like. I would only add that - at times - Villa-Lobos reminds me of a few other composers who were roughly contemporaneous: R. Vaughan Williams, Arnold Bax and Respighi. Yet, Villa-Lobos fully remains his own man.

There's just tons of 'ear candy' in these two symphonies without also sounding gimmicky in any way. Villa-Lobos was an outstanding orchestrator, and rarely ever gets mentioned as being so. Until now, I've pretty much known just his set of Bachianas Brasileiras; the orchestral Choros, and a few of his better known concertos. The symphonies appear to be a whole different 'bag', and certainly deserve to be more deeply explored. For ANY fans of modern orchestral music, I would strongly urge you to check out these two symphonies - particularly when the performances and sound quality are as excellent as they are on this particular disc. The playing of the Sao Paulo Symphony is both muscular and refined. In my opinion, this orchestra is as good as most any in North America or Europe.

In a blind, 'drop-the-needle' test, no way would I have guessed this recording to be a Naxos, as the sound quality is absolutely of 'audiophile' quality. Highest possible recommendation.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b29918c) out of 5 stars Brazil meets Debussy 6 Oct. 2013
By Tom Godell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
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.
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