CD Review
Symphony no. 10 - "Amerindia"

- by Bert Berenschot

Symphony #10 - CD Cover
Symphony no. 10 "Amerinda"
"Sum Pater Patrium"(O Greatest Father of Fathers)
Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra, Santa Barbara Choral Society, ICSB Chamber Choir, Donald Brinegar Singers, Nmon Ford-Livene, Carlo Scibelli, Carla Wood - conducted by Gisèle Ben-Dor (Koch International Classics 3-7488-2 HI) 
Duration: 57:20

Available at
Also directly from the Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra's website.

Written in 1952, this symphony-oratorio had to wait 48 years for its first recording. But then surprisingly within two months two different orchestras recorded the 10th symphony. In december 1999 Carl St Clair finished his symphony project for CPO with the recording of Villa-Lobos' longest symphony, to be released later (maybe this can take some years!). One month later, in january 2000, the Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra recorded it for Koch. This fact stresses the ongoing revival and revaluation of Villa-Lobos' music during the last two decades with its many first time recordings.
In this symphony-oratorio we find - besides a few Portugese lines - the juxtaposition of Latin and Indian (Tupí) texts. It immediately reminds one another piece, The Discovery of Brazil. To be honest, the symphony cannot stand comparison with the exciting mixture of Indian and Latin choruses in The Discovery of Brazil where fast Indian rhythmic singing serves as a strange wonderful framework for a slowly sung First Mass in Brazil. 
The score is written for the 400th anniversary of the founding of Sao Paulo, and it is a kind of allegorical, historical and religious account of the birth of the city of Sao Paulo. Eventually it was premiered not in Sao Paulo but in Paris not until 1957. Villa-Lobos presents different Brazilian populations within the 10th symphony: the native (Indian) population with long pentatonic melodies, repeated intervals and chords of fourths and fifths, the Portugese with tonal ambiguous music and the Afro-Brazilian with its syncopations and cross-rhythms. Of course Villa-Lobos never forgets to confront us with the fourth major population of his country: the animals, as always depicting not only their sounds, but also their movements and surroundings.
The symphony starts very exciting with a whirling kaleidoscopic instrumental movement in typical Villa-Lobos 'hyperactivity style'. It bears the title "The Earth and its Creatures".  The second movement "War Cry" (of the Indians who want to settle in the Sao Paulo region) is with its wordless singing almost in Hollywood style of the forties and fiftees. But it is really wonderful, haunting music.
The fast third movement is called Irupichuna (a kind of magical small monkey). It is full of cross rhythms and virtuose choral singing in Tupi language and deals in an allegoric way with the necessity to build houses. This movement uses Indian language more extensively than ever before in the composers output and one has to regret that Villa-Lobos did not compose his intended Indian opera on a libretto of Dora Vasconcelos.
The first three movements deal with the precolumbian period of Brazil's history. The fourth introduces the Latin language, partly mixed with Tupí language and deals in the first section with the arrival of the Portugese, introducing christianity. This section is followed by a long fragment of the Marian poem of  Father José de Anchieta, an early Jesuit missionary in Brazil. This extensive choral movement is slow and suprisingly dark and austere in mood. The fifth and last movement is more exuberant with hymnlike singing and at the end it celebrates with one line in Portugese the founding of Sao Paulo de Ipiratininga.
I'm still curious about the interpretation Carl St Clair will show us at a later time on CPO, since the technical quality of his recordings, listening to the releases of his integral symphony cycle, is better then this Koch recording. This one is a little bit dry and especially in the fourth movement out of balance in favour of the singing parts, surpressing too much the brilliantly orchestrated music. This recording, however, recorded a few days after a live-performance, is surely audible and one can perceive the enthusiasm with which it was made, both by  the orchestra and the singers, after profound research in Paris and Brazil by conductor Gisèle Ben-Dor. She tells her story in the comprehensive cd-booklet, which contains all the Indian and Latin texts.
- Bert Berenschot, Amsterdam, November 2000


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