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Alberto GINASTERA (1916 – 1983)
Obertura para el ‘Fausto’ criollo Op.9 (1943)
Pampeana No.3 Op.24 (1954)
Dances from Estancia Op.8a (1942)
Glosses sobre temes de Pau Casals Op.48 (1977)
Berliner Symphoniker/Gabriel Castagna
Recorded: Siemens-Villa, Berlin, April 1994
CHANDOS CHAN 10152 [65:46]

 

Not so long ago, I reviewed a recent all-Ginastera disc (BRIDGE 9130) with a similar selection of works. The main difference, however, is that the BRIDGE release includes a splendid recording of Ollantay Op.17 whereas the one under review offers a major, though still rarely heard work, Glosses sobre temes de Pau Casals Op.48.

I will not repeat my earlier comments regarding the Obertura para el "Fausto" criollo Op.9 and the popular Dances from "Estancia" Op.8a. Suffice it to say that these fairly early works clearly belong to Ginastera’s early, nationalistic period in which he consistently relied on Latin-American rhythms and folk-music. They are written in a fairly straightforward and colourful manner.

Pampeana No.3 Op.24, "pastoral in three movements", which also featured in the BRIDGE record, was first performed by Robert Whitney and the Louisville Orchestra. It belongs to Ginastera’s second stylistic period, in which folk-inflected material is handled in a freer manner, in much the same way as Bartók’s so-called imaginary folklore. Bartók exerted a lasting influence on Ginastera’s mature music, e.g. in the string quartets, the piano concertos and the cello concertos.

The original version of Glosses sobre temes de Pau Casals Op.46 was written on a joint commission from the Festival Casals of Puerto Rico in celebration of the centenary of Casals’ birth and from the Puerto Rico Committee for the American Bicentennial. The commission appealed to him because he was an admirer of Casals and also because of the long friendship that existed between Casals and Aurora Natola-Ginastera who had been one of his disciples. Moreover, Casals had shown interest in Ginastera’s work. Finally, both were of Catalan origin. The original version, scored for full string orchestra and string quintet in lontano, was first performed by the International Youth Orchestra of the Centennial Festival Casals. The composer admitted that while composing the piece, he continuously heard a symphony orchestra. So, when Rostropovich requested a new work for the National Symphony Orchestra, Ginastera proposed the orchestral reworking of Glosses. It was a considerable task, though, which took him some considerable effort. The orchestral version is, needless to say, quite different in instrumental colours from the original version, although the latter is magnificent in its own right. This partly explains why a new opus number (Op.48) was allotted to the piece. In many respects, the orchestral version may be regarded as Ginastera’s Concerto for Orchestra. In all but the third and fifth movements, Ginastera uses a number of themes by Casals. The Introducció includes a song of praise to the Virgin of Montserrat from Casals’ Oracio a la verge de Montserrat (1959) as a broad chorale. The lyrical Romanç that follows alludes to Tres estrofias de amor composed in 1958. The central section Sardanes, of course, refers to the traditional Catalan dance whiffs of which saturate the section. The fourth movement Cant, based on Casals’ popular Cant dell ocells which he used to play as an encore, is a beautifully atmospheric Nocturne redolent of Bartók’s night music movements. True to its title, the final movement Conclusió delirant is a brilliant, almost orgiastic evocation of Catalonia, "in blood and gold" (the colours of the Catalan flag). The information concerning Casals’ themes used in Glosses is drawn from Rudy Elmis’ excellent notes for the KOCH recording of both versions.

It is difficult to understand why these fine, committed and brightly recorded performances had to linger for nearly ten years before being released on disc. Choice between the BRIDGE and the CHANDOS discs will depend on which works you want to have. Both versions of Glosses were (and may still be) available on KOCH 3-7149-2 in magnificent readings by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gisèle Ben-Dor. (This fine disc also includes a wonderful reading of the somewhat better-known Variaciones concertantes Op.23 by the Israel Chamber Orchestra with the same conductor.) Gabriel Castagna adopts a slightly more leisurely tempo in Glosses but is given a brighter, closer recorded sound that some might prefer. This is a fine release. I for one hope that performing artists and recording companies will now consider other Ginastera works still conspicuously absent from the catalogue, such as Estudios sinfonicos Op.35, Iubilum Op.51, Popol Vuh Op.44 (though the latter was available on an RCA disc some years ago) and the choral-orchestral Psalm 150 Op.5 and Turbae ad Passionem Gregorianam Op.43, to mention but a few works that badly deserve re-appraisal and consideration.

Hubert Culot

 



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