Whilst many people will at least have heard of Alberto Ginastera
and Mauricio Kagel, the name of fellow Argentinian composer Carlos
Guastavino will be less familiar.
trained in Argentina, though he travelled to England on a British
Council Scholarship in the 1940s and broadcast several times
on the BBC. Walter Goehr premiered his Three Argentinian Romances
at this time.
Guastavino did write in larger forms, more than half his works
are songs. He was an unashamed melodist and distilled local
folk-elements into his romantic idiom. On this disc mezzo-soprano
Désirée Halac sings some 29 of the songs, accompanied by Dalton
Baldwin. Baldwin was a friend of the composer’s and some of
the songs on the disc are unpublished ones which the composer
gave to Baldwin.
resident in New York, Ms Halac grew up in Argentina where she
studied piano at the National Conservatory, going on to study
voice in London and New York.
to this charming disc I was reminded of Teresa Berganza or Monserrat
Caballé singing de Falla or Granados. Halac’s voice has that
attractive edge to it, modified by warm tones and a pleasant
but not obtrusive vibrato. And Guastavino’s style is such that
much of the 20th century seems to have passed him
pianist himself, Guastavino’s piano parts are reminiscent of
de Falla and Granados spiced with a little Poulenc. Rhythmically
apposite and not a little catchy, Guastavino’s music lacks a
real 20th century bite. The melody lines often sound
are delightful pieces, all miniatures; none ever outstays its
welcome. By turns winsome or melancholy, Guastavino never really
wrings the heart strings. But he charms and most songs seem
tinged with a little sadness, even the catchier ones.
poets Guastavino sets are all Spanish, though the notes do not
give any further details apart from their names. Inevitably
the subject of love is a recurrent theme.
and Baldwin conclude their recital with three short song cycles.
Flores Argentinas (Argentinian Flowers) sets poems by
Leon Benaros, each of which evokes a different flower and a
different love. then Sei Canciones de Cuna (Six Cradle
songs) setting six slightly curious poems by Gabriela Mistral.
Finally the Four Songs from Argentina where the folk
tradition is close to the music’s surface.
sounds at home in this music and never tries to overplay its
fragile charms. Here she is ably abetted by Dalton Baldwin’s
is a lovely recital and I hope it makes both the music of Carlos
Guastavino and the voice of Désirée Halac better known.