Dorian made some of its best recordings, both technically and artistically, in Venezuela, and this performance of Antonio Estévez’s Cantata Criolla got the ball rolling. Although made locally, the sonics are every bit as good as the later productions by Dorian’s own engineers, and the performance is stunning. Estévez’s masterpiece is subtitled “Florentino, the one who sang with the devil”, and it tells the story of a singing contest between a Venezuelan cowboy and Satan, with Florentino emerging victorious by reciting the names of the saints. The work has three concise parts and lasts a bit more than half an hour. The third part, the actual contest, is set to a sort of samba arrangement (I know, that’s Brazilian, but you get the idea) of the Dies Irae, and if there were any justice in the universe the piece would be as popular as Carmina Burana.
As mentioned, the performance is spectacular, with two sensational soloists (particularly tenor Idwer Alvarez as Florentino), a big, enthusiastic chorus, and the resplendent Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra all under the enthusiastic baton of the late Eduardo Mata. The coupling, Villa-Lobos’ Chôros No. 10, is just as much fun and brings the playing time up to about 47 minutes. Yes, that’s rather short by today’s standards, but it doesn’t matter. This is one of those discs that belongs in every choral music collection, and I dearly wish that the better amateur choral societies would try this piece instead of their usual dreary diet of masses, requiems, and Messiahs.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com