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Ralph Graves
WTJU, October 2018

Of the three [symphonies], 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. © 2018 WTJU Read complete review

Dean Frey
Music for Several Instruments, December 2017

Top Ten Discs for 2017

Even though I’m pretty much all-in with Villa-Lobos, I was not expecting a Villa-Lobos Symphonies disc to break into my Top 10. The newly cleaned-up and edited scores, impressive playing by OSESP, and masterful, nuanced direction by Isaac Karabtchevsky, whose reputation has been very much burnished by this superb series, all come together to make this disc, and this series, something special. And this should be a major push for Villa-Lobos’s own reputation as well, I think. © 2017 Music for Several Instruments

Stephen Estep
American Record Guide, November 2017

The Ninth’s opening movement is proud and angular, but it is a bit more congenial than the Eighth’s. The Adagio is also more relaxed, without its predecessor’s hints of danger; a restful moment near the middle of the finale is a welcome change of pace. The drama in 11:I is positively cinematic, and the mystical, unresolved final chord left me with bated breath for several seconds. The slow movement is somber but not too intense. Though the finale is marked Molto Allegro, it seems that Villa-Lobos finally let his heart rate slow a few times: there is a poise and self-assuredness that the other fast movements lack.

One could hardly ask for better performances. © 2017 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Phillip Scott
Fanfare, November 2017

The São Paulo recordings of the symphonies look to be setting a new standard: They boast of using revised scores from the orchestra’s library, with editorial revisions overseen by Karabtchevsky, a noted Villa-Lobos advocate and specialist. As good as the previous complete set from the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra was, with conductor Carl St. Clair, it was recorded in the late 1990s, at a time when several of Villa-Lobos’s symphonic scores were getting their first airing since the original premieres. The Stuttgart orchestra did a tremendous job, but the scores themselves were often still in a messy state, and the music was certainly unfamiliar to the players. The São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, by contrast, has performed and recorded a great deal of the Brazilian master’s music and knows his style intimately. The players and Karabtchevsky seem to grasp instinctively that cello lines must be rich, woodwind decorations must be chirpy, the piccolo in particular must be present in the texture, and that when all the apparently disparate elements combine successfully the result must sound not only clean and cohesive but also inevitable. © 2017 Fanfare Read complete review

Geoff Brown
BBC Music Magazine, October 2017

…you must be particularly hard-hearted not to warm to at least some of Villa-Lobos’s rhythmic, harmonic and instrumental exuberance, especially in the Ninth Symphony from 1952, the shortest and tautest here. As before in his symphony cycle for Naxos, Isaac Karabtchevsky and his São Paulo forces drive through the thick and teeming turmoil with panache. But they also chrerish the tender and thinner moments when Villa-Lobos’s pulse slackens and lyricism peeks through, as in the quiet corners of the 11th Symphony’s Adagio. © 2017 BBC Music Magazine

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, September 2017

…Maestro Karabtchevsky and the OSESP give us recently updated versions of all three symphonies. The playing is superb, and these musicians give virtuoso accounts of the many solos that surface throughout this rarely heard music.

Brilliantly scored, the instrumental timbre is characterized by titillating highs, a natural midrange and lean, clean bass. There are occasional touches of “digitalis” in the upper strings, but all things considered, this CD is demonstration quality. © 2017 Classical Lost and Found Read complete review

iClassical, August 2017

Many readers will be familiar with Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras and some will have heard his music for guitar but few will know his string quartets or symphonies. This month’s Collectors’ Choice comes from Naxos and is a recording of his Symphonies Nos. 8, 9 & 11. It is performed by the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra conducted by Isaac Karabtchevsky.

In these compact works there is none of the wild unruliness that characterises much of Villa-Lobos’ popular works but the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra cope well with their demands and the resonant acccoustic suits the works. Well worth adding to your collection! © 2017 iClassical

Rob Barnett
MusicWeb International, August 2017

This Naxos cycle with Karabtchevsky and the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra presents the symphonies in editions revised and corrected by the performers.

The music is performed here with a freshness nourished by long and sensibly separated recording sessions. The sound benefits from a resonant concert space, one which the SPSO and Karabatchevsky must know intimately. © 2017 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Andrew Farach-Colton
Gramophone, August 2017

The São Paolo Symphony face the many challenges admirably—that mad dash at the end of the Eighth is managed with remarkable finesse—and, …Isaac Karabtchevsky’s sure-footed pacing conveys a deeper understanding of these scores. He also has the orchestra playing in better tune than St Clair’s, which makes an enormous difference in music as finely shaded as this. An absolutely essential release. © 2017 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Remy Franck
Pizzicato, July 2017

Isaac Karabtchevsky has a genuine feeling for Villa-Lobos’s music, and the symphonies, kind of stepchildren among the composer’s works, benefit from the conductor’s knowledge of the traditional music and their specific colours and rhythms which influenced Villa-Lobos. The Sao Paulo Symphony’s playing is vivid and inspired. © 2017 Pizzicato

Robert Benson, July 2017

All three of these symphonies have much to offer the listener, and they are given superb performances by this dedicated orchestra and conductor… © 2017 Read complete review

Records International, July 2017

By the time these symphonies came along, Villa-Lobos had moved away from the folk influences which gave his earlier works such an exotic flavor. Dating from 1950, 1952 and 1955, these are concise (22 to 27 minutes in length), four-movement pieces in a style somewhere between neo-classicism and neo-romantcism. Tending toward a lightness of touch, they are more pastel than oil but still immediately identifiable as Villa-Lobos in their rhythms and sunny dispositions. © 2017 Records International

Andrew Clements
The Guardian, June 2017

Unlike the ambitious, choral 10th Symphony, which is the odd work out in this late sequence, Symphonies 8, 9 and 11 are all compact, well-behaved pieces, fundamentally neoclassical. There’s none of the wild unruliness that makes the best of Villa-Lobos’s music so attractive. But though there are hints of Stravinsky and even Roussel in some of the writing, there’s never anything derivative about it. Villa-Lobos always remain himself, whatever style he adopts or musical material he makes use of. © 2017 The Guardian Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2017

The fifth release in the complete symphonies of Heitor Villa-Lobos from the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra takes in three works composed during in the 1950s. Describing him as ‘Latin America’s greatest composer’ does him no favours on the international scene, as by the time he was writing his major symphonies during the time he had spent living and working in Paris and the United States, the three symphonies on this release being written for and commissioned by major North American orchestras. He was, however, a lone voice that omitted any reference to the Second Viennese School, but was in an unusual melodic language that is not always readily accessible. If you sample the disc by starting at the third movement of the Eighth, you would be taken by the mercurial charm of this busy scherzo, and you will enjoy the energy of the finale. Two years later, in 1952, the Ninth avoids any comparison with the edificial ninth symphonies that had gone before and were established as landmarks in the concert repertoire, but instead offers a busy and often lightweight score that is one of his shortest, yet requires a degree of orchestral brilliance and virtuosity to surround an adagio movement of pastoral beauty. The Eleventh, dating from 1955, is a more rugged score, punctuated by a sombre Largo, the work acting as a precursor to the substantive Twelfth. This is another outstanding release from the São Paulo orchestra, who has been awarded the Brazilian Music Prize for the series thus far. © 2017 David’s Review Corner

Dean Frey
Music for Several Instruments, May 2017

These three symphonies sound familiar, sure, because they sound like Villa-Lobos. But even though I’ve heard all three a number of times, in the very good CPO series from Carl St. Clair and the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Stuttgart made around the turn of the last century, the music on the new disc sounds fresh and new and really quite amazing. This series is forcing all of us to sit up and take notice of a whole big chunk of Villa-Lobos’s legendarily large output. © 2017 Music for Several Instruments Read complete review

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