This is the latest instalment in a CPO project to record
all the Villa Lobos symphonies. These compositions are well worth our
time and trouble, make no mistake. Although not noted as one of the
great 20th century symphonists, the Brazilian master has the measure
of orchestral writing, nor does he lack imagination.
The Symphony No. 3 of 1919 was the first of
a trilogy of works inspired by the First World War. The direct results
of this source of inspiration can be found in recurring fanfare figures
and an indulgent tell-tale quotation of the Marseillaise. There
is no specific programme however, only this clear indication of the
side Villa-Lobos supported. This is an occasional piece, in the sense
that it makes a direct impact upon the listener, but the nature of the
material may not benefit from repeated hearings. That said, there are
substantial strengths of a musical nature, not least the powerful, strongly
argued slow movement, which reaches a noble climax. The Stuttgart Orchestra
play this with urgent commitment and full tone. The recorded sound is
also at its best in this movement, elsewhere it can be a little lacking
Composers often move towards a more concentrated approach
in the later part of their careers, and so it proves here. The Ninth
Symphony is around a half the length of the Third, coming in at
less than twenty minutes. There is a neo-classical flavour about this
music, though the rich textured harmonies deny any direct sense of pastiche.
It is in the rhythmic vitality and the closely argued symphonic development
of this piece that Villa-Lobos succeeds.
It is a rare composer indeed who avoids the temptation
to revive earlier compositions by reusing the material in a new context.
Contemporary with the Ninth Symphony, the Ouverture de l'Homme
Tel is actually a reworking of material from a surrealist song
cycle of 1929, now purely orchestral. It is less compelling than the
symphonies, but rhythmically it holds a good deal of interest. Here,
as elsewhere, the performance is good without being outstanding.