Volume five of Naxos’ Villa-Lobos Symphonies features three works written for American premieres. Symphony No. 8 was completed in 1950, No. 9 in 1952, and No. 11 in 1955. Despite the five-year span, the three works share several similarities. All three are relatively short works. Villa-Lobos’ motifs are almost epigrams, and yet these are densely-compact works. The symphonies are all neo-classical in general style, with just a trace of Stravinsky occasionally popping through.
The 8th Symphony was premiered at Carnegie Hall, with Villa-Lobos conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra. The 9th Symphony was also premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra, this time under the direction of Eugene Ormandy. The 11th Symphony marked the 75th Anniversary of the Boston Symphony and was premiered with Charles Munch.
Of the three, the 11th is probably the most challenging. Villa-Lobos wrote to the strengths of the ensemble. To properly perform this work, an orchestra has to be nimble. The BSO was one such ensemble — the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra is another.
At this point in their cycle, Isaac Karabtchevsky and the São Paulo Symphony have become Villa-Lobos experts. They manage to capture the essential Brazilian essence of his work that gives it such vitality.
Another solid addition to this important series from Naxos. I anticipate the next volume will maintain the same high quality set forth in the first four.
Heitor Villa-Lobos: Symphonies Nos. 8, 9, 11
São Paulo Symphony Orchestra; Isaac Karabtchevsky, conductor