:: These reviews were originally published
:: in Daniella Thompson on Brazil.


Symphonic MPB

Francis Hime’s Sinfonia do Rio de Janeiro
de São Sebastião
DVD celebrates the
Cidade Maravilhosa in grand style.

Daniella Thompson

15 May 2002

Francis Hime

In the year 2000, Brazil marked 500 years since its “discovery.” At the instigation of Ricardo Cravo Albin (who came up with the scenario), the state of Rio de Janeiro commissioned the composer Francis Hime to write a popular symphony to commemorate the occasion. For Hime this couldn’t have been an easy task, as the symphonic MPB path had already been trodden by none other than Tom Jobim, who composed the first Sinfonia do Rio de Janeiro in 1954, with Radamés Gnattali as orchestrator and conductor.

There are a number of similarities between the two compositions. Both utilize popular rhythms in orchestral settings. Both employ a recurring leitmotiv that punctuates a series of individual movements. Both highlight various aspects—good and bad—of the city. And both feature a group of well-known vocalists, each singing a solo part.

There the similarities end. Tom’s Sinfonia, co-authored with Billy Blanco, was a relatively brief (15:40 min.) contemporary portrait of the city, a cocktail of impressions that mixed admiration for its natural beauty (Rio de Janeiro/que eu sempre hei de amar/Rio de Janeiro/a montanha, o sol e o mar) and scenes of daily life (Sete horas, quanta gente vai à rua procurando ônibus, trem!/ Não vem o lotação!/ Atrasado pro trabalho/ Resultado: confusão!) filled with carioca tidbits like the cafezinho habit, gafieiras, football games, the beach, and focusing on the contrast between the Zona Sul and the morro. The pre­bossa nova music and arrangements owed a heavy debt to Broadway.

Francis Hime’s Sinfonia, with lyrics by Geraldo Carneiro and Paulo Cesar Pinheiro, is a broader (and longer—50:38 min.) canvas, painting the city’s entire history in five chapters, each represented by a rhythm typical to its period: the lundu of Colonial Rio (from the discovery until the declaration of Independence by Dom Pedro I in 1822); the modinha of Imperial Rio (1802–1889); the choro of the Belle Epoque (1874–1930); the samba of the so-called Época de Ouro (1930–1957); and contemporary Rio (from the introduction of the bossa bova until now).

The opening movement hits hard with four staccato stanzas, each one in a single note; here’s the first:

Dante, se pintasse
Nessas paradas aqui
Talvez proclamasse:
O purgatório é aqui!

With the introduction of the expansive leimotiv, we get an homage to Tom Jobim (and to Dorival Caymmi):

Sol de Dezembro
Rio de Janeiro
Águas de Março
Rosas de Abril

The long vocal section of the Abertura closes with an orchestral parade through all the themes that will make an individual appearance. Lenine sings the vigorous lundu movement, whose lyrics tell the story of the discovery from a contemporary point of view. He’s followed by Zé Renato, cast to type for the romantic role in the modinha movement. The choro movement was given to Leila Pinheiro, who’s a natural in this genre and does justice to Paulo Cesar Pinheiro's lyrics—a catalog of choro names well in his style. Cast against type is Olivia Hime, who sings the samba movement in an erudite style that makes for an interesting contrast with the lively instrumental accompaniment. The fifth movement, sung by Sérgio Santos and dedicated to contemporary Brazilian song, is an occasion to pay tribute to the fathers of the bossa nova:

[...] Levando a garota de Ipanema
Com aquele balanço bossa-nova
Da Rua Vinicius de Moraes
(Foi assim, foi demais)
Pro aeroporto Tom Jobim
(Foi demais, foi assim)

The finale closes the piece the way the latter began, with single-note stanzas such as this, taking us back to Tom Jobim’s Sinfonia:

Rio seresteiro
Meu menestrel sedutor
Rio de Janeiro
Estou morrendo de amor

Hime is able to offer his listeners a luxury not at Jobim’s disposal: the new Sinfonia is available on DVD. The primary footage consists of the concert given at the Teatro Municipal on 30 November 2000 under the composer’s baton. Into this are intercut numerous stunning views of Rio. The modinha movement is laced with historic art, while the samba movement chimes in with images of carnaval.

During the concert one can observe not only Hime and the soloists but individuals in the chorus (e.g., Eveline Hecker and Ari Bispo) and the orchestra—Wilson das Neves, Jorginho do Pandeiro and his son Celso Silva, Tutti Moreno, Luciana Rabello, and Vittor Santos are some of the notables.

And that’s not all. You can watch the Sinfonia whole, movement-by-movement, or with commentaries by the principal personages involved; with or without subtitles; in four screen sizes; and with two Dolby options. There are biographies of all concerned on the disc, in addition to a bilingual booklet with lyrics and notes by Flávio Marinho and Ricardo Cravo Albin.

Sinfonia do Rio de Janeiro de São Sebastião is a thoroughly professional and satisfying production that doubles as an exciting travelog. And that’s saying a lot.

Francis Hime: Sinfonia do Rio de Janeiro de São Sebastião
(Biscoito Fino CD BF504/DVD BF507; 2002) 50:38 min.
Orchestrated & conducted by Francis Hime

1. Abertura
(Francis Hime/Paulo Cesar Pinheiro/Geraldo Carneiro) – all
2. 1º Movimento – Lundu
(Francis Hime/Geraldo Carneiro) – Lenine
3. 2º Movimento – Modinha
(Francis Hime/Geraldo Carneiro) – Zé Renato
4. 3º Movimento – Choro
(Francis Hime/Paulo Cesar Pinheiro) – Leila Pinheiro
5. 4º Movimento – Samba
(Francis Hime/Paulo Cesar Pinheiro) – Olivia Hime
6. 5º Movimento – Canção Brasileira
(Francis Hime/Paulo Cesar Pinheiro) – Sérgio Santos
7. Final
(Francis Hime/Paulo Cesar Pinheiro/Geraldo Carneiro) – all

Tom’s Sinfonia

Antonio Carlos Jobim & Billy Blanco:
Sinfonia do Rio de Janeiro: A Montanha -
O Sol - O Mar (Sinfonia Popular em Tempo de Samba)

(Continental 1.000; 1954 [LP]/Continental Warner 450999180-2; 1995 [CD]) 15:40 min.
Orchestrated & conducted by Radamés Gnattali

Hino ao Sol – Dick Farney & Os Cariocas
Coisas do Dia – Lúcio Alves & Os Cariocas
Matei-me no Trabalho – Gilberto Milfont
Zona Sul – Elizete Cardoso
Arpoador – Dick Farney
Noites do Rio – Doris Monteiro & Os Cariocas
O Mar – Elizete Cardoso
Copacabana – Lúcio Alves
A Montanha – Emilinha Borba
O Morro – Nora Ney
Descendo o Morro – Jorge Goulart
Samba de Amanhã – Dick Farney


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