A few weeks after the first performance in Rio de Janeiro of Magnificat-Alleluia
, the College Chorus of New York University under Maurice Paress gave the premiere of Villa-Lobos’s very last a cappella choral work, Bendita Sabedoria
(‘Blessed Wisdom’), which was dedicated to the University and written at the suggestion of Carleton Sprague Smith. Villa-Lobos, traveller in sound across the Brazilian landscape and great teller of myths and tales, finally confronts God in six chorales which set short Latin texts of Biblical wisdom. The music is spare, ritualistic, and static, and the simplicity of the Missa São Sebastião
is recalled in gentle triadic harmonies; the arching, carefully controlled vocal lines highlight and reveal rather than obscure or decorate the eternal truths of the imposing Latin dictums. Wisdom, peace, and an acceptance of the life hereafter were eventually achieved by Villa-Lobos at an altar far removed from the festivities of his Brazilian Indians, or the edifices of his Choros
compositions. Like his final String Quartet (No 17) of 1957, the textual economy of Bendita Sabedoria
is astonishing, and the piece closes Villa-Lobos’s vast choral output with music of touching simplicity and grace.
from notes by Simon Wright © 1993