Heitor Villa-Lobos - symphonies

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Febnyc
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Heitor Villa-Lobos - symphonies

Post by Febnyc » Sun Jun 24, 2007 2:18 pm

I wonder how many of the members here have been following the CPO label's recordings of the Villa-Lobos symphonies. I've most of them and have been more and more satisfied with the releases as they appear.

The latest one to reach my CD player is the Second Symphony. This is one of V-L's most un-Brazilian, I think, but it is also one of his most powerful works. With its broad strokes and thick orchestration, it generally seems most like V-L's screen score "Descobrimento do Brasil." The opening movement is almost Brucknerian and strides across the score with lots of swagger. The slow movement, which does offer some glimpses of Brazilian folk sound, simply is mesmerizing.

If you're at all interested in this great composer's symphonies, you need to hear the Second.

PS - A filler on the disc is a two-minute work called "New York Skyline Melody." (!) And you know, it lives up to its title - a slow Gershwinian sort of mini tone poem which, especially coming from this source, is a revelation.

piston
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Post by piston » Sun Jun 24, 2007 5:07 pm

I have only two of his twelve symphonies, nos. 4 and 10, and neither of them is on CPO! Has CPO produced a box set of his complete symphonies?

The chronology of these compositions is also interesting, with the five first symphonies written between 1917 and 1920 (the wiki source I have consulted indicates that the fifth is "lost"). Do you hear a significant stylistic difference between 1-4 and 6-12?

No. 1 O Imprevisto ("The Unforseen") (1920)
No. 2 Ascensão ("The Ascension") (1917)
No. 3 A Guerra ("The War") (1919)
No. 4 A Vitória ("The Victory") (1919)
No. 5 A Paz ("The Peace") (1920) now lost
No. 6 Montanhas do Brasil ("The Mountains of Brasil") (1944)
No. 7 (1945)
No. 8 (1950)
No. 9 (1951)
No. 10 "Amerindia" ("Sumé Pater Patrium") (1952)
No. 11 (1955)
No. 12 (1957)
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

Febnyc
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Post by Febnyc » Sun Jun 24, 2007 8:23 pm

I do. The earlier symphonies are more lyrical and more tonal (I use those words in a comparative sense) and, I think, reflect less V-L's later turn to his Brazilian roots. And the latter symphonies tend more toward modern sounds - as would be expected.

The first four symphonies are tied, somewhat, to WWI, and have appropriate "names," as shown on your list. The rest of the symphonies came after V-L's ground-breaking Bachianas Brasilieras - and, in my opinion, continue the dazzling type of orchestration that V-L used as his fame increased.

I couldn't quite get comfortable with the 10th - perhaps it's because he employs a chorus. It sounds more like an oratorio to me. Nothing wrong, essentially, with that - it's just that oratorios as a genre sit somewhat down my list of favorites.

I believe cpo has not, yet, issued a complete set. They've recorded all of the eleven available symphonies except the 10th.

Now, what about V-L's magnificent 17 string quartets? These, in my view, rival any others of the twentieth century in brilliance and invention. Not to mention some great Brazilian melodies.

piston
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Post by piston » Sun Jun 24, 2007 9:48 pm

I rank the string quartets among his greatest successes. Similarly to Shostakovich, he composed the bulk of them late in his career (7 to 17 were completed between 1942 and 1957), after most of his Bachianas, and they provide numerous illustrations of the mature V-L. (I am still missing nos. 8, 10, 13 and 14). He always excelled in his composition of music for strings (guitar, 'cello, trio, quartet) and the Cuarteto Latinamericano certainly conveys the composer's tropical emotional colors and Brazilian rhythms.

I appreciate the info. on the symphonies. The tenth is a big work (some 66 minutes of it). Its historical (colonial) subject is probably more easily appreciated by cultural insiders than by non-Brazilians.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Post by Chalkperson » Sun Jun 24, 2007 10:02 pm

piston wrote:I rank the string quartets among his greatest successes. Similarly to Shostakovich, he composed the bulk of them late in his career (7 to 17 were completed between 1942 and 1957), after most of his Bachianas, and they provide numerous illustrations of the mature V-L. (I am still missing nos. 8, 10, 13 and 14). He always excelled in his composition of music for strings (guitar, 'cello, trio, quartet) and the Cuarteto Latinamericano certainly conveys the composer's tropical emotional colors and Brazilian rhythms.

I appreciate the info. on the symphonies. The tenth is a big work (some 66 minutes of it). Its historical (colonial) subject is probably more easily appreciated by cultural insiders than by non-Brazilians.
The String Quartets come in a six cd box from Brilliant Classics, by the Cuarteto Latinamericano...well worth looking into...

piston
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Post by piston » Sun Jun 24, 2007 10:19 pm

Duplication is inevitable, I suppose. I have individual Dorian CDs.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

Febnyc
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Post by Febnyc » Mon Jun 25, 2007 6:58 am

Could not agree more with the comments on the String Quartets.

I was fortunate to have started my collection of them on the early Marco Polo discs. So, I continued, got them all, with no duplication.

But, I'd like to return to the mention of V-L's Second Symphony. This one really caught me - right from the first notes. I usually warm to these works slowly; not the Second. It was a hit off the bat.

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Post by Ralph » Mon Jun 25, 2007 7:17 am

Belatedly, perhaps a year or so ago, I discovered this composer. And I was, and remain, enthralled. I have a number of MARCO POLO CDs of his music and a few of the CPO releases. Definitely want more.
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SONNET CLV
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V-L -- my two cents

Post by SONNET CLV » Mon Jun 25, 2007 9:50 pm

The Brilliant Classics box of string quartets contains, I believe, the same recordings as the more pricey DORIAN discs by Cuarteto Latinoamericano. I have the six DORIANs, but everything I've heard on BC has been splendid sounding, so I wouldn't hesitate in picking up Villa-Lobos in the cheaper set. In any case, these discs are a must have for fans of string quartets, Latin American music, contemporary music, or ... music in general!

As for the symphonies ... I have a couple on disc, and I'm eagerly awaiting someone to come out with a box set of the complete symphonies. Wonderful stuff!

--SONNET CLV (currently listening to Bill McGlaughlin on NPR)--

piston
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Post by piston » Mon Jun 25, 2007 11:12 pm

Thank you, Sonnet. Should one "sample" or collect Villa Lobos' music? As of the mid-1940's, he was said to have composed some 1400 works, perhaps as many as two thousand pieces by the late 1950's! But I really do enjoy his quartets, trios, quintets and will find the means to get that box set :D
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

walboi
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Post by walboi » Tue Jun 26, 2007 12:28 pm

Absolutely true Febnyc, the CPO discs are fabulous in sound and performance. And of course the SQ on Brilliant already mentioned here, is topnotch.
That said the CPO discs are dead cheap now, and going OOP soon, so grab em if you want them.
Harry

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Post by absinthe » Wed Jun 27, 2007 1:04 pm

I personally feel that his second symphony is one great sprawler but Carl St Clair does give it room to breathe at least! Villa-Lobos is capable of incredibly dense textures complicated by difficult cross rhythms and this symphony somehow typifies density. (He is just as capable of wispy, translucent textures like the close of Uirapuru. St Clair’s interpretations are all enlightening. He has a knack of bringing out the components of HVL’s textures (where the latter often didn’t) and confirms HVL as a capable symphonist.

I first came on this symphony via a bootleg (Aries LP901) with HVL conducting – there is no such orchestra as that stated on the cover - the Maracana Symphony. The sound was awful and the interpretation suggests Villa-Lobos’ baton (which dates it before 1959) but it was all one could get. Much as I worked at it, this seemed to be Villa-Lobos’ most perverse work. I was eager to hear what he’d do with the symphony and when this came on the market I had my doubts. The only other HVL symphony then-available was the 4th, also with HVL conducting.

The score for the 5th still hasn’t been found and I wonder if it isn’t somewhere in the BBC because I vaguely remember a performance by the BBC that turned up on an ages old private tape.

The quartets also confirm his mastery of formal structure. I have the budget set mentioned, also 12 of the Bessler-Reis set. They never completed the cycle under that name. There’s little to compare except style. Very engaging music.

(Does anyone know if the “Amazonia” Quartet is Bessler-Reis in disguise for licensing or something, because the missing Bessler ones are performed by this quartet, interestingly.)

What do members think of Villa-Lobos’ interpretations of his own works?

cheers,
absinthe

Febnyc
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Post by Febnyc » Wed Jun 27, 2007 3:33 pm

I like "sprawlers."

And as for V-L's interpretations, I have the CD set - Par lui meme - where he conducts many of his works. Although the sound is not the best, I think the performances are very good. Especially the Choros.

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Post by Lance » Wed Jun 27, 2007 6:28 pm

I have two CDs of Villa-Lobos conducting his own works [EMI 55224 and 61015], which have some duplications, but I have long enjoyed having the magnificent 10-LP set issued by HMV/France [153-14090/9] with Villa-Lobos conducting, or personally involved in the recordings. I am uncertain if this same set ever made it completely to CD. This is the contents of the LP boxed set:
  • Bachianas Brasileiras Nos. 1 to 9
  • Deux Choros (bis) for Violin and Cello
  • Choros Nos. 2, 5, 10, 11
  • Invocação em Defesa da Patria
  • Descobrimento do Brasil (4 suites, complete)
  • Symphony #4 (A Vitoria)
  • Momoprecoce-Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra (with Magda Tagliaferro, pianist)
  • Piano Concerto No. 5 (w/Felicia Blumental, piano)
  • A Prole do Bebe: 2 Suites a) Les Poupées and b) Les Petites Betes (Aline van Barentzen, piano)
Additionally, a seven-inch LP was added to the box that included
  • Qu'est-Ce Qu'Un Choros? (recorded live for the Club bes Trois Centres in Paris, May 29th, 1958)
Assisting artists, other than those pianists shown, include Manoel Braune, pianist; Victoria de los Angels, soprano; Fernand Dufrene, flute and René Plessier, bassoon; Henri Bronschwak, violin and Jacques Neilz, cello; Fernand Dufrene, flute and Maurice Cliquennois, clarinet; Aline van Barentzen; and Marie Kareska, soprano. Where Villa-Lobos conducts, it is with the Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion Française.

And yes, over the years I have enjoyed much of what is contained in this set! I would still like to know if the entire set ever saw the light of day on CDs as issued by EMI.[/color]
Lance G. Hill
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absinthe
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Post by absinthe » Thu Jun 28, 2007 4:36 am

Lance wrote: And yes, over the years I have enjoyed much of what is contained in this set! I would still like to know if the entire set ever saw the light of day on CDs as issued by EMI.
Yes, it's the box Febnyc mentioned (though I'm unsure if the talk on choros is included).

I have mixed feelings about him conducting his own work. The set passed through my hands and it seems that, given enough rehearsal time he does a brilliant job. His version of "Discovery of Brasil" is superior IMO to Duarte's (and the first part conducted by Odaline de la Marinez on the radio), likewise his version of Choros 10.

I'm not sure about the rest of the readings in that set - the sound and orchestra let him down. The 11th Choros seems a bit of a mess and the playing in some of the Bachianas and the Symphony seemed scruffy - but that's just a personal view.

He conducted his Choros 6 with the Berlin Radio Symphony. It sounds unjustly cluttered compared with recent more sensitive readings (Karabchewsky/Orquestra Sinfonica Brasileira) and Adrian Leaper (Qrquestra Filharmonica de Gran Canaria). A nice work and I'd love to get hold of the score but it costs about £50 !

On the other hand, he conducted Forest of the Amazon with Bidu Sayao in a superb recording by UA back in 1958 - still available I think and that more than redeems him as a conductor and proves he could read his own work if the conditions were right.

Being fair, his music is difficult and probably needs lots of rehearsal. Still, the consolation is that we do get to hear him doing his own work and that set was all anyone had for a long time. Edit: Good value, most of the CDs exceed 70 minutes.

cheers,
absinthe

Lance
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Post by Lance » Thu Jun 28, 2007 10:25 am

Febnyc wrote:I like "sprawlers."

And as for V-L's interpretations, I have the CD set - Par lui meme - where he conducts many of his works. Although the sound is not the best, I think the performances are very good. Especially the Choros.
Can you give me the catalogue number for this set? I might be just as happy having the LP set for as much as I listen to this material. The imported pressings are excellent, too.
Lance G. Hill
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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absinthe
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Post by absinthe » Thu Jun 28, 2007 11:19 am

Yes, its barcode is 0077776722924 (EMI). Seems still to be available. Amazon.com have it for $25....worth buying my own set at that price!

http://www.amazon.com/Villa-Lobos-par-l ... 280&sr=8-1

:)

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