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Villa-Lobos: Symphony no 10 "Amerindia" / Carl St. Clair

Release Date: 02/26/2008 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 999786   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Heitor Villa-Lobos
Conductor:  Carl St. Clair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Radio Symphony OrchestraStuttgart Southwest German Radio Vocal EnsembleStuttgart State Opera Chorus members
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 14 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

VILLA LOBOS Symphony No. 10, “Amerindia” Carl St. Clair, cond; Lothar Odinius (ten); Henryk Böhm (bar); Jürgen Linn (bs); Stuttgart St Op Ch; Southwest German R Voc Ens; Stuttgart RSO cpo 999 786 (73:30)

Villa Lobos’s massive 10th takes the form of a symphonic oratorio. It was composed in 1952 for the celebrations of the fourth centenary of the city of São Paulo (in 1954) and lasts over an hour. In five movements, the work depicts the history of Brazil—as indeed do Read more several other works by the composer—from the untamed jungle (in the instrumental movement 1), through the civilization of the Tupi Indians (movements 2 and 3) to the arrival of Christianity in the 16th century (movements 4 and 5). Poems set include a translation from a Tupi epic and sections of a long poem in Latin by the Jesuit José de Anchieta, one of the founders of the city.

Interestingly, the thrust of the Tupi poem is, “We must build ourselves a home and become Lords of Brazil, but we’ll do it tomorrow; first let’s get something to eat.” The inference is that the Brazilian natives didn’t get their act together until the Portuguese invaded and pulled them into line. Certainly, that’s how our Jesuit poet sees it. (Personally, I think a life of lotus eating beats one of guilt and atonement hands down.) Anyway, if you share the opinion that religion brings in its wake pomp and long-windedness, you’ll discover that Villa Lobos gets it right. His lengthy fourth movement, which sets Anchieta (over 30 minutes in this performance), hangs fire after what has gone before, in spite of its snatches of tenderness and calm. (In this respect, the choral writing reminded me at times of Duruflé and Honegger.)

The Villa Lobos we know and love—he of the rampant figuration, lush orchestration, and memorable sequential themes—hits his stride in the early movements, particularly the second, which introduces a wordless melisma from the soprano choir. Here we are in the hothouse world of his great film score Forest of the Amazon and the Choros No. 11 for Piano and Orchestra. (Monumental works poured from the composer’s pen in the 1950s; he must have done nothing but write music.)

In spite of the enormous forces and rehearsal time required, this symphony has been recorded twice previously that I know of. I would advise anyone interested in the work to read the Fanfare reviews of these recordings, conducted respectively by Gisèle Ben Dor for Koch (24:2) and Victor Pablo Pérez for Harmonia Mundi (27:6). I don’t have the earlier discs at hand, but a close comparison would be fascinating if only because of timing discrepancies: Ben Dor gets through the symphony in 57: 20, Pablo Pérez in 66:48 and, as you can see, St Clair takes 73:30: a difference of over 16 minutes! It could be that St Clair takes his time in the earlier movements in order to give the whole work a broad sweep, but surely Ben Dor’s performance involves cuts? I have no answer to this; perhaps one of our readers can shed some light on the matter. (Paul Snook’s review of the Ben Dor mentions contradictions among various manuscripts of the work.)

Although his performance may be the slowest, St. Clair doesn’t seem lethargic. His tempos never force the busy violin lines to become a scramble; everything sits, as it were. All sections of the orchestra and the mellifluous soloists come through in this recording as clear as a bell. The choirs are equally present, and the balance of the sound picture is wide-ranging and impressive. St. Clair and the Stuttgart Orchestra are old hands at separating the tendrils of Villa Lobos’s orchestral texture, as they leisurely set down their complete edition of his symphonies. For those collecting the set, this will be a primary acquisition.

FANFARE: Phillip Scott
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 10 "Sumé pater patrium" by Heitor Villa-Lobos
Conductor:  Carl St. Clair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Stuttgart Southwest German Radio Vocal Ensemble,  Stuttgart State Opera Chorus members
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1952 

Sound Samples

Symphony No. 10, "Sume pater patrium": Part I: The Earth and It's Creatures
Symphony No. 10, "Sume pater patrium": Part II: War Cry (Bass, The Voice of the Earth)
Symphony No. 10, "Sume pater patrium": Part III: Scherzo (Indian Natives, The Voice of the Earth)
Symphony No. 10, "Sume pater patrium": Part IV: The Voice of the Earth and the Appearance of Anchieta (Amerindo, The Voice of the Earth, Indian Natives, Anchieta)
Symphony No. 10, "Sume pater patrium": Part V: Glory in Heavens, and Peace on Earth (Chorus, Baritone)

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