Classics Today 10/10: "Simply magnificent".
In some of his very first orchestral scores, such as Uirapuru from 1917, Heitor Villa-Lobos was already concerned with the vast Amazonian forests. The subject surfaces in a number of works throughout his production, for instance in the depictions of virgin forests in Choros No.3 and No.10. In Floresta do Amazonas, one of his very last works, Villa-Lobos again focused explicitly on the rain forest, the creatures that live in it, and the myths that have been woven around it. The work has been described as a symphonic poem for soprano, male-voice choir and large orchestra, and began its existence as a commission for the soundtrack to The Green Mansions, a Hollywood film starring Audrey Hepburn and Anthony Perkins. Not used to writing for the cinema, Villa-Lobos did not consider the need to synchronize the music with what was going to take place on the screen. He therefore arrived in Hollywood with a finished score, and eventually another composer was engaged to write the film music, in which some of Villa-Lobos' own themes were included. Villa-Lobos on the other hand used his score to create the work recorded here, and commissioned lyrics to the four songs which make up the substantial solo soprano part, together with the vocalises appearing in several movements. The songs, Melodia Sentimental in particular, have also become popular as separate concert items. The suite's twenty-three movements have rousing titles such as 'Forest Fire', 'Head Hunters' and 'Dance of the Indians', but also include numbers such as 'Lullaby' and 'Twilight'. This expansive fresco has now been recorded in a recent, revised edition, prepared by the Villa-Lobos specialist Roberto Duarte, who has also written the liner notes to the disc. The interpretation has been entrusted to John Neschling and the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, a team which in a recent cycle of Villa-Lobos' complete Choros has proved its ability to paint Brazilian landscapes: 'Villa-Lobos' compatriots have managed to do his quirky genius full justice' wrote the website ClassicsToday.com while the French magazine Diapason awarded the cycle its prestigious Diapason d'Or de l'Année, designating it 'Artistic Project of 2009'.