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Carlos GUASTAVINO (1912-2000)
Songs
Bonita rama de sauce [2.53]; Pampamapa [4.15]; La rosa y el sauce [2.32]; Se equivocó la paloma [2.08]; Mi viña de Chapanay [2.47]; Hermano [3.47]; Anhelo [2.10]; Cita [2.27]; Milonga de los dos hermanos [2.37]; Pueblito, mi pueblo [3.13]; El sampedrino [4.09]; Abismo de sed [3.28]; Ordinario rosal [1.50]; Préstame tu pañuelito [2.35]; Prisionero [2.38]; Por los campos verdes [1.59]; Balada [2.56]; Flores Argentinas [7.54]; Seis Canciones de Cuna [12.13]; Cuatro Canciones Argentinas [6.50]
Désirée Halac (mezzo); Dalton Baldwin (piano)
rec. 2008
ALBANY TROY1023 [75.16]

 

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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. 

Guastavino 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. 

Though 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 Baldwin was a friend of the composer’s and some of the songs on the disc are unpublished ones which the composer gave to Baldwin. 

Now 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. 

Listening 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 by musically. 

A 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 folk-inflected. 

These 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. 

The 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. 

Halac 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.

Halac sounds at home in this music and never tries to overplay its fragile charms. Here she is ably abetted by Dalton Baldwin’s accompaniment. 

This is a lovely recital and I hope it makes both the music of Carlos Guastavino and the voice of Désirée Halac better known. 

Robert Hugill

 


 


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