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Alberto GINASTERA (1916 – 1983)
Obertura para el "Fausto" Criollo Op.9 (1943)
Ollantay Op.17 (1947)
Pampeana No.3 Op.24 (1954)
Dances from Estancia Op.8a (1941)
Odense Symphony Orchestra/Jan Wagner
Recorded: Carl Nielsen Hall, Odense Koncerthus, Odense, May 2001
BRIDGE 9130 [56:55]

Although there are some important works still awaiting recording (e.g. the large-scale choral-orchestral Turbae ad Passionem Gregorianam Op.43, various orchestral works and the operas), Ginastera’s music has so far been reasonably well served on record.

Ginastera’s early works were directly inspired by and influenced by Argentine folk music. This is evident in the early pieces recorded here. Estancia Op.8 is Ginastera’s second ballet score and the suite of dances drawn from it is fairly well known and popular. Many will remember Goossens’ recording release during the LP era. It thus does not call for many comments. This colourful and rhythmically energetic score is a sort of Argentine Rodeo (Ginastera studied with Copland) of which the concluding Malambo is particularly popular. The Obertura para el ‘Fausto’ Criollo Op.9 is inspired by a poem of the 19th century writer Estanislao del Campo which tells of a gaucho travelling to Buenos Aires and attending a performance of Gounod’s opera Faust. On his way back, he meets an old friend and tells him in his own words about his operatic experience while sharing a bottle of gin. Thus, the overture aptly and humorously mixes reminiscences of Gounod’s score with Argentine rhythms. A short delightful work and a good example of Ginastera in outdoor mood. It has also been recorded earlier and many will remember Howard Hanson’s recording released many years ago on Mercury - it was re-issued in CD format some years ago. More recently, it has been available in a collection of short Latin American works (Caramelos Latinos ["Latin American Lollipops"]) on Dorian DOR 90227.

Ginastera recognised three periods in his creative output: one of "subjective nationalism" (that of, say, Panambi and Estancia), one of "objective nationalism" in which folk elements are transcended in much the same way as Bartók did in his mature works. The last which he described as "Neo-Expressionism" relates to the three operas and the important later works (e.g. the piano concertos, the cello concertos, the string quartets). The three symphonic movements Ollantay Op.17 belong to the second phase. Folk elements are obviously present but no longer dominate. They are much more integrated into the symphonic argument. Though inspired by a poem from the early Inca period, it is on the whole more abstract and eschews any picturesque superficiality. This substantial orchestral triptych opens with a contemplative, impressionistic first panel followed by a powerful Scherzo (The Warriors) and ends with another beautiful slow movement (The Death of Ollantay). Malcolm MacDonald is right when he writes that Ollantay is the nearest approach to the symphony on Ginastera’s part. He is however partly wrong when he mentions that Ginastera never wrote a symphony. He actually wrote two of them: the First Porteña in 1942 and the Second Elegiaca in 1944 though – significantly enough – they were given no opus number and were withdrawn some time later. Ollantay Op.17 was commissioned by the Louisville Orchestra who premiered it in 1954 and recorded it on LP (Louisville S-696). Another recording, in CD format, is available on Largo 5122 (live recording). Though the present performance is undoubtedly much better in many respects, the Largo disc may be well worth finding for a complete Panambi.

Ginastera composed three works sharing the title of Pampeana - a word alluding to the rhythms and melodies of the Argentine pampas. Pampeana No.1 Op.16 for violin and piano and Pampeana No.2 Op.21 for cello and piano are short rhapsodic pieces. The Pampeana No.3 Op.24 is an altogether more ambitious and substantial orchestral triptych in the same vein as Ollantay. It too has a central rhythmic Scherzo framed by two slow, expressive movements. Again, in spite of its title and subtitle (‘Symphonic Pastoral in three movements’), this is another purely abstract and tightly argued piece of music. The present performance is very fine indeed and favourably compares with the late Eduardo Mata’s reading available on Dorian DOR 90178.

As I mentioned when beginning this review, Ginastera’s music is fairly well represented in the catalogue, though some recordings may have passed unnoticed. His present discography includes several outstanding releases (Naxos 8.555283 [Piano Concertos], ASV CD DCA 944 [String Quartets] and Newport Classics NPD 85580 [Cello Concertos]). The present release may safely be added to that list. I hope that we may get more Ginastera from the present forces. Warmly recommended.

Hubert Culot


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