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Alberto GINASTERA (1916–1983)
Danzas argentinas Op.2 (1937) [8:11]
Tres piezas Op.6 (1939/40) [12:01]
Malambo Op.7 (1940) [2:45]
12 Preludios americanos Op.12 (1944) [14:02]
Suite de danzas criollas Op.15 (1946) [8:50]
Rondo sobre temas infantiles argentinos Op.19 (1947) [3:12]
Danzas argentinas para los niños (unfinished) [2:28]
Piezas infantiles I (1934) [4:25]
Piezas infantiles II (1942) [4:58]
Milonga Op.3 No.1 (1938) [2:35]
Pequeña danza (1955) [1:45]
ZIPOLI, arr. GINASTERA: Toccata (1970) [7:23]
Piano Sonata No.1 Op.22 (1952) [15:02]
Piano Sonata No.2 Op.53 (1981) [12:53]
Piano Sonata No.3 Op.55 (1982) [4:51]
Toccata, Villancico y Fuga Op.18 (1947)a [14:23]
Variazioni e Toccata sopra “Aurora lucis rutilat” Op.52 (1980)a [21:16]
Fernando Viani (piano and organa)
rec. Schloss Gottesaue, Karlsruhe, Germany, March 2006 (piano works) and Auferstehungskirche, Offenburg, Germany, June 2006 (organ works)
NAXOS 8.557911-12 [72:35 + 68:25]

As can be seen above, Ginastera wrote works for piano throughout his entire composing life. However, a good deal of it was composed during his early nationalistic period and is replete with folksong and folk-inflection. His early piano works show the young composer grappling with various influences including Debussy, Ravel and Bartók, although the latter’s influence will play a much more important part in the mature works. So, most of the early works speak for themselves and do not call for much comment, the more so that they are fairly well-known through various earlier recordings including those made several years ago by Barbara Nissman on Newport Classic. Nevertheless, this complete recording of Ginastera’s piano output includes a few works that have never appeared before, although they do not add that much to his reputation. These are quite enjoyable and certainly well worth having.  Although I was aware of the existence of a set titled Piezas infantiles composed in 1934 but apparently withdrawn by the composer, I was totally unaware of a second set seemingly composed in 1942. These delightful short suites, as well as the unfinished Danzas argentinas para los niños, do not pale when compared to some other, better-known pieces such as the early Danzas argentinas Op.2, the Suite de danzas criollas Op.15 and the Rondo sobre temas infantiles argentinas Op.19; and all these straightforward and simple pieces are as satisfying to play as to listen to: the mark of a true master. Of the other early works, mention may be made of Malambo Op.7 (1940) and Pequeña danza (1955), both from the ballet Estancia Op.8, and of Milonga Op.3 No.1, actually based on the song Canción para él árbol del olvido. The 12 Preludios americanos Op.12 (1944) are the summing-up of Ginastera’s so-called first period. Some of them are short tributes to friends (Aaron Copland and Villa-Lobos); others take the form of etudes. The set as a whole clearly shows how far Ginastera has progressed over the years since his first Argentine pieces.

After 1945 Ginastera reached his maturity and, although his music was still imbued with folk elements, these were now considerably more subtle and more integrated into the composer’s thinking in a way comparable to Bartók’s so-called ‘imaginary folklore’. This is the case of his three piano sonatas (1952, 1981 and 1983). Both the Piano Sonata No.1 Op.22 and the Piano Sonata No.2 Op.53 written thirty years later are amongst Ginastera’s masterpieces. In these powerfully eloquent works the folk elements are sublimated and serve as rhythmic and formal patterns on which Ginastera developed tightly knit harmonic and formal structures. The outer movements are often quite lively and full of vital energy, whereas the slow movements undoubtedly hint at Bartók’s ‘night music’ movements, albeit with Ginastera’s entirely personal accent. The Piano Sonata No.3 Op.55 is Ginastera’s last completed work. It was composed for and dedicated to Barbara Nissman. It is a short, compact piece in toccata style of great verve, all over in the space of five minutes.

This complete recording of Ginastera’s piano music also offers the composer’s works for organ. These are very rarely heard, let alone recorded; and this adds considerable extra value to this most welcome set. Toccata, Villancico y Fuga Op.18 was completed in 1947. In this work, the models are no longer to be found in folk music, but rather in the Baroque, although Ginastera firmly puts his own personal imprint on the music. The central Villancico (a Christmas carol) is particularly beautiful. Much later, in 1980, Ginastera composed his substantial Variazioni e Toccata sopra “Aurora lucis rutilat” Op.52. Compared to the earlier work, this is a truly virtuosic work bearing all the fingerprints of mature Ginastera. It is a demanding, but strongly gripping piece of music that compares most favourably with some of Messiaen’s organ works. I am in no doubt about it: it is one of his great masterpieces but complex and demanding, which is why it is not likely to be heard very often. I hope though that this fine performance will fire the imagination of other organists.

This generously filled set is a splendid achievement by both Naxos and Viani. Here we have the complete keyboard output by one of the 20th century’s greatest composers. As such it also provides a comprehensive survey of Ginastera’s stylistic evolution over the years, from short folk-inflected pieces to substantial mature works such as the three piano sonatas and the magnificent Variazioni e Toccata Op.52.

Hubert Culot

see also Review by Glyn Pursglove



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