£16 post free World-wide

 


555 sonatas 9Cds mp3 files
Only £22


 


Benjamin: Written on Skin £16

Search
What's New
Previous CDs
Concerts
Jazz
Nostalgia
Composers
Resources
Announce
Labels index


Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Some items
to consider


BRAHMS Complete Edition
58CD £95.22


Shostakovich 14 Petrenko


Rachmaninov #3
Prokofiev #2

 


Dunedin Consort

Peter Grimes

Hymn of Jesus: Sea Drift

Complete Mozart Edition
Mozart complete edition

Vaughan Williams Symphonies 5 & 8 £11

Weiner, Klepper, Bloch, Schulhoff £12 post free


Available again

REVIEW



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
CDAccord
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter
 

alternatively
CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS
Sound Samples & Downloads

Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Symphony No.6 On the outline of the mountains of Brazil (1944) [28:49]
Symphony No.7 (1945) [39:28]
São Paulo Symphony Orchestra/Isaac Karabtchevsky
rec. Sala São Paulo, Brazil 21 February – 5 March 2011
NAXOS 8.573043 [68:18]

Experience Classicsonline

 
By pure chance the previous disc I happened to review was of music by Josef Suk. I’m not sure I can think of two composers active at the same time who had quite such contrasting approaches to the mechanics of composition. Suk produced a relatively small catalogue of work with each piece carefully considered and revised. Villa-Lobos was nothing if not profligate producing a vast amount of music of – it has to be – greatly varying quality. Clearly he considered the term ‘symphony’ to still have relevance and act as a vehicle for a composer’s most significant utterances. In 1958 he gave a lecture where he said “[a symphony] is music for the music. Superior, intellectual music, not a tune to be whistled”. This might come as something of a disappointment for those hoping that the Villa-Lobos symphonies will be filled with the colour and appeal of many of the Chôros and Bachianas Brasileiras. His symphonies 1-4 were written before 1920, symphony 5 has been lost whilst Symphony No.6 “On the outline of the mountains of Brazil” recorded here is regarded as the start of mature symphonic style which he composed nearly a quarter of a century after his No.4. The title might imply some kind of programmatic representation of Brazilian topography. Not at all; in fact it is an example of a technique Villa-Lobos developed called “millimeterization”. This was a process he developed to create a melody from an image. Here I quote from the liner; “on a piece of transparent graph paper he would allocate the vertical lines to the pitches and the horizontal lines to the durations; this transparency would be superimposed onto a photograph whose main points would determine the melodic contour. A skilled teacher could then harmonize the often unusual tune thus obtained.” Although primarily a teaching tool Villa-Lobos used it twice in concert works – the symphony under consideration and the piano work New York Skyline of 1939. Apparently the motifs in the symphony were derived from photographs of the Serra dos Órgãos and the hills around Rio de Janeiro. The exact pictures used are unknown but in a nice touch the back and front cover of the booklet reproduce similar images.
 
So how does all of the above theory translate into music? Well in a pretty knotty way really. Both works here are written in conventional four movement format placing the slow movement second. Formally this slow section dominates – looming mountain-like over the other three movements at nearly double their length. According to liner writer Fábio Zanon this is the most often played of the cycle because of its “unusual thematic inspiration and comparative lightness”. Certainly the excellent São Paulo Symphony Orchestra make light work of the awkward melodic and rhythmic lines – I have no idea how common these works are in their concert repertoire but they do not sound at all strained by the demands they make. The orchestra came to international prominence with their recordings of the more overtly nationalistic/folkloristic music of Villa-Lobos (review) and Guarnieri (review review review) on BIS in particular. The good impression made there continues here and the recording produced, engineered and edited by Ulrich Schneider is very good too if lacking the remarkable glamour of the BIS efforts. Conversely, it would be hard to say that there are innately Brazilian fingerprints in the music which gives the ‘home’ players an intuitive edge. Naxos do not have this field to themselves – CPO have already produced a complete cycle of the symphonies from the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Carl St. Clair (review review review review).
 
In the 6th Symphony the São Paulo strings sound more secure and as one and there are striking time differences with St. Clair one minute faster in the opening movement and a huge two and a half minutes quicker in the following Lento. The Naxos recordings are described as being of the “revised scores” but I have no idea if that implies any structural alteration to original versions. I prefer Karabtchevsky’s slow movement certainly – he finds far greater mystery and is helped by a more natural and atmospheric recording together with playing (and time!) that allows a freer, more improvisatory feel. Also, and given my earlier comment that this is not intended as programme music, the slower speed does allow the music to take on an epic craggy quality that does seem, well…. mountainous. The third movement starts off at a rollicking pace that belies its Allegretto marking but quickly gets side-tracked into a more rhetorical passage – Zanon sees this as the highlight of the work which I, on relatively little knowledge don’t. In part this is because I feel Villa-Lobos’ tendency to over-orchestrate can make for passages where there is so much musical material played by so many instruments that the result is clogged and heavy even in a performance as well achieved and poised as this. The opening of the finale is another example of this with hectic inner passage work from the strings competing with heroic driving brass motifs [all played with commendable panache by the Brazilian players]. My problem here is that it feels like music gathering itself to make a major statement that never quite arrives, Villa-Lobos has another disconcerting habit of flicking from passages of intense drama to quiet reflection with little or no preparation and then back again. It does emphasise the dramatic nature of the work although I found the sudden major key ending as abrupt as it felt contrived. This is a work I need to get to know much better – and my feeling is this might well be the version to be my guide.
 
Many of the same feelings remain for the seventh symphony written just a year later. Here Villa-Lobos uses an even bigger orchestra with doubled or tripled wind and brass, very extended percussion, piano, two harps and a Hammond Novachord (an early synthesizer whose presence is not overly obvious). The premiere was given by the London Symphony Orchestra with what Zanon describes as a “somewhat mystifying description calling this symphony Odyssey of Peace with the four movements entitled Prologue-Contrasts-Tragedy-Epilogue”. Zanon fails to find any clear correspondence within the music to these titles and indeed they do not appear in the manuscript score. Actually I probably prefer this to the earlier work – it is more uncompromisingly modernistic and muscular and while still lacking anything overtly Brazilian has a riot of jagged rhythms and cross-cutting harmonies that makes for quite a rollercoaster of a musical ride. At over fourteen minutes the Lento that is placed second is a study in languorous woodwind melodies of considerable length and sinuous appeal – gorgeous bassoon and clarinet work here especially – over a busy but discreet bed of string filigree writing. The roles are then reversed with slow moving but widely ranging unison string lines backed with accompanying woodwind writing. The music is melodic but these are not melodies that it is easy to assimilate on a couple of hearings. Again credit to the performance here that takes technically demanding music and gives it an intensity, coherence and logic that escaped me when listening to the CPO versions – all in all a very impressive movement.
 
The following scherzo sounds like a nightmare to play – busy and awkward with a continuous stream of string writing buzzing away in the background. It has the feel of a busy cityscape with numerous groups going frantically about their work creating a collective sense of intent and energy although with each element independent of the others. The finale feels like the weakest movement of the symphony simply because it does not build on that which has gone before being more of a continuation/ expansion on the mood of the third movement scherzo with similar use of primary [foreground] and secondary [background] material. That being the case it is the only part of the work which seems to drag with passages which feel that they have been written to a formula rather than inspiration. Again the abrupt transitions from fast to slow material lack a logic that is immediately perceivable – again greater familiarity will help I am sure but my instinct is that this is not as convincing in its construction as other parts of the work. The closing pages have a bright-eyed energy quite at odds with the serious complexities that come before and again the ending proper is startling in its suddenness. For a collector new to Villa-Lobos few would recommend exploring the symphonies before the Chôros and Bachianas Brasileiras since they seem to find a more interesting and convincing balance between the individual and the traditional. I continue to have nothing but praise for the performance and certainly this augurs very well for the proposed complete cycle on Naxos.
 
Nick Barnard
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools






Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.