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CD Review

Heitor Villa-Lôbos

  • Symphony #3 "A guerra" (War)
  • Symphony #4 "A Vitória" (Victory)
São Paulo Symphony Orchestra/Isaac Karabtchevsky
Naxos 8.573151
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It's understandable that many of us wouldn't see Villa-Lôbos among the great symphonists, but it would be inexcusable if one still didn't after this release. These are magnificently played renditions of some very fine works. Villa-Lôbos doesn't get nearly the attention he deserves for any of his best music, and so it stands to reason that to this point his symphonic canon would face similar neglect. Many thanks to Naxos then, for supporting such a worthy project.

And speaking of worthy, The São Paulo forces are just dynamite. This isn't exactly familiar fare for anybody, even an orchestra on the composer's native soil. Yet everything is unbelievably good, and extremely well balanced too. This means that all of the composer's lush sounds literally rush out of your speakers (I even listened on a laptop with the built-in speakers and remained impressed). On a better sound system, strings soar, brass glows, and winds have a pleasing bite to them when the music requires.

Highlights are many; the somber march-like slow movement of the third, the same work's intensely exciting and marvelously scored "battle" movement. The Fourth proves even more inventive, an almost cynical look at the concept of "Victory" that works very well and reminds us of all the joys and sorrows that come with the term. Throughout, the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra under Isaac Karabtchevsky makes as convincing a case for these pieces as can be made. An excellent and wholly worthwhile disc.

Copyright © 2013, Brian Wigman