Villa-Lobos: Symphony No. 6/ 7 (São Paulo Symphony Orchestra; Isaac Karabtchevsky) (Naxos: 8573043)
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São Paulo Symphony Orchestra - Isaac Karabtchevsky, direction
'Superior music… not a tune to be whistled. Villa-Lobos's description of a symphony's ingredients certainly matches these two colourful works.' **** --Daniel Jaffé, BBC Music Magazine - Dec.'12
Karabtchevsky makes Villa-Lobos s zigzagging, lopsided melodic line sound as boldly and brashly sculpted as Mount Rushmore, which, given that Villa-Lobos generated his melodic line by putting tracing paper over an image of the mountains around Rio de Janeiro, is exactly right... this does bode well for Naxos s projected complete Villa-Lobos symphony cycle. --Philip Clark, Gramophone January 2013
Top Customer Reviews
His symphonies were composed, effectively, in two batches: The first five around World War One and just after, then the second batch from the end of World War Two to 1957.Read more ›
This is a great introduction to Villa-Lobos' symphonies. Both come from his later period - 1944 and 1945 and are easy and pleasant to listen to. No. 7 is a little more complex and may take more work. They both contrast the formal with the lyrical and atmospheric. They also demonstrate the huge range of textures and moods he can bring to his music.
The recording is superb and this is exactly the repertoire at which Karabtchewsky excels (as anyone who has his readings of the Bachianas or Forest of the Amazon will know). What came as a relief is that the recording engineers have not crashed the gig by intruding as they did for Neschling's Choros recordings. If they have here, they were not intrusive. This is how you'd hear the work on the concert stage - well-balanced with the occasional dense texture kept well under control.
There are two other recordings of the 6th: the Carl St. Clair/Stuttgart and Roberto Duarte/ Slovak Radio. Carl St Clair has also recorded the 7th. There is not much to choose between them. Carl St Clair is known for bringing great clarity to Villa-Lobos' polyphonic textures. He brings light and air through the sometimes dense passages and paces the scores well.
Duarte is a little heavier but his disc comes with the only recording of the ballet Ruda. Karabtchewsky is a brilliant Villa-Lobos interpreter particularly at contrasting the many moods. He takes a more languid approach with slow movements and that of the 6th is so very atmospheric, warm, almost scented, drifting its way through. The Sao Paolo Symphony Orchestra is fully able to handle these works. And of course, the price of this disc makes it a firm recommendation.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.