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Lawrence Schenbeck
PS Tracks, October 2013

Isaac Karabtchevsky and the São Paulo SO have launched a series for Naxos that brings us these works in lively, well-recorded performances at budget prices.

It’s definitely worth a listen. © 2013 PS Tracks Read complete review

Philip Clark
Gramophone, January 2013

…one thing becomes clear from the get-go—Carl St Clair and the Stuttgart SWR Radio Symphony Orchestra…are outshone by the São Paulo SO and Isaac Karabtchevsky…compare the opening moments of this new Sixth Symphony with the Stuttgart version and we’re palpably dealing with something grander than nuances of interpretation: Karabtchevsky makes VillaLobos’s zig-zagging, lopsided melodic line sound as boldly and brashly sculpted as Mount Rushmore…

Karabtchevsky’s steadier, more deliberate tempo helps. But what merely sounds ungainly and idiomatically clumsy in St Clair’s hands becomes musically engaged here.

…this does bode well for Naxos’s projected complete Villa-Lobos symphony cycle… © 2013 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Daniel Jaffé
BBC Music Magazine, December 2012

‘Superior music…not a tune to be whistled.’ Villa-Lobos’s description of a symphony’s ingredients certainly matches these two colourful works. © 2012 BBC Music Magazine

Robert Benson, November 2012

This superb new Naxos recording has the advantage of the full-blooded performance by Brazil’s magnificent orchestra, the São Paulo Symphony conducted by Isaac Karabtchevsky…throughout we have the [Villa-Lobos]’s vivid orchestral colors, and the result is a fascinating and rather exotic orchestral tapestry. Let us hope the São Paulo Orchestra will record more of their native music. © 2012 Read complete review

Bruce Reader
The Classical Reviewer, October 2012

…I find [these symphonies] attractive and well worth hearing. The São Paulo Symphony Orchestra plays marvellously under Isaac Karabtchevsky and the recording from the Sala São Paulo is excellent. I look forward to the next instalment. © 2012 The Classical Reviewer Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2012

The eleven surviving symphonies of Hector Villa-Lobos—the Fifth having been lost—are among the most significant written in the first half of the 20th century. That he has usually been described as ‘the foremost nationalist composer in South America’, has, to a degree, deflected from the fact that his place is rightfully with the great international composers of his era. That is born out by the Seventh Symphony which was not, for instance, premiered in the Americas, but by the London Symphony in 1949. It demands a massive orchestra with a much enlarged percussion section and double or triple brass and woodwind. It is, like the Sixth, in a conventional four movement format, the busy and instantly enjoyable scherzo here coming third, with a big-boned Allegro finale. Let us forget the unconventional way he arrived at his thematic material for the earlier work from 1944, for it is a red-blooded score that calls for a mix of subtle colours and outgoing virtuosity. There have been previous recordings, but this one is on a new level of excellence, the Sao Paulo orchestra well able to hold its own among Europe’s elite ensembles. They are directed by the veteran Brazilian-born conductor, Isaac Karabtchevsky, his extensive career taking in major positions in Europe and South America. He has that instinctive feel for the music, and one would hold out the hope that there will by a Villa-Lobos cycle in the offing. The recording quality is quite superb. Fervently recommended. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

David Hurwitz, October 2012

Villa-Lobos’ 11 symphonies…are the least known of all of his orchestral works, for the simple reason that they largely avoid folkloric elements. This doesn’t mean that they are austere…The textures are as lush and exotic as anything in his output…Repeated listening confirms that the composer knew what he was doing, and both of the symphonies offered here feature slow movements of truly striking beauty and atmosphere. In other words, they are well worth getting to know, and ideal for concentrated attention at home.

CPO has a fine complete symphony cycle available featuring Carl St. Clair and the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra. The São Paulo Symphony is a much finer ensemble, and Karabtchevsky’s performances are far more persuasive here. The sonics are rich, full, and remarkably clear given the music’s density. This is going to be fun. © 2012 Read complete review

Jean-Yves Duperron
Classical Music Sentinel, October 2012

Heitor Villa-Lobos…is not only considered the most famous of all Brazilian composers, but is also seen as one of the key figures of 20th century musical development. And yet, when you mention his name, most people can only remember the Bachianas Brasileiras as being one of his major works. Unfortunate when you consider that he wrote some exquisite guitar music, brilliant string quartets and impressive symphonies. Hopefully, this new Naxos recording of his Symphonies Nos. 6 and 7, the first of a projected series of all 12 of this composer’s symphonies, will further enhance his reputation as one of the important 20th century symphonists. This new Naxos cycle presents two advantageous features. It’s on a budget-priced label, and the music is performed by a world class Brazilian orchestra.

The Symphony No. 6 ‘On the Outline of the Mountains of Brazil’…opens with an uplifting, evocative and sweeping motif…that instantly sets the work’s atmosphere and character. The following Lento slowly and mysteriously reveals its intricate and darker orchestral colors and lush imagery, unfurled by the hand of a master. The last two movements, and most particularly the final Allegro, clearly demonstrate Villa-Lobos’ skills at creating a seamless blend of traditional South American culture and European society.

The 7th already points to a more abstact, purely musical, thematic layout and development. It is much broader in concept, harmonically complex and bolder in its imagery, and benefits from a wealth of rhythmic and melodic ideas. The piano brings an added texture to the work’s fabric, and the Novachord…which almost sounds like a whistling wind machine, certainly adds an extra dimension to the orchestration without seeming out of place. The final movement’s complex counterpoint is certainly indicative of this composer’s admiration for the music of Bach, and drives the whole symphony to a powerful finish.

This is a welcome addition to the Naxos catalogue, as well as a welcome recording of these neglected symphonies, and definitely a strong start to a promising new Villa-Lobos cycle. © 2012 Classical Music Sentinel Read complete review

Nick Barnard
MusicWeb International, October 2012

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.

In the 6th Symphony the São Paulo strings sound more secure…

At over fourteen minutes [of the seventh symphony] 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…Again credit to the performance here that takes technically demanding music and gives it an intensity, coherence and logic…all in all a very impressive movement.

I continue to have nothing but praise for the performance… © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, September 2012

The No. 6 as the title suggest paints a symphonic picture of the beautiful mountainous terrain of his homeland, as a kind of ebb and flow musical transformation of the mountains’ peaks and declivities, and does so in vivid terms. No. 7 has a majestic, epic quality as well. Both are superior examples of the Villa-Lobos orchestral style.

In the hands of Karabtchevsky and the Sao Paulo organization the works come alive in full flower. The sound is excellent and the performances inspired. Villa-Lobos in the orchestral zone has a lushness that communicates a grand epic symphonically without falling into Romanticism. Instead he is modern-leaning—but in a very personal, Brazilian manner. These are worthy performances that bring out those qualities well. With the Naxos price tag they are a must for anyone wanting to come to know this music in particular and his music in general. © 2012 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review Read complete review

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