VILLA-LOBOS:  Symphony No. 10.  Amerindia  Sumé Pater Patrium (O Greatest Father of Fathers).  Oratorio in Five Parts for Orchestra, Chorus and Soloists
Carlo Scibelli, tenor/Carla Wood, mezzo-soprano/Nmon Ford-Livene, baritone/Santa Barbara Choral Society/UCSB Chamber Choir/Donald Brinegar Singers/Santa Barbara Symphony Orch/ Gisèle Ben-Dor, cond.

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Ask any dedicated concertgoer or CD connoisseur to name one composition composed by Brazil's most famous composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959), and chances are the answer would be "Bachiana brasileira No. 5" for solo soprano and 8 cellos. What about a Villa-Lobos symphony? Not likely. Even music critics, orchestral conductors , and professional musicians probably would not know of his 12 symphonies (No. 5 is lost) much less heard or performed them.

Adding to previously-released CDs of the 4th and 6th symphonies is this new (and world premiere) recording of his Symphony No. 10 subtitled "Amerindia," with soloists, choruses and the Santa Barbara (Calif) Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gisèle Ben-Dor.

The symphony, composed to honor the 400th anniversary of the founding of Sao Paulo in 1952 (but premiered five years later in Paris on April 4, 1957), is described by the composer as an "oratorio in five parts for orchestra, chorus and soloists." (The program notes call it a five-movement "symphony" when analyzing it.). Whatever, this oratorio/symphony traces the history of Sao Paulo from writings by Father José de Anchieta , a Jesuit priest and missionary to Brazil. The text incorporates three different languages: the native Tup', Latin, representing the missionaries, and Portuguese, the European settlers.

In like manner, Villa-Lobos matches (or accommodates) the music to enhance the text-long, chant-like and often repeated melodies (native Indians), angular and tonally-obscure music (Portuguese), and imaginative polyrhythms (Afro-Brazilians). All that background information is far more technical (overkill comes to mind) than the music which is basic, direct and very involving. And meaningful. Subdued unisons suddenly burst into 8-part tone clusters. And the same textural expansions are featured in Villa-Lobos' rich orchestration, which encompasses a wide range of interesting colors and rhythms. In fact, with all due respect to the soloists and choruses, the main interest lies in the orchestral score.

Solid performances throughout by vocal soloists Nmon Ford-Livene, Carlo Scibelli, Carla Wood, the Santa Barbara Choral Society, UCSB Chamber Choir, Donald Brinegar Singers, and the orchestra conducted by Giséle Ben-Dor. Especially recommended for those wanting to be surrounded by sumptuous orchestral sounds.

K.S. (Jan. 2001)