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By 1945, the lyricism that Villa-Lobos poured so generously into many of his Bachianas brasilieras makes a mainly hectic contribution to Symphony No 7. The work was entered for a competition in Detroit, and given its first performance by the London Symphony Orchestra under the composer (1949). Scored for large orchestra, it inhabits a different world from the Sinfonietta. It is uncompromising and forceful from the outset [listen -- track 1, 1:50-3:00]. The Scherzo is the most aggressive of the four movements, and the energetic finale, melodically all hammers and nails, ends surprisingly with a major chord of defiant affirmation [listen -- track 4, 9:01-10:13].

Through a biographical accident, this symphony was confused with Villa-Lobos's Odyssey of a Race, written to celebrate the endless wanderings of the Jews. If the Stuttgart Symphony Orchestra, under their adventurous Carl St Clair, manages to record all dozen of these symphonies, including the No 5 said to be lost by Grove, that will be an odyssey indeed, and I should like to be on board. The players bring to the rich variety Villa-Lobos offers them a skill and commitment the composer cannot too often have encountered during his lifetime. The result may not be easy listening, but it is always stimulating and often very exciting.

Copyright © 4 September 2004 Robert Anderson, Cairo, Egypt


Villa-Lobos: Symphony No 7; Sinfonietta No 1

999 713-2 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 57'30" 2004 CPO

Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR; Carl St Clair, conductor

Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959): Symphony No 7 (1945); Sinfonietta No 1 (1916)



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