Notes and Editorial Reviews
Heitor Villa-Lobos' Tenth Symphony commemorates the founding of the city of São Paulo, not exactly an event of special international musical significance. Nor does the text, an ambitious combination of three languages (Tupí, Portuguese, and Latin), two religions (pagan and Christian), and a politically correct (for the time and occasion) triumphant optimism, offer many obvious opportunities to garner broader appeal for the work. There are basically two approaches a composer can take when faced with this sort of project: they can write crap (as for example Shostakovich did in his Twelfth Symphony), or they can forget about the banality of the initial circumstances of performance and
write the best music they know how anyway (as in Beethoven's Consecration of the House Overture). Villa-Lobos follows Beethoven's path. This is vintage stuff. The opening prelude portrays a sort of jungle chaos before the creation of mankind as only the great Brazilian composer can: wild string writing, soulful melodies in strange places (trombones especially), thudding percussion--my god, but this is fun! The vocal sections show no less aural imagination. The chorus and soloists sing, hum, and chant in every conceivable combination: men alone, women alone, solos individually and with chorus, you name it. The result is so interesting and inventive that it really doesn't matter at all what they're singing about.
And then, to top it all off, the text on closer examination turns out to be not that bad. The composer himself assembled it from a variety of sources, primarily a huge Marian poem by missionary priest José de Anchieta, and the word setting is as sensitive as the language is vivid. In short, the work is a masterpiece, and no praise can be high enough for what conductor Gisèle Ben-Dor and her Santa Barbara forces have done in bringing it to life. Putting together a project of this size is difficult enough, but in this case the original score and parts had to be located and corrected, necessitating a vast amount of pre-performance editorial work. The result, a labor of love, sounds magnificent. Ben-Dor has her orchestra playing with confidence and tremendous gusto, and the various choruses and soloists cope impressively with what sounds like excruciatingly difficult (or at all events exposed) vocal writing. The recorded sound offers both opulence and excellent balances. If you like Villa-Lobos, you will love this; if you fancy a change from yet another Carmina Burana or choral favorite, give this a shot. You won't be sorry.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 10 "Sumé pater patrium" by Heitor Villa-Lobos
Carlo Scibelli (Tenor),
Carla Wood (Mezzo Soprano),
Nmon Ford-Livene (Baritone)
Santa Barbara Symphony,
Donald Brinegar Singers,
Santa Barbara Chorus
Period: 20th Century
Date of Recording: 01/2000
Venue: Performing Arts Center, Oxnard, CA
Length: 57 Minutes 20 Secs.
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