Carl St. Clair

Villa-Lobos: Symphony No. 2; New York Skyline Melody

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Although the symphony is not a genre often associated with Heitor Villa-Lobos, the twentieth century Brazilian master did in fact write 12 of them, the first four in his late twenties and early thirties and the rest in his sixties and seventies. The Second from 1917, called by the composer "Ascenção" because of his "state of mind at the time," is a huge four-movement work deliberately modeled on the style of French composer Vincent d'Indy with its towering themes, resolute developments, and enormous forms. For listeners whose knowledge of Villa-Lobos begins and ends with the Bachianas Brasileiras, only the work's flashy scoring and dance rhythms may remind them of the composer. For listeners whose knowledge goes deeper into the composer's enormous output, the symphony will at best provide another attractive score and at worst fill a gap in Villa-Lobos' discography. American conductor Carl St. Clair leads the SWR Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra in a cogent, colorful, and convincing performance that the Austrian CPO label recorded in its standard cool, clear digital sound. Included as an encore is Villa-Lobos' New York Skyline Melody, a three-minute lark suggested by projecting the New York skyline onto music paper and assigning notes to the rises and falls. It's funny once, but less so twice.

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