Santoro: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 7 "Brasilia" / Thomson, Goiás Philharmonic Orchestra
Claudio Santoro was one of Brazil’s most eminent and influential composers. Over a 50-year period, he wrote a cycle of 14 symphonies that is widely acclaimed as the most significant cycle of its kind ever written in Brazil. The two selected works in this inaugural volume of the first complete recording of his symphonies focus on the 1950s, a period when Santoro sought a more direct and communicative idiom using Brazilian elements. His use of folk-based material is nonetheless highly creative, sometimes indeed abstract, as in key moments of Symphony No. 5. The Symphony No. 7 is one of his most complex and intense works, a celebration of his country’s new capital Brasília in music of striking modernity.
Claudio Santoro (1919-89) composed fourteen symphonies over the course of about fifty years, making him one of the most noteworthy twentieth-century Brazilian composers in large forms. On evidence here, they are uneven in quality, with the problems occurring when you might expect – in the larger, more complex outer movements. I’m thinking especially of the Fifth Symphony, whose opening Andante mosso–Allegro moderato consists of a series of crescendos leading, essentially, nowhere. The thematic material isn’t too memorable either. The situation improves in the central scherzo and slow movement (a set of variations), but the same “sound and fury signifying nothing” returns in the finale. Santoro’s style incorporates obvious Brazilian elements without ever turning blatantly “folksy.” Clearly the idiom is his own.
This is even more evident in the Seventh Symphony, subtitled “Brasilia,” and designed for the dedication of the country’s new capital city. A more ambitious and successful work than the Fifth, this time with the scherzo played third rather than second, the music evolves from the relative harmonic simplicity of its opening to a more challenging language in the finale–from rural to urban, you might say. Whether this was Santoro’s intention I have no idea, but I like the result. There’s a good bit of stomping and pounding in this symphony–indeed in both works–with some enthusiastic use of the bass drum, but it all seems to be part and parcel of the music’s boldness and energy, and its confrontational gestural language never sounds merely gratuitous.
Certainly the Goiás Philharmonic under Neil Thomson has every reason to be proud of its achievement here. This is not easy music to play. Santoro’s writing for the violins, in particular, sounds positively wicked, with lots of passage-work at high speed, often reaching upwards into the nether regions of the instrument. The scherzos too offer plenty of rhythmic kinks to keep everyone alert, and the crispness of the orchestra’s response can only provoke admiration.
-- ClassicsToday.com (David Hurwitz)
Neil Thomson conducts strongly committed readings of these fine works, and Goiás Philharmonic Orchestra play with confidence. The recording is very fine and the notes are exemplary. This first instalment of the Naxos cycle of Santoro’s symphonies augurs well indeed.
-- MusicWeb International
The journey is navigated with aplomb by Neil Thomson and the Goias Philarmonic Orchestra. Deftly woven counterpoint is contrasted with off-beat rhythms and expansive melodies that showcase each section of the orchestra to effect.
-- BBC Music Magazine
Release Date: March 11, 2022
Catalog Number: 8574402
Number of Discs: 1
Period: 20th Century
Composer: Claudio Santoro
Conductor: Neil Thomson
Orchestra/Ensemble: Goiás Philharmonic Orchestra