Osvaldo Golijov
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Oceana (1996): Reviews
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Composed in the spirit of a Bach cantata and based on Pablo Neruda's poetry, "Oceana" weaves together brief melodic and rhythmic motifs to create plush, ankle-deep carpets of glorious texture. Great, wallowing washes of sound slowly emerge over time as small fragments are laid one atop the other.

Riding high over it all, usually doubled on flute or guitar, was the straight-toned vocal line of Brazilian pop/jazz singer Luciana Souza...displaying a dark, sensuous chest voice and a clear, straightforward top, navigating between the two without a hitch. Her pinpoint pitch and rhythmic accuracy made her a vital part of the whole, as opposed to being positioned as "the soloist."

That is a large part of Golijov's gift, this ability to assimilate seemingly diverse elements into a cohesive whole and to build tremendous dramatic impact in the process... In a stunning display...the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus last night managed to raise its own sterling standard a few notches, singing with a tone of rough-hewn abandon.

—Susan Elliot, Atlanta Journal Constitution



The effect was mesmerizing, the sounds richly colored. (Souza's) unison duet with the flute was a delight, full of jazz syncopations, wide melodic leaps and sensual warmth.

—David Stabler, The Oregonian



Golijov's cantata Oceana based on a poem by Chilean writer Pablo Neruda, is a miraculous work. Golijov 'walks the line from passion to geometry' in the footsteps of J.S. Bach, but with his own fountains of music. And Brazilian singer Luciana Souza is the 'pacha mama,' the great mother, the source. Her voice inspires this piece and mirrors the opulence of South America's indigenous natural and cultural heritage. ...Maria Guinand assembled the work with exacting skills, and her choir was marvelous-they and Souza fit the music like another skin.

—Karen Kammerer, The Register-Guard (Oregon)



Oceana is gorgeous, irresistible, simultaneously ancient and wholly new. Souza, for whom the piece was written, brings a throaty low voice and pure high notes to her haunting untexted 'calls' accompanied by guitars, flutes and a quartet of boy trebles. The final movement, 'Coral del Arrecife,' a passacaglia gently swaying between two unaccompanied choruses, singing sometimes in dense clusters, sometimes in attenuated textures, spoke to fathomless mystery and passion...

—Susan Larson, The Boston Globe