Villa-Lobos Symphony Integral Project

In 1997, conductor Carl St. Clair, Music Director of Orange County CA's Pacific Symphony, began a recording project with the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Stuttgart. This project will result in the first recorded integral cycle of Villa-Lobos symphonies, released on the cpo label.

 

Symphony #10January 18, 2008
The series comes to a big finish with the release of Symphony #10. Read this post at The Villa-Lobos Magazine.


June 27, 2002
The series continues with the upcoming release of Symphonies 3 and 9. Thanks to Bert Berenschot for this update:

"Some news from a spokesman of CPO: they will release the 3th and 9th symphony in september. In august they will release a cd with (a.o.) the amazing String Trio."

August 2001

The latest release includes Symphonies 6 and 8, with a bonus: the Suite pour cordes, also known as the Suite para quinteto dupio de cordas.

Colin Clarke's review is very positive. I love his characterization of no. 6 as "Bartók with a South American tinge."
Robert Anderson's excellent review of the Symphonies 6/8/Suite disc will give you a feel for this extraordinary music. This is a very perceptive article, made really useful with relevant one-minute sound bytes.
Guy Rickards' review of the second two releases contains a useful discussion of the relative sonic qualities of the few currently available CDs of VL's symphonies.

January 2001

The second release contains Symphonies 4 'Victory', and 12.

November 1, 1999

There is a review of the first CD by Bert Berenschot of the Netherlands. Thanks, Bert, for giving us North Americans a sneak preview of this important set!

The CD will finally be available in North America, later this month. Amazon.com shows November 23, 1999 as their shipping date - I hope the CD will be showing up in record stores soon.

August 27, 1999

The first of the CDs from the very first integral recording of the complete symphonies of Villa-Lobos has been released in Europe on the cpo label, with the Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart , conducted by Carl St. Clair. The number of the CD is 8228806.

August 25, 1999

Irineu Perpetuo's article from the "Folha de Sao Paulo" newspaper is printed below, in Harry Crowl's translation. The article is printed with permission and is © Irineu Perpetuo/Folha de Sao Paulo/ Harry Crowl:

"A north-American conductor and a German orchestra are about to conclude what could be considered the most important phonographic project of Brazilian music for this year: the first complete version of the 12 symphonies cycle by Villa Lobos, whose 40th anniversary of death is celebrated in 1999.

"The present musical director of the Pacific Symphony Orchestra, Carl St.Clair started working on his project through Symphonies no.6 (Brazil's Mountains) and no.8, back in February at the German town of Sindlefingen. The task was carried out by the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra, based in Stuttgart. From that onwards, the orchestra has recorded all Villa Lobos symphonies, except those of no.10 (Suma Pater Patrium), scheduled for December and, no.5 (The Peace), that unfortunately the manuscript has been missing.

"Shorter pieces like the Sinfonietta no.1 shall fulfill the CDs. The number of CDs comprising the complete collection as well as the launching dates haven't been decided by the German label CPO (distributed in Brazil by RKR discos), yet.

"It's hard to exaggerate the relevance of Mr. St.Clair's project. Being the least known and performed part of Villa-Lobos huge output, the symphonies are also scarcely represented on records. There is only one commercial recording of the 6th Symphony, made by Roberto Duarte with the Slovak Symphony Orchestra on Marco Polo. The 4th Symphony has already been recorded twice. Once by Villa-Lobos himself on EMI and the other by Orquesta Simon Bolivar, from Venezuela with Enrique Diemecke, on Dorian Records. There is also a recording project on course taken by Gisele Ben Dor with the Santa Barbara Symphony Orch. with the 10th Symphony without any further information about which label will issue it and when it'll come out.

"As usual, the main difficulties in VL works are related not only to the technical complexities but also from the poor quality of printed material.

"It's not unusual to find 200 to 500 mistakes in only one symphony", says St.Clair in an e-mail interview given to the Folha de Sao Paulo. "Besides having to correct many mistakes, I had to add many interpretation marks such as crescendos, diminuendos, dynamics, tempo, etc."

"About the 5th Symphony's manuscript the Texan conductor says that "Marcelo Rodolfo from Villa Lobos Museum in Rio, said (to me, HC) that he's been looking for that score for the last 20 years".

"Maestro Eleazar de Carvalho planned to conduct it at the Carnegie Hall in 1950, but he had to cancel it because he never received the score", says St.Clair. "There is some suspicion that it could be with someone related to VL first wife. There is a similar story regarding the 3rd Symphony. The score was missing for a long time and it suddenly appeared."

"Villa-Lobos wrote symphonies in three periods of his career. The first 5 ones date from the years of 1916 to 1920. They all bear titles related to the First World War as, no.1 "The Improvise", no.2 "Ascension", no.3 "The War", and no.4 "The Victory" and, no.5 "The Peace".

"During the 40s, two more came out: no.6 "Brazi'*s Mountains" and no.7 "A Race's Odyssey", title also given to a tone poem composed five years later, in 1953. In "Brazil's Mountains" the composer makes use of a curious "Milimetrization" system over photos taken from the peaks of Corcovado
and Pao de Aucar, in Rio. That provided the melodic contours for the piece.

"His last symphonies composed during the 50's were mostly commissions from major American orchestras. The 8th and 9th were premiered by the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra: the 11th was written specially for the 75th anniversary of the Boston Symphony; the 12th and last had its first performance in Washington, D.C. An exception to this group was his 10th Symphony that was commissioned for the City of Sao Paulo 4th Centennial, in 1954. It's based on the 16th century poem "Beata Vergine" by Jose de Anchieta.

"Most experts in Villa-Lobos tend to neglect the symphonies by saying that the composer treated the orchestra in a much more effective way in his symphonic poems, choros and bachianas.

"The Finnish Scholar Eero Tarasti (in his book "Heitor Villa-Lobos: Life and Works, 1887-1959") states that "It's really surprising that VL wrote so many symphonies throughout his career, considering how badly this genre suited his compositional approach".

"However, Tarasti himself admits that a careful analysis of VL's symphonies is considerably harmed by the fact that there aren't printed scores and recorded sources.

"So, it's not unlikely that after the launching of this cycle on CD the judgements about the symphonies of our greatest composer will have to be reconsidered."

July 5, 1999

The project approaches its close. Here's a recent message from Carl St. Clair:

"In the first week of July we, the SRO and I will be recording the 9th Symphony and the Sinfonietta. That will leave on the 10th which will be recorded in December."
March 31, 1999

Here is a recent update from Carl St. Clair:

"There is a lot of excitement in Stuttgart as we are coming close to the finish of our big project. By way of updating you, here is what has been happening.
"In December of '98 we had two weeks of recording and completed Symphony No. 3 and No. 7. They are both extraordinary works and extremely difficult, technically speaking. Symphony No. 3, like No. 4, has a large off-stage brass group in the first and last movements. Symphony No. 7 is long and very demanding on everyone.
"The Stuttgart Radio Symphony and I performed Symphony No. 4 on their subscription concerts in mid-December, and with great success. The audience was enthusiastically responsive. It was a different experience for us on stage, in that, after all the Villa-Lobos we had recorded, this was the first time that we had performed a single symphony before a live audience.
"During this same three week period we performed a chamber music concert with the soloists from the Symphony. This was an interesting and informative concert concept. We had a commentator who discussed Villa-Lobos, a historian who specializes in the folk music of Brazil and the musicians and I interacted in the discussion as well. It was a wonderful forum, and again was met with great openness. We plan to have more of these types of concerts in the future.
"Where are we now with the project? We have two symphonies remaining to record, No. 9, which we will finish in July and No. 10 (the biggest!) will be recorded in December. We are also planning to record three or four smaller pieces to fill out the various CDs in the complete set. These have not been decided, but will certainly include the Sinfonietta in homage to Mozart.
"As for the release of our CDs, we are looking to plan a Villa-Lobos mini-conference with musicologists and people from the V-L close circle, combined with the CDs themselves and some live chamber music. We want the release to be a big splash large enough to balance all the forgone effort. I want this to be on the Internet in real time. I think this would have worldly interest, don't you?
"One last comment about the symphonies that we have completed. Andreas Prima, the producer is a cracker jack producer and editor. The final edited DATS that I have heard are outstanding and I know will worthy of V-L's great music.
"Well, this is the latest for the moment."
Thanks, Carl! We're all looking forward to hearing more!
 

October 6, 1998

Here's an update, which arrived by e-mail from Carl St. Clair, co-incidentally exactly one year after his October 1997 message. Carl and the RSO Stuttgart have been busy:

"The RSO Stuttgart and I have Symphonies 7,9 and 10 remaining in our project. In December we will finish one movement from Symphony No. 3 and finish 7. By the time summer of 2000 rolls around we will have the entire project completed. At least that is the plan for now.

"In December of 99 there will be a big conference in Stuttgart announcing the entire project publicly. There will be performances of the Symphony No. 4, chamber music, musicologists from Brazil and American, representatives from the Villa-Lobos archives, representation from CPO the recording company and I will be there with all the SDR musicians and administration. We are hoping at this point to have this conference on the Internet. That will remain to be seen, however.

"All in all, we are very happy with the final editings and are looking for a tour to South American upon completion of the project.

"I appreciate your inquiry and will keep you up to date as everything progresses and develops.

"All the best,

Carl"

March 1998

The German article "Ersteinspielung der 12 unbekannten Sinfonien Heitor Villa-Lobos" by Kerstin Gebel is on the RSO Stuttgart's webserver.

 

October 6, 1997

In an October 6, 1997 e-mail, Carl St. Clair includes an update and an important query:

"This is just to report to you and all the Villa-Lobos fans that the Stuttgart Radio Orchestra and I have now completed half of our project to record all of the V-L Symphonies. During the week of Sept. 15-19 we recorded Symphony No. 1 and 11. Till now we have completed Sym. 1,4,6,8,11 and 12.

"Sym. No. 1 is a long and very difficult symphony with many errors and much editing and fine tuning necessary to bring it off in good form. Sym. No. 11 was a very exciting work with elements of fun, tragedy drama and brilliance.

"During this trip to Stuttgart, I also heard the final DAT editing of Symphony No. 6 and 8. Wow!! After it is all said and done, there is some real musical excitement! They turned out great."
Here is the query:
"It has become a reality that the Symphony No. 5 is missing and not to be found. We are looking around all over the world. If you could put out an ALL POINTS BULLETIN, perhaps someone out there has some information. Thanks."
It seems quite bizarre that the score of such an important work has not survived. Villa-Lobos wrote Symphony No. 5 (subtitled A Paz, The Peace) in 1920.
It was the third work in a trilogy beginning with no. 3 (A Guerra, The War of 1919,) and continuing with the 4th (A Vitória, The Victory) of the same year. The 5th symphony comes between two of the most well-known of the 12 symphonies - the 4th is contained in the 6-CD set conducted by Villa-Lobos on French EMI, and the 6th is available on a fairly recent Marco Polo CD conducted by Roberto Duarte.
If anyone has any leads on finding the score, please e-mail Carl.

August 14, 1997

In an August 14, 1997 e-mail from Carsten Dufner, executive editor for data broadcasting and online services at Süddeutscher Rundfunk (South German Broadcasting,) we learn that four symphonies (6, 8, 4 and 12) have been recorded, and the final 8 are scheduled for 1998 and 1999. In 1999 all recordings will be brought together in a worldwide distributed CD collection. The collection will appear on the German label CPO, distributed in North America by Naxos.

As well, Carsten states:

"...[the CDs] will also be a part of a big radio event: one or two weeks which could totally be dedicated to the composer, his life and works, his roots and tours, his country in the present and the past, the Brazilian music and its connection to Europe etc.

"We're also planning chamber concerts with music of Villa-Lobos, dedicated to different themes (like Villa-Lobos and the folk music, Villa-Lobos and contemporary musicians etc.)"

Here is a press release from the Süddeutscher Rundfunk:

A futuristic voice from the past:

Carl St. Clair and the Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart with the premiere recordings of all the symphonies by Heitor Villa-Lobos.

"I know of no composer of the 20th century whose reputation is known by so many people; yet scarcely nobody, including musicians, know how many symphonies he has written, much less how they sound." St. Clair, Music Director of the Pacific Symphony, speaks with great enthusiasm about his new project. St. Clair has been invited by the Radio Symphony Orchestra to make the premiere recordings for radio and CD of all twelve symphonies of the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos.

In December 1995 the conductor and the orchestra met for the first time. The Texas born conductor had performed concerts in Frankfurt, Bamberg, Cologne, Hannover and Berlin and had attracted successful attention from the press. While filling in for another conductor in Stuttgart something happened which rarely occurs in the music business. The chemistry between St. Clair and the Orchestra resounded from the very beginning! This was reason enough for all concerned to build a relationship in the very near future. St. Clair is already scheduled to give concerts on the main subscription series in September 1997 with others scheduled through the 1999/2000 season, and will also conduct the very popular midday concerts in March 1998.
Above all, however, is the interest from the orchestra and conductor in the Villa-Lobos Project. The international musicologists as well as the official representative from Brazil have already demonstrated their support. The recording of the Symphonies will be completed in 1999, 40 years after the death of Villa-Lobos. Symphony 6 and 8 of the Brazilian composer, who had himself in 1953 conducted the SDR, were completed in February. The next session is set for July of this year when Symphony 4 and 12 will be recorded. Everybody involved agrees that this project shall prove to be a success. "It is as if we could delve back into the past in order to see and discover something that, by all means, will be around in the future," expressed St. Clair after this splendid commencement.