Naxos launches Claudio Santoro Symphonic Series

How familiar are you with classical music outside Europe? I thought I was pretty well-versed. I could even name some composers from Brazil — like Heitor Villa-Lobos. But I wasn’t at all familiar with his contemporary, Claudio Santoro. And that’s some oversight.

Over the course of his life, Santoro served about every musical role in Brazil. He was a violin virtuoso and child prodigy. He began concertizing at 17. And he joined the faculty of the Conservatory Music of the Federal District two years later.

Santoro traveled to France and studied with Nadia Boulenger. At 31 he was first violinist for the Brazilian Symphonic Orchestra.

He composed and conducted for Brazilian Radio. Santoro toured as a conductor. Santoro also founded the Chamber Orchestra for the Radio Ministry of Education. He spent a lifetime educating, presenting, and performing music in Brazil.

And he composed continually. This release is the first installment in a new Naxos series of Santoro’s symphonies. He wrote his first in 1939 at age 20. And he finished his fourteenth and final symphony in 1989, the year of his death.

The release features his Fifth Symphony and Seventh Symphony, “Brasilia.”  The Fifth Symphony premiered in 1955. It’s a well-constructed work. Its tonal foundation makes the symphony easily accessible. Santoro develops his themes in imaginative ways, keeping the sound fresh and engaging.

Symphony No. 7, from 1960, commemorates the foundation of Brazilia, Brazil. This work mixes traditional Brazilian melodies and rhythms with European forms. Yes, Villa-Lobos did the same thing, but the results are different. Santoro has a unique voice. And one worth paying attention to.

The Goiás Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Neil Thomson deliver some excellent performances. Santoro may not be a household name here in the states. But in Brazil, he’s a major musical figure. I’m sure this music is quite familiar to the players.

Classical music can be a universal language. And one that can be adapted to the aesthetics of virtually any culture. Santoro demonstrates that with these two works. And I’m sure they’re not isolated examples, either. This is a series I’m eager to follow.

Claudio Santoro: Complete Symphonies, Vol. 1
Goiás Philharmonic Orchestra; Neil Thomson, conductor
Naxos 8.574402

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