GINASTERA Estancia. Pampeana
This is Ginastera’s centenary year. If he died way too young (aged just 67, in 1983), his legacy still leaves him as one of the two or three finest composers to have come from South America. The suite from his early ballet Estancia (1941) remains one of his best-known and most-played works but the whole ballet (weighing in at just over 34 minutes here) is less familiar. Gisele Ben-Dor’s vibrant Conifer account, reissued by Naxos, set the bar high, but Mena and the BBC Philharmonic sail through it with verve. On first hearing I wondered if there could have been a touch more impulsion in the faster sections but, on reflection, I think Mena pitches it just about perfectly. Lucas Somoza Osterc is rich-voiced and a touch less histrionic than Luis Gaeta.
Pampeana No 3 (1954) is one of Ginastera’s less unfamiliar pieces, a marvellous triptych evocative of the Argentine pampas. Recorded several times before – even by Chandos – this is the most sumptuous-sounding version to date. The contemplative opening is beautifully phrased and paced, succeeded by a really wild Impetuosamente. Best of all is the Largo con poetica esaltazione finale, hugely atmospheric, compellingly performed to a degree that eluded the Louisville Orchestra.
The above leaves little room for me to wax lyrical about Ollantay (1949), Ginastera’s dramatic symphonic triptych on the pre-Columbian legend of the Son of the Earth, Ollantay. There is some fabulous solo playing here, not least from the BBC Philharmonic’s principal flute, that the listed rivals don’t quite match. Bring on Vol 2!