Claudio Santoro: Symphony No. 5; Symphony No. 7 'Brasília'

Neil Thomson / Goiás Philharmonic Orchestra

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Claudio Santoro: Symphony No. 5; Symphony No. 7 'Brasília' Review

by James Manheim

Part of the Naxos label's much-welcomed "Music of Brazil" series, this release inaugurates a cycle of the symphonies of composer Claudio Santoro (1919-1989). Santoro wrote 14 symphonies covering his entire creative career; the pair here were composed respectively in 1955 and 1960. He is often performed in Brazil but rarely elsewhere. Conductor Neil Thomson leads Brazil's Goiás Philharmonic Orchestra, which has probably played them before, and the performances are confident and clean. One might expect a Brazilian composer of this period to be laboring under the shadow of Heitor Villa-Lobos, but Santoro charted his own path. He studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris but was more influenced by Eastern European composers and, perhaps, by Hindemith; consider the heavily polyphonic first movement of the Symphony No. 5. He uses extended tonality but does not abandon tonal music here. Santoro does employ Brazilian national materials but never in a semi-popular way or even in the fashion of Bartók, probably another influence. Instead, he treats them abstractly; Brazilian percussion is deployed, for example, in angular, modern rhythms. The third movement of the Symphony No. 5 uses a melody from the Xangô Afro-Brazilian rite, but it is atomized and made the basis for a set of variations. Santoro's Symphony No. 7 was written for the inauguration of the sparkling new city of Brasilia. Its exuberant finale seems to speak of a hopeful postwar vision, but, perhaps in a sign of things to come in Brazil, the work did not receive its premiere until 1964 in Berlin. Here is a 20th century composer partially obscured by the modernist death grip on concert programming of those days. His revival is a most positive development and has been greeted with commercial success.

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