Claudio Santoro Symphonies Break with Symphonic Form

Claudio Santoro was a major figure in Brazilian music. He was a concert violinist, a conductor, and a composer. Throughout his career he taught at many prestigious universities throughout Europe (and Brazil).Santoro composed mainly instrumental music. 

His catalog includes seven string quartets, three piano concertos, and fourteen symphonies. Naxos is recording a cycle of those symphonies with support of the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,   

Volume One included Symphonies 5 and 7. This release features Symphonies 11 and 12. Both receive their world recording premieres. Also included are two shorter works.

Symphony No. 11, written in 1984, is a remarkable work. Usually the strings carry the symphony, with the other instruments in supporting roles. Santoro reveres those roles here. It’s the winds and brass that are the stars, with strings providing continuity between sections.

The highly chromatic first movement and rhythmic second clash together in the finale. Sections reminded me of Shostakovich, at least in theme treatment. It’s a short symphony, but an exciting one. 

Symphony No. 12 also doesn’t fit the standard symphonic form. The work began as a series of fantasias for various solo instruments. Santoro added orchestral accompaniment to these fantasias, and then stitched them together. The “Sinfonia Concertante” was never performed. 

Santoro revised the work in 1988, creating a new three-movement symphony. Nine solo instruments are featured: violin, viola, cello, flute, oboe, clarinet, trumpet, horn, and trombone. No one instrument is the star. Rather each provides a different take on the thematic material for a brief time. 

It’s an unusual way to organize a symphony. But it succeeds on every level. The Goiás Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Neil Thomson deliver some invested performances. I suspect many of these musicians played under Santoro in other orchestras.  

Volume three promises Symphony No. 8 plus Santoro’s only cello concerto. Can’t wait. 

Claudio Santoro: Symphonies Nos. 11 and 12
Concerto Grosso; Three Fragments on BACH
Goiás Philharmonic Orchestra; Neil Thomson, conductor

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