Heitor Villa⁠-⁠Lobos wrote eleven symphonies, written between 1916 and 1957. Ranging from his first five: nos. 1 –O Imprevisto (Unforeseen); 2 – Ascensão (Ascension); 3 – Guerra (War); 4 – A Vitória  (Victory); through the mature no. 6- Sobre a linha das montanhas do Brasil (On the Outline of the Mountains of Brazil); and numbers 7, 8, 9, 11 and 12; the tenth: Sinfonia ameríndia com coros (Amerindian Choral Symphony, and the lost 5th , they offer a panoramic aural landscape of the Brazilian composer’s talent.

Villa-Lobos – self-taught, alternately abhorred for his politics and admired by both his compatriots and the likes of Segovia, Milhaud and Rubinstein for his artistry – is a figure of great contrasts who found his true musical soul and inspiration in the sounds of Brazilian popular music.

At times his early works come off sounding derivative and pseudo-European, but when inspired and mature, his compositions burst forth with tremendous energy, Brazilian rhythmic pulse, and sweeping melody, never more than in his sixth and tenth symphonies and in the symphonic poem Uirapuru, a 1917 work subtitled O passarinho encantado (The Enchanted Little Bird) as enchanting a composition as the feathered subject of its title.

I highly recommend this six-CD Naxos collection (Naxos 8.506039) that continues the label’s invaluable ongoing exploration of Brazilian concert music, here played to utter perfection by the superb São Paulo Symphony Orchestra led by Isaac Karabtchevsky.

Rafael de Acha                  www.RafaelMusicNotes.com