Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

GINASTERA (1916-1983)
Danzas argentinas Op. 2 (1937)
Tres Piezas Op. 6 (1940)
Piezas Infantiles (1942)
Doce Preludios Americanos Op. 12 (1944)
Suite de Danzas Crillas Op. 15 (1946)
Rondo sobre temas infantiles argentinos Op. 19 (1947)
Sonata No. 1 Op. 22 (1952)
Sonata No. 2 Op. 53 (1981)
Sonata No. 3 Op. 55 (1982)
Tichiko Tsuda (Piano)
Recorded February 2000 Studio de la Foundation Tibor Varga, Switzerland
CYPRÈS CYP 1625 [80.27]
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The first thing to say is that it seems that these pieces on this generously filled CD do not in fact constitute the composer's complete piano music. ASV who have reached Volume 5 of Ginastera's Chamber works have scattered the piano music onto three contrasting CDs. Alberto Portugheis on DCA 880 also includes 'Malambo' Op. 7, Milonga and an early un-opused Toccata. This Cyprès recording, weighing in at over eighty minutes, could not be more generous in length but if you are a 'completist' then beware.

Alberto Ginastera was Argentina's leading and best-known composer, however he was not prolific and composed slowly. The recent arrival on the scene of the considerably more prolific Astor Piazzola (ironically not famous in Europe until after his death 1993) has rather altered the position, however Ginastera is a consistently serious and mostly challenging composer both harmonically and formally. These works take us across a career of about forty-five years, but they have in common a love of rhythmic energy. If you know the famous Piano Concerto then you know what I mean. Right from the first piece the 'Danza del viejo boyero' op 2 no1 you will find these characteristics. The other side of his style is the romantic quasi-nationalist one, as in the Op. 6 no 2 , Nortena.

The 1st sonata is the longest work as contains another characteristic, the light rather insectile presto as in movement 2 and also in the piano concert movement 2 - impressionist and crepuscular.

You can gain a real feel for Ginastera's style by starting with the Op. 12 'Preludios Americanos'. These demonstrate that he could be a highly successful miniaturist with none of the 12 pieces lasting any longer than the last, which is just over 2 minutes. Each is complete in itself and yet the whole makes up a kind of sonata. They embrace an oriental pentatonic style (number 5) the repetitive strumming of massed guitars (number 6) a homage to Copland (number 9) and one to Villa-Lobos (11) and a strident anguished gypsy song pounded out in octaves ( 7)

The 3rd sonata is a work, which I could quite happily not hear too often. At just over five minutes and in a single movement, the mood is unremittingly dissonant and fast. It was the composer's last work performed just a few months before his death and I wonder if he intended to add a contrasting section to it. Perhaps it would have been better for Ginastera to have ended his career with the 2nd Sonata written only a year earlier. It too contains some hard hitting rhythmic sections, as in the 3rd movement marked Ostinato aymura, but it also contains that insectile style I mentioned in the section at the centre of movement 2 marked Scorrevole - scurrying. This also has a beautiful, rather valedictory, slow movement. The Sonata No 1 likewise ends in a typically exciting Ostinato allegro.

Michiko Tsuda is a virtuoso who is completely on top of the music. I have previously only come across her in early romantic repertoire, Schumann etc. She plays superbly and has a comprehensive grasp of the language. The recording is generally very good, but the piano sound can be rather harsh and intimidating although very immediate. It may be that which puts me off in the 3rd Sonata.

Gary Higginson

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