Ginastera Estancia; Harp Concerto
Alberto Ginastera’s music may finally be gaining the attention it deserves if the recent spate of recordings devoted to his work is anything to go by. The downside is overlapping of repertory. Three other releases, for example, also feature the Estancia Suite, two offer the Overture to the Creole ‘Faust’ and so on. But the performances here are among the best of the bunch. Josep Pons elicits playing of tremendous rhythmic vitality and of greater polish than than Jan Wagner’s wonderfully earthy accounts on Bridge. The one serious mis-step comes in the lyrical ‘Danza del trigo’ from the Estancia Suite, which Pons takes so slowly that one loses any sense of this as dance music, ravishingly done though it is. In the faster movements, however, the Granada orchestra kick the syncopations with gusto, and the result is thrilling.
I was also intrigued with Pons’s interpretation of the Harp Concerto, and how he draws the attention to the darker elements of the score. He squeezes more drama from this music than David Robertson on Naïve, while Magdalena Barrera employs a far wider tonal palette than Isabelle Moretti, her counterpart. And, even if Wagner is more rollicking and playful in the Overture, the greater precision of Pons’s orchestra is appreciable.
What makes this spectacularly engineered Harmonia Mundi disc especially attractive is the inclusion of the Variaciones concertantes, arguably the masterpiece of Ginastera’s nationalist period. Pons chooses some extreme speeds, often pushing his first-desk players to great feats of virtuosity, yet there is plenty of character, too. I love the jagged, Cubist-like phrasing of the trumpet and trombone in their variation, and the pastoral piping of the oboe and bassoon in theirs. Gisèle Ben-Dor on Koch paces the Variaciones more sensibly, perhaps, but Pons’ high-octane approach is powerfully persuasive.